By Alaitz Aritza
SEI staff presents on air quality mapping at virtual teacher training
While conducting outreach for SEI’s Air Quality Education Program, I met with Dawn Castillo, a teacher on a special assignment focused on building science curriculum in the Sweetwater Union School District. Dawn asked if she could hold on to one of SEI’s air quality testing kits, with the hope that she might be able to interest one or two teachers at her district in participating in SEI’s air quality education program down the line.
The curriculum Dawn requested focuses on air quality and environmental justice. Our team’s goal is to share this curriculum with teachers, free of charge, and give them the necessary resources to implement the curriculum in their classrooms. In particular, we hoped to share our air quality curriculum with teachers and students who are disproportionately impacted by poor air quality, so we were thrilled to have Dawn on board to help us recruit teachers from the Sweetwater District. In addition to curriculum, we also supply teachers with air quality testing kits and professional guidance for troubleshooting the equipment. During air quality lessons, students engage with an online mapping application to track local and regional air quality before developing an action plan to address these issues in their communities.
By Matilda Peck
September was an exciting time for the Climate Corps program, as we commenced the 2022-2023 program year with over 100 new Fellows. The cohort of emerging environmental leaders attended our two program orientations, signature events launching the classic Climate Corps (CC) program, and the specialized track, Climate Corps Education Outside (CCEO). Fellows had the chance to get to know one another, fostering community while building the skills of a sustainability professional.
Climate Corps Orientation
85 Fellows attended CC Orientation this year, hailing from California, Oregon, Washington, Maryland, and North Carolina. Those who were able, gathered in Preservation Park in Oakland, CA, where we held our first in-person Climate Corps Orientation since before the pandemic. The excitement of coming together was palpable, and further encouraged by opportunities for small group discussions and workshops.
The goal of CC Orientation is to prepare Fellows to implement sustainability and resiliency projects at their respective host organizations. Afterwards, each Fellow goes on to support a local government, nonprofit, or for-profit businesses, gaining real-world expertise in sustainability project implementation. This year, community was a major theme in preparing emerging professionals for the work ahead.
By Rachel Su-Ang
The mission of SEI’s newest program, Energize Careers, is to “Create a diverse and representational sustainability workforce through industry-advised training of people who experience systemic barriers to high road employment.” The Energize Careers program offers holistic services to provide access to technical training, job placement, and employment support for traditionally underserved communities.
Through Energize Careers, SEI partners with top tier training institutions across California. Current partners include Cerritos College, Inland Empire Electrical Training Center, Proteus, Rio Hondo College, Rising Sun Center for Opportunity, Sacramento City College, San Diego Electrical Training Institute, and San Jose City College.
Energize Careers is looking for additional collaborators who provide unique education and training certificate programs to upskill the next generation of leaders in the sustainability sector.
By Austen Needleman
By now, many of us have experienced the impacts of climate change like wildfires, floods, drought, heat waves, storms, and more. These experiences make it vital to talk to young people about climate change, but can also make it more challenging, as the topic is linked to traumatic experiences and anxiety.
Here are a few tips to talk about climate change with young people in a trauma-informed way, whether you are an educator, parent or anyone else.
Do talk about it! Discussing climate change is hard. We want to protect children from scary topics, and we may feel ill-equipped to have difficult conversations. But climate (mis)information is everywhere, leaving children with the impression that it is too late for action or that their future will be bleak.
Youth need trusted adults to share information in an age-appropriate way, and talking about trauma is an important way to address it. You can start by allowing young people to share what they know, ask questions, and express their feelings.
By Beatrix Berry
California Climate Action Corps Fellow Jhakarin with site supervisor Nancy
From wildfire mitigation workshops, to education on waste diversion regulations, California Climate Action Corps Fellows have been hard at work in their communities. SEI has partnered with California Volunteers and Bay Area Community Resources to support the California Climate Action Corps(CAC) program. The current program year has been filled with success stories and positive impacts as this powerful cohort of fellows have supported their communities in climate action and solutions.
CAC Fellows are placed throughout California and work primarily with communities who are being disproportionately impacted by the changing climate. In Redlands, California, three fellows, Calhoun, Bryan and Jenny, are currently working on the University of Redlands farm. In the area surrounding their site, there is little to no tree cover and therefore very limited shade. As a result, in the changing climate, their community and community members struggle to stay cool. These three fellows are working to cool down their community by increasing access to trees that can be planted by those who live in the area.
Calhoun, Bryan and Jenny, have worked hard to raise saplings and organize events to give them to the community for free. Jenny and Bryan are returning fellows and have been able to continue their impact this year. In a recent event they gave away 2,230 tree saplings to their community.
By Hannah Maryanski Kiszla
SEI is pleased to announce the publication of “Recommendations for Building Energy Modeling Education in California,” a report prepared by SEI for Southern California Edison, in cooperation with the California Building Energy Modeling (CalBEM) collaborative, a building energy modeling (BEM) stakeholder collective and an annual statewide event hosted by Southern California Edison on behalf of the California Investor-Owned Utilities.
