San Jose State’s ‘The Green Ninja’ Teaches Kids About Climate Change – CBS San Francisco

SAN JOSE (KPIX) — The message of Earth Day has had a long history on the campus of San Jose State University and that tradition continues this year as students and faculty work to create new ways to educate the next generation about protecting the planet.

“We use humor and fun and tell kids about things they can do in their own community to make a difference,” said Professor Eugene Cordero, a climate scientist at SJSU. “For kids, they can’t put solar panels on their roof every day but they get a choice about what they eat.”

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Cordero started a research program almost a decade ago called “The Green Ninja” to help educate students in schools about climate change and reducing their carbon footprint. The cartoon is now used as a teaching tool across the country.

“Our research found that the choice of food that you eat is just as impactful as the car you drive,” he told KPIX 5 on Friday. “To grow a chicken requires much less energy than to grow a cow.”

The professor also participated in a live action version of the series as “Dr. Burrito” to help students see the difference between eating beef over chicken or vegetarian options. The research they share finds that beef burritos have five times the impact on the environment than a chicken option.

“I learned a lot from working on it,” said Kiana Luong, a SJSU animation student. “As we know this is there future and they’re the ones who will hopefully make a change.”

Luong is one of 15 students in the class that designed a graphic novel to help another audience of students connect with the message of the Green Ninja. The first issue will be ready for teachers to use in a couple of weeks and could become another educational tool for schools across the country like the cartoon.

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“I think art is timeless whether it is classical or a silly cartoon make for kids,” she told KPIX 5. “I think that art is a great way, even graphic novels, to tell stories and teach lessons.”

The graphic novel will be targeted toward sixth grade students. It continues a tradition of Earth Day initiatives at SJSU. According to the university, the day itself was founded by an alum, Gaylord Nelson in 1970.

Students on campus participated in an event related to environmental awareness that same year. SJSU is one of the first universities in the US with an environmental studies department, according to the staff.

“It’s just another avenue to hopefully be inspired and find science interesting and something they can use to better their community,” Cordero said about the graphic novel.

He says the Bay Area has always had a passion for the environment and campaigns like Earth Day but residents have to encourage family and friends across the nation to take more action.

Cordero said it’s not just the food you eat each day, but the major purchases like cars and appliances. He believes there are only a few more years left before the impact of climate change will be irreversible and the next decade will be crucial.

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“We have time but we need to take action,” he said. “Education can be just as impactful and that’s high-quality education if it’s done well.”

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