Completing and submitting the Green Ribbon Schools application was a major project of my Climate Corps fellowship and a long-term goal of the district. The application had been in progress for a few years, so I inherited a strong draft that former Fellows put together. From there, I spent much of the fall compiling missing data and information, revising responses, and updating the application to reflect SRCS’ most recent sustainability initiatives and projects.
Over the coming weeks, SEI will be spotlighting some of our amazing Climate Corps Fellows, who have been driving forward a wide range of sustainability solutions. First up, we are shining the spotlight on Katherine Chen Energize Colleges Fellow at San Mateo County Community College District.
By Beatrix Berry
Entering the realm of high school, with tall 12th graders, looming assignments, and the occasional beard, can be intimidating for many. It can feel especially daunting to a student who is less vocal in a room full of new faces. Despite entering the Marin School of Environmental Leadership (MarinSEL) feeling more quiet than her classmates, Harita Kalvai, a 10th grader in MarinSEL, has risen to the occasion to lead her peers and organize local youth activism for a cause bigger than herself.
When Harita started high school at MarinSEL two years ago, she found it difficult to stick up for herself and share her opinions. Despite her initial shyness, Harita has grown to be a vocal environmental changemaker through a number of leadership opportunities she found through MarinSEL.
Harita with MarinSEL classmates
In a recent project for one of her MarinSEL classes, Harita and her teammates worked closely with Marin Transit to create stickers for public buses that depict COVID-safe behavior while on the bus. In this project, she took a leadership role and demonstrated her communication skills with industry professionals and community partners who are experts in their field.
By Giselle Serafin and Jessica Redden
Eco Club co-founders Beatrix and Nana
Nana and Beatrix both started at John Burroughs High School in the fall of 2020 - right in the middle of the pandemic. They had met in middle school, where they were Co-Presidents of the Activism Club. The two decided to start an Eco Club, narrowing their focus to the environment because of its many ties to other issues they are passionate about. As Eco Club Co-Founders and Co-Presidents, Nana and Beatrix have created an impressive community wide environmental stewardship effort, all through online platforms, while only in their freshman year of high school.
In fall of 2020, the Eco Club participated in SEI’s Energy Challenge, and created a campaign that educated their fellow students about the importance of conserving energy through social media posts, videos and posters. They were ultimately the winners of the challenge!
Eco Club's posters from their Energy Challenge Campaign
Driven by the capabilities of community education, Nana noted how participating in the challenge helped them learn different skills,“We found the Energy Challenge and got more inspired on how to use skills to advocate like on social media.” As winners, they used their prize money to buy reusable tote bags which they plan to sell and raise funds for their club and also to buy gifts as a thank you to frontline workers in their community.
By Fernando Gil
Following the 2020 Energy Challenge, our team at SEI’s Energize Schools program was looking for new ways to get students excited about participating in our Earth Day Challenge. We wanted to find an engaging and entertaining way to educate students about environmental issues and their possible solutions. To me, the obvious choice was a video game.
Creating a video game hadn’t been feasible for SEI in the past, but my background in coding and engineering provided the missing pieces to make it a reality. My concept was simple, a 2D platformer (like Super Mario) with levels for different topics we wanted to cover for Earth Day. Named “Duckie’s Adventures: Earth Day,” students play as a duck who uses their knowledge of sustainability to tackle several environmental issues.
By Giselle Serafin
Smoke from the 2020 California wildfires. Photo: NASA
Throughout the devastating 2020 fire season in California and beyond, students felt the direct impact of extreme poor air quality in real time. This experience brought up a lot of questions, curiosity, and concerns about the impact of air pollution on themselves, their families, and their communities.
In January SEI worked with 7th grade science classes at Black Diamond Middle School in Antioch, California to bring SEI’s Air Quality curriculum to their classes. Through this curriculum, students are introduced to air quality science, air quality monitoring the intersection of air quality and environmental justice, and air quality policy. To make the classroom content more engaging, students learn about local air quality issues and solutions employed by nearby community organizers. Wrapping up their air quality lessons, these students were guided through an action planning project to help improve the air quality in their community.
