By Giselle Serafin
Instilling environmental principles in a class of students who all have different relationships with the environment is challenging. Madison Niesyn, Environmental Leadership teacher at Del Mar Middle School, was looking for ways to engage her students, some of whom were passionate about caring for the environment and others who had not yet made the connection between environmental protection and their own lives. Madison saw zero waste as an area of common ground, a place where she could start a pathway to advocacy for students at any level of familiarity with environmental stewardship. To bring education on waste to her students Madison reached out to Zero Waste Marin(ZWM).
To kick off this partnership, Zero Waste Schools Program (ZWSP) staff held an instructional planning meeting with Madison to discuss waste topics that interested her students, and how to best incorporate these themes in her virtual classroom. ZWSP staff and Madison decided to focus on what zero waste means, why the waste sorting rules are important, and where waste goes. Students were particularly interested in plastic pollution, a locally important issue in the San Francisco Bay.
ZWSP staff developed a plan for two classroom presentations on zero waste with Madison’s 7th grade class. For the first presentation, the ZWSP team joined Madison and her class virtually on Zoom. Students asked insightful questions about zero waste careers, the role of zero waste in other environmental fields, and how to take action in their communities. After the presentation, one student reflected, “Something that I’ve learned from the ZWM presentations is that if one cares about a topic, they can find outlets to pursue their interest and make our world a better place simply by educating others!”
By Hernan Gallo and Jessica Redden
Bring sustainability topics into any college classroom
Climate change and sustainability topics are deeply interconnected with most disciplines. The challenges and opportunities of climate change can provide a connection between real world problems and classroom content, resulting in deeper student engagement and preparation for green jobs. The Energize Colleges team has worked with colleges and universities to support integration of sustainability curriculum.
Interested in collaborating with Energize Colleges on how to bring climate change and sustainability content into your course or college campus? Reach out to us at email@example.com
Host sustainability trainings for faculty members
Involve faculty across disciplines, including science, engineering, arts, history and policy, to infuse environmental sustainability into their academic projects! You can start by hosting hands-on workshops with industry leaders. Energize Colleges hosts virtual "train the trainer" workshops on energy and sustainability and can support you in organizing a faculty training.
Looking for inspiration? Request no-cost access to the Campus as a Living Lab Train the Trainer Webinar Recording and other trainings here.
By Liz Fitzpatrick
As a learner in an educational setting, have you ever been asked to name something that you love? Typically when we are asked this question, it is in a leading context. For example students might hear, "Which subject at school do you enjoy the most?" or "What do you want to be?" This type of question is intended to guide students towards the career pathway that would be best suited for them, but can actually be misguiding.
American Student Assistance published a wonderful white paper that found, "Conversations about the future with American students all too often involve this oversimplified and misleading question which gives the impression a person simply ends up being something."
What happens when we ask questions like, “What are you passionate about?” or “What do you want to give to society?”
By Liz Fitzpatrick, Jessica Redden and Tyler Valdes
Teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge for educators across the United States. In the Navajo Nation, limited access to electricity, running water, and the Internet has made distance learning an even more difficult task. At Whitehorse School in Montezuma Creek, Utah, 80% of students do not have access to the Internet at home.
“Not being able to interact with the students face to face has been hard...there are days where I only have four students or just one joining in because of the lack of Internet access,” reflected Brittany Redhouse, a Whitehorse teacher. To continue providing meaningful learning opportunities to their 288 students who span 6 grades during shelter-in-place, Whitehorse School teamed up with the PowerUp! Empowered Education Program.
PowerUp! sent education kits and supplies with essential items like school materials, books, solar powered lanterns, hand sanitizer, and masks to 7,000 students, including those who attend Whitehorse. These kits also included a mini solar powered car that students could build and experiment with, and SEI’s contribution: learning materials focused on solar energy to go along with the car.
In recent months, workforce programs designed to address climate change by mobilizing workers to support environmentally focused projects have come to the forefront of the conversation among democratic politicians. We are thrilled to see the concept of a cohort of professionals working to create climate solutions taking the national stage. This is the work we have been engaged in for over a decade with our flagship program, Climate Corps , and we are excited to be a part of emerging initiatives.
Climate Corps 2019-20 Fellow Cohort
SEI’s Climate Corps was established in 2010. Since then, through this award-winning bridge-to-career model we have worked with over 500 Fellows on 1,000 high-impact projects, such as implementing local government climate action plans, driving deeper energy efficiency savings, expanding electric vehicle adoption and leading climate education programs. Through Climate Corps, we simultaneously help organizations address climate and sustainability projects and cultivate the next generation of environmental leaders. Our Fellows work on a wide range of climate resiliency efforts at local governments, nonprofit organizations, businesses and educational institutions.