Building energy modeling is key to realizing building energy savings and is relied upon for California energy code compliance, high-performance building design, energy efficiency retrofits, and more. These different projects create demand for trained building energy modelers. Recognizing the importance of training this workforce, CalBEM partnered with SEI to research current BEM education offerings, identify essential knowledge, skills, and abilities for building energy modelers, and provide recommendations for future BEM education directions.
By Katherine Chen
These two questions guide Heltzel’s teaching at Chabot College, where he serves as an adjunct English professor and partner in SEI’s Energize Colleges program. Heltzel also teaches English at College of San Mateo and Berkeley City College, and co-leads the climate education nonprofit Teach Earth Action (TEA)
Despite taking environmental science classes in school, Heltzel recalls not being taught about “the big picture of climate change” until he took an astronomy and poetry class - coincidentally, at Chabot College. After reading The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells and the 2018 IPCC report, Heltzel remembers the fear and panic of recognizing “the totality of climate change” for the first time. In response, he made two decisions: first, to teach about climate change in his classes; and second, to switch to a vegan diet.
Today, not only do Heltzel’s students learn about Shakespeare; they also learn about issues that impact them, their communities, and the planet. In order to substantially address the climate crisis, “We need every teacher in some capacity focusing on this issue.”
What can that look like? Heltzel begins by asking, “What’s the work that needs to be done?”
In April, SEI’s Marin School of Environmental Leadership (MarinSEL) hosted its annual Green Business Leaders Event: Collaboration in Action at Terra Linda High School. The event brought together local environmental and green business leaders, as well as, teachers, friends, and families to highlight the innovative sustainability work of the MarinSEL students; and to showcase the eight student-led sustainable businesses they created.
As part of the School of Environmental Leadership (SEL), 11th grade students are given the opportunity to develop and implement sustainable businesses from start to finish through the Sustainable Enterprise Course, which qualifies for college credits. Throughout the course, students create business plans for a sustainable enterprise, which they then pitch to a panel of mock investors who select the top eight ideas to be implemented. Then, using their collaboration and project management skills, students work in groups to create and carry out an implementation plan for their sustainable businesses. The product of their dedication and hard work is showcased at the annual Green Business Leaders Event. The end-of-program event also provides the opportunity for students to network with established green business leaders and innovators within the sustainability field.
Sophia Smulewitz from Free Spirit Suds: Clean Earth, Clean Body presenting their product to attendees.
By Alexis Fineman
For the past several months, seniors at LaFayette High School in LaFayette, Alabama have been learning about energy conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy sources as part of the 2022 PowerUp! Energy Challenge. In partnership with SOLV Energy and Heart of America, SEI facilitated a series of weekly educational challenges to get students “powered up” about energy in their lives and communities while also introducing students to the solar job market.
The Challenge was launched in February with a kick-off assembly featuring alumni guest speakers Dr. Travis Smith with Unite HBCU, who builds pathways for high school students into HBCUs and from HBCUS into the workforce, and Devon Mackey, a solar project manager with SOLV Energy. It culminated in a multi-week Campaign Challenge. Through the Campaign Challenge, students created educational posters and graphic designs to promote conservation and efficiency measures in their communities. Campaign judges included the Chambers County School Board president Jeffrey Finch, LaFayette mayor Kenneth Vines, Chamber of Commerce director Carrie Royster, and Taylor Teel, the director of Camp Marranook.
First place winner ShaKerya Gunn receives a prize (left) for her Energy Challenge submission (right)
Over 30 students in LaFayette’s senior class participated, and throughout the Challenge, these students experienced the support and encouragement of their communities. Students dove deep into topics of energy, resiliency, and sustainability; explored solar careers; and were asked to consider how they themselves could be agents of change on a warming planet. Of the 30 participants, SEI awarded 12 finalists SEI’s Energy Specialist Certificate. The first, second, and third place winners received scholarship awards of $1500, $1000, and $500 respectively, as well as an array of Goal Zero solar products.
By Hannah Maryanski
Summer is approaching, and if you are in high school or early in your college career, you might be thinking about starting your green career search over the break. Congratulations on taking the first steps! Here are 4 tips for finding a career in the environmental space.
Identify your interests
Environmental educator, renewable energy engineer, construction worker, community organizer, sustainability specialist—these can all be green jobs, and they’re all really different. It can be hard to know where to start when the field is so broad. Try narrowing in on a few areas that interest you. The SEI Green Careers Webinars Series can help by providing knowledge directly from sustainability professionals about their day-to-day work and career paths.
Labor market research from tools like California Career Zone can also help. Labor market information gives you general characteristics about jobs, like the type of education required. It can also show you what jobs are expected to pay well or be in high demand.
If you are interested in a career that doesn’t show up in your green jobs search, don’t worry! Let your creativity shine as you think of new ways to bring sustainability into any career path.
The SEI Team
Environmental education and workforce development experts share stories from the field