After Black Diamond students completed their air quality project, SEI followed up with a survey to understand what they took away from learning about air quality and its impact on their community. When asked “Do you believe that as an individual, you have the ability to reduce air pollution? Why or why not?,” students responded with a nuanced understanding of the roles of individuals, communities, and professionals in implementing air pollution reduction strategies. Although students were ready to take on individual actions like biking or carpooling, many also noted that it is up to everyone to take part in change. Here are some student reflections on the question:
By Yesenia Perez
A geographic information based system, ArcGIS collects, analyzes and interprets data to create a map that can explore real world environmental problems. It is a powerful and engaging tool that is used in a variety of career fields, but usually not taught to students until environmentally focused college courses.
ArcGIS is a tool that can prompt exploration of the Earth’s geography and natural systems and fosters critical thinking. Bringing ArcGIS into high school classrooms revitalizes traditional environmental science lessons. Furthermore, it is a way to introduce a technical tool that is a highly advantageous skill set and important exposure for high school students preparing themselves for future career pathways.
Last fall, the Energize School’s team reimagined the Watersheds and Public Water Systems curriculum to work for virtual learning with support from NOAA's Bay Watershed and Training program. This curriculum incorporates ArcGIS as a tool for students to map their local watershed. With each step of the mapping process students explore their watershed more deeply and create a visual representation of their understanding layer by layer, data piece by data piece. In this application, ArcGIS can be used to identify, analyze and mitigate human impacts on watersheds.
By Hernan Gallo-Cornejo
SEI is spotlighting the incredible and inspiring sustainability leaders who serve on our board through a series of interviews. We are kicking off the board spotlight series with Debbie Raphael, Director of the San Francisco Department of the Environment.
Why do you serve on SEI’s board?
I believe in the mission of SEI – to build the capacity of our youth and young professionals to work in the environmental field and to create the solutions needed to heal this planet. I serve on the Board because I believe in the importance of “paying it forward”. I believe it is my responsibility, as an environmental professional, to support organizations like SEI to be the best they can be.
Bringing the Garden to Students: Thousands of Garden Kits Distributed by Climate Corps Education Outside
By Dru Marion
As the name would suggest, SEI’s Climate Corps Education Outside (CCEO) program typically works with students outdoors. Usually CCEO educators use on-campus school gardens as their classrooms, but that rapidly changed in March 2020 with COVID-19 school closures. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the CCEO team has discussed the possibility of distributing supplies to students so that they could grow plants at home, but for a long time this project seemed impossible in the face of logistical barriers.
Ten months later this idea finally became a reality when the CCEO program brought a little bit of the outdoors into the home learning spaces of almost 10,000 students. With support from SF Rec and Park, the SF Botanical Gardens, and SF Children and Nature, the program provided “garden kits'' to every student at twenty-five schools in San Francisco, Oakland, and San Mateo County. Each kit contains soil, biodegradable pots, seeds, science notebooks, and magnifying glasses, as well as access to a ““Welcome to Your Garden Kit” website.
By Jessica Redden
Career Technical Education (CTE) prepares high school students for their future careers by integrating academic knowledge and technical job skills. Introducing students to careers early sets them up for success in their professional futures! SEI’s Energize Schools program works with teachers and schools to offer Career Technical Education opportunities. Here are some ways that any school can bring CTE to their students:
1. Implement a lesson or unit aligned with CTE standards
There are 15 CTE sectors that intersect with all education disciplines. No matter what you teach there are opportunities to bring career aligned activities into your classroom. Utilize the Energize Schools Curriculum Library to start planning your CTE, NGSS, and Common Core aligned lessons and units.
2. Adopt a CTE Pathway
CTE pathways allow students to deeply explore career opportunities and develop relevant career skills, preparing them for the workforce. Before adopting a pathway, research your local labor market trends; it is best to adopt pathways relevant to your community job needs. One nationally growing field is the energy, environment, and utilities sector. In 2018, and 2019, clean energy jobs outnumbered fossil fuel jobs nearly 3 to 1 across the US and 5 to 1 in California respectively according to the E2 CA Clean Jobs Report. Utilize SEI’s energy, environment