By Dru Marion
Like most of us, SEI’s Climate Corps Education Outside (CCEO) Fellows have had a strange year. In March, school closures sent this group of outdoor educators out of their Bay Area school gardens and into their living rooms, behind computer screens. Since then, the CCEO program has adapted to the distance learning structures at all of our partner elementary schools, repeatedly returning to a core question: how can we continue to offer students opportunities to engage with science, connect to nature, and interact in hands-on ways with the world around them?
This fall, CCEO Fellows dove headfirst back into the world of distance learning at their schools in San Francisco, San Mateo, and Alameda counties. They are each delivering a full calendar of live classes over Zoom and other platforms to all students at their elementary schools. Fellows have also worked to build a robust library of video lessons that students can watch and learn along with at their own pace. Who could have predicted that filming, starring in, and editing videos would become a critical tool in the toolbox of an environmental educator in 2020?
By Katie Rogers
David Juarez was a student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo when, sitting on a hill overlooking the countryside, he had a vision of himself walking in a solar field. This vision inspired him to graduate with a degree in electrical engineering and interest in renewable energy.
When seeking a career post-college, he was excited to find a fellowship opportunity at the San Mateo Community College district through Climate Corps. He was interviewed by Isaac Knipfing, a former Climate Corps fellow himself. As a fellow, he got to know energy management systems and experienced operations hands-on. “My knowledge of facilities management grew exponentially in my time there,” Juarez reports.
As his fellowship came to an end, the facilities manager from University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), spoke at Climate Corps Facilities training and mentioned they’d be growing their team. SEI worked with UCSF to develop a fellowship position, for which Juarez was a perfect fit.
As a senior fellow, Juarez helped form the energy team at UCSF. He became a full-time employee at UCSF upon completion of his fellowship. Currently, Juarez works on energy and utility projects, such as installing solar at a major hospital in Mission Bay, adding variable frequency drives at another hospital so HVACs are saving as much energy as possible, installing a solenoid valve that saves 500,000 gallons of water each year, and ensuring UCSF sites continue to have power amidst PG&E’s rolling blackouts.
By Emily Usaha
San Diego High School, located in the heart of San Diego, was founded in 1882 and is one of the oldest public high schools in California. The school has a rich history, which includes the construction of a castle-like building called "The Old Gray Castle" in 1907 and the Balboa Stadium in 1914. The San Diego Chargers used the Balboa Stadium as their home field for six seasons. Over the course of its history, San Diego High School has grown in student numbers as the city expanded, and as a result new buildings were built and renovations made. Today, San Diego High School is divided into three small theme-based schools including the School of Business and Leadership, School of International Studies, and the School of Science and Technology serving over 2,500 students.
U.S. Marines creating an American flag at Balboa Stadium in 1932
Image from Wikimedia Commons
Within the School of Science and Technology lives the GeoTech Academy, a small learning community serving students who are interested in focusing their studies on engineering and design rooted in sustainability and clean technologies. As Jackie Rivers, one of the six lead teachers of the academy, described it, “Geotech is a community and one big family. When any of our students are struggling they have a whole dedicated team they can go to”.
By Ryan O'Hara
The 27-acre Eames Ranch is located in the countryside of Petaluma, CA. Among other creatures and curiosities, it’s home to 20 sheep and their famous guard llama, Lulu. Walk to the right of the main building and you’ll see a garden teeming with deliciousness.
The Ranch gets its name from famous mid-century designers Charles & Ray Eames. Specifically, it was the home of their daughter, Lucia Eames. While they are best known for their chairs, the Eameses saw design as problem-solving at a fundamental level. Gathering as much information as possible helped them understand the shape and scope of any problem, which explains why their designs have withstood the test of time. Their “learn by doing” process is ingenious because it truly works, and is one which I have adopted into my own life. It has been an honor and a great pleasure to be at the Ranch, working closely with a small, motivated group.
My biggest project as a Climate Corps Fellow at the Ranch has been establishing baseline data on water usage, energy and more. During my first few weeks our brilliant ranch foreman Adam, installed an app called Sense to monitor our energy use. The Sense app’s real-time energy use graph came in handy for a presentation about energy and lighting. Seeing the live change in energy use between having the lights on and off turned out to be very effective; members of the team told me afterward that they changed their habits after the presentation. This response was encouraging because changing habits is an important means to the end goal of sustainability.
By George Spencer
The Climate Corps Education Outside program is planting the seeds of science and ecoliteracy to grow environmental leaders. We open the classroom door to school gardens that get students connected to the ecosystem around them. Our outdoor classrooms are living laboratories and our students are scientists, who observe their environments, take risks, and drive their own learning through inquiry based lessons.
While the outdoor classroom certainly provides the space for science learning, it also has the hidden benefit of being a bastion of social emotional relief and respite for student regulation and grounding, helping students build inner resilience for a complex world. Sarah Grossman-Kahn is a second year CCEO Fellow, who is passionate about creating this space of refuge for students in her garden classroom. Sarah shared this story with us, from before COVID-19, when Bay Area schools were still open:
The SEI Team
Environmental education and workforce development experts share stories from the field