Cape Fear Museum Selected to Participate in Smithsonian Affiliates “Earth Optimism Teen Conference”

Earth Optimism 2020 Summit logo. Source: Smithsonian Conservation Commons
Earth Optimism 2020 Summit logo. Source: Smithsonian Conservation Commons


Cape Fear Museum of History and Science will host an Earth Optimism Teen Conference on Saturday, March 14, 2020, 12:30-4:30pm, in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution.

Local high school students are invited to meet and talk with experts, scientists, and community organizations on issues related to the environment.

At the conclusion of the event, teens will develop and suggest ideas for community action that they want to lead themselves. Representatives from the museum will take those ideas to Washington, DC, present them at the Smithsonian during the Smithsonian’s Earth Optimism Summit, April 23-25, 2020, and compete for a micro-grant to support implementation.

During this conference, students will learn about environmental issues related to the Wilmington community and join together in solution-focused action. At this free event, teens can expect to:

  • Take part in a virtual Earth Optimism discussion with teens around the country as part of a Smithsonian panel
  • Meet local scientists, volunteers and peers to learn more about environmental science, actions and solutions
  • Network with experts from Plastic Ocean Project, 350 Wilmington, and other organizations making a difference
  • Take part in two Empowerment Sessions to engage with experts on Climate Change and Plastic-Free Living
  • Enjoy a free lunch and mingle with fellow like-minded teens
  • Dive into solutions, while developing teen-led action projects

Teens ages 13-19 years old are invited to participate and become a part of the climate conversation. Pre-registration is required and teens may sign up at

Cape Fear Museum of History and Science logo
Cape Fear Museum of History and Science logo

Cape Fear Museum’s event will be held in conjunction with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History’s Earth Optimism Teen Event: Changing the Climate Conversation. Students from all partner sites and the Smithsonian will join in a video conference during the day to hear inspiring success stories from their peers.

The goal of the event is to empower teens to see themselves as leaders and changemakers in addressing environmental and conservation concerns that are important to them. Said Sheryl Kingery Mays, Museum Director:

“It has been essential for us to consult with teens to plan this event. The students are driving the content and we look forward to teen-led action on environmental issues impacting the Lower Cape Fear region.”

An Affiliate of the Smithsonian since 2018, Cape Fear Museum was chosen as one of only 12 partners for the project, out of the Smithsonian’s affiliated network of 214 museum and educational organizations. The museum was chosen because of its commitment to STEM education and environmental stewardship and its outreach to diverse audiences of young people.

Said Jennifer Brundage and Brian Coyle, the project’s directors at the Smithsonian Institution:

“Teens are uniquely positioned to be leaders in environmental action given the threats to their future and their intrepid and optimistic approach to problem-solving. The Smithsonian is excited to collaborate with its Affiliate partners in this initiative, to empower students nationwide to be the transformational changemakers that they are. By partnering with Affiliates to encourage and support students’ ideas for community action, the Smithsonian hopes to inspire widespread impact from the next generation of environmental leaders.”

The Earth Optimism Teen Conference is part of the Smithsonian’s National Earth Optimism Teen Conversation, a nation-wide outreach effort to cultivate teen leaders around issues impacting the environment. The Smithsonian’s Earth Optimism initiative ( aims to change the focus from problem to solution, and from doom and gloom to hope and opportunity, in the dialogue around conservation and sustainability. The initiative is dedicated to sharing stories of small and large scale successful actions that can be replicated.  The National Earth Optimism Teen Conversation is supported by a grant from the Smithsonian’s Youth Access Grant Fund.

The Cape Fear Museum of History and Science, a Smithsonian Affiliate, is located at 814 Market Street, Wilmington, NC and is open Tuesday-Saturday (9am-5pm) and Sunday (1-5pm). Standard admission prices are $8 for adults; $7 for seniors, students and military with valid ID; $5 for children 6-17; and free for children 5 and under and for museum members. New Hanover County residents’ free day is the first Sunday of each month. See more online at


Smithsonian Affiliations develops long-term partnerships with museums and educational organizations to make the Institution’s collections, scholars and resources widely available. The Smithsonian Affiliate network of more than 200 organizations collaborates with the Smithsonian – and with each other – to create experiences that educate and inspire millions of guests each year in their own neighborhoods. For more information, visit

Earth Optimism is a vision, an event, and a movement to shift the conservation conversation from one of doom and gloom to hope and optimism. The global conservation movement has reached a turning point. We have documented the fast pace of habitat loss, the growing number of endangered and extinct species, and the increasing speed of global climate change. Yet while the seriousness of these threats cannot be denied, there are a growing number of examples of improvements in the health of species and ecosystems, along with benefits to human well-being, thanks to our conservation actions. Earth Optimism celebrates a change in focus from problem to solution, from a sense of loss to one of hope, in the dialogue about conservation and sustainability.


Source: Barbi Baker, New Hanover County


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