Student-created Climate Clock tells a different kind of time in Madison Middle School library

(WSB photos. From left, Madison librarian Stacia Bell, Climate Clock creators Aidan Busby and Lola Thaler, teacher Robin Russell)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Talk about follow-through.

While in 8th grade at Madison Middle School last year, two students collaborated on a project so ambitious, they continued work on it even after the school year ended and they moved on to high school.

Now the result has a prominent place in the Madison library, where it presents a simple but powerful message to everyone who visits.

That’s the Climate Clock designed and built by Lola Thaler and Aidan Busby. They returned to Madison to install it a few weeks back, and now it presents a continuous two-part message. “It’s not a doomsday clock,” they are quick to tell you. You could in fact describe it as an anti-doomsday clock – the countdown shows the time remaining for emissions-elimination action to limit the planet to 1.5 degrees (C) of warming. So you can look at it as “cup half full” – there’s still time. The second number, chosen from other possibilities, shows the percentage of global energy use that’s renewable – another cause for hope, as that number rises (though slowly so far).

Not only did Lola and Aidan plan, design, and build the climate clock – he did the programming – they got funding for it; Lola applied for – and received – a $200 grant from the Madison PTSA.

This was a “Social Change” project originated while they were in teacher Robin Russell‘s class. Lola happened onto the concept of a climate clock while doing research. They could have ordered one. But the teacher suggested, “Maybe you could make your own.”

Aidan says he heard about the project and jumped in – “I thought it would be interesting to build.” He was the tech expert for the project, both hardware and coding.

Then they talked with Madison librarian Stacia Bell about setting it up in the library. She says this is the first time she can recall a student project seeking and obtaining PTSA funding. She’s proud to host it: “It’s become a topic of conversation.”

For teacher Ms. Russell, she remains impressed at how much time Lola and Aidan put into it – and how they saw it through. Finding the time was a challenge, the students admit – Aidan’s family was out of town for the summer, and Lola recalls it required “short bursts of work.” Aidan put dozens of hours into the coding, “including debugging.”

As for the clock’s message, it’s serious business to both. “I think we need to make serious changes,” Aidan observes, especially “better energy choices … solar, nuclear.” Lola sees the big picture – personal changes can only go so far, and beyond them, “it’s frustrating that it’s just a few big corporations doing most of the damage.”

Last year she also gave a Climate Clock presentation in the citywide Environmental Slam, held online in May.

The ultimate message is to challenge the status quo. “If we are to go on with business as usual, the goal won’t be met in time,” says Lola. So raising awareness is imperative. “The most important thing is educating others,” Ms. Bell agrees.

And that’s the lesson of students’ Social Change projects, Ms. Russell says: “That each person CAN make a difference.”

If you want inspiration to make a difference yourself, more information is available at (which also features additional metrics of ongoing world action).

10 Replies to "Student-created Climate Clock tells a different kind of time in Madison Middle School library"

  • wshs62 February 10, 2023 (1:03 pm)

    Kudos to the students, teachers and PTSA who cooperated to create this remarkable project.  Data helps us make decisions.  Any chance the Blog could publish the information from the Madison Climate Clock on a regular basis–semi-annually or yearly? Inspiring work!

  • Lori Hinton February 10, 2023 (1:12 pm)

    Nice work Aidan! 

  • Parent February 10, 2023 (1:13 pm)

    Very cool……but no wonder kids have anxiety 😟 

  • anxious February 10, 2023 (1:23 pm)

    It sure looks like a doomsday clock to me. And people wonder why kids are so anxious now days. I am glad they are trying to inspire others to act, but, geesh, what a thing for kids to have to think about daily at school.

  • Friend and neighbor February 10, 2023 (2:25 pm)

    Well done Aiden (and Lola).  We are so proud of you!

  • anonyme February 10, 2023 (5:01 pm)

    We should all be anxious, as there’s no way warming will be contained under 1.5 degrees.  Not only can most people not even be bothered enough to stop idling their car engines for no purpose, but most see this clock the same way they see speed limits: something to exceed.  Or maybe some mystery deity will step in at the last minute and save humanity.  Politicians have become adept at posturing while taking no meaningful action whatsoever.  The day after Biden returned from the COP26 conference – the very next day – he opened up oil & gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.   The amount of change needed within this breathtakingly short timeframe would require cooperation and sacrifice by every individual (and corporation) on a global scale.  There’s as much chance of that as there is with alien intervention.  While I’m proud of this younger generation for their awareness of this issue, neither their numbers nor their influence will be able to beat this clock.

    • gottostandforsomething February 10, 2023 (9:41 pm)

      Good heavens. You realize that these wonderful kids will read youe post. I understand your frustration, but please consider your audience. I guess you’ve given them a good taste of the cynicism they will need to be prepared for when they go out into the world and try to do good – so, um, good for you for that? Lola and Aiden. I am 50 years old and I work in environmental sustainability for a living. Some of the best and most meaningful things in life are done with hope and love – especially when you are fighting against the odds. May you always follow your dream and inspire others (like me!). Let’s go! I’m with you!

      • anonyme February 11, 2023 (6:57 am)

        I actually think these kids are WAY smarter than you give them credit for, and moving quickly beyond the Pollyanna phase so many adults seem to be stuck in, and that attempts to shelter them as if they were still children has more to do with shielding the adults from accountability for the disaster they have created.  And yes, “cynicism” is one of the things they should know to expect.  While these ‘children’ may have been raised on highly censored and politically correct fairy tales, the world they have grown up in has become increasingly harsh in so many ways. It will take both blunt honesty and pragmatism to face the future and make what could possibly be the hardest decisions any generation has ever had to make.  I have the utmost admiration for them, as well as compassion and sorrow for what they will have to face.  IMO, Greta Thunberg is the greatest hero of our time, and I hope that she, and the young people in question, do everything within their power to slow down the catastrophe that is coming. 

        • heartless February 11, 2023 (9:57 am)

          I agree with Anonyme, and think she is actually doing a kindness by not sugar-coating the situation.

          Hope for the best, sure, but prepare for the worst.  Because the worst is coming, and to shield middle-schoolers from that fact is foolish and wrong (not to mention they’d see right through it).

  • WS mom February 10, 2023 (10:19 pm)

    Way to go! This is so impressive. Great project with an important reminder for us all. 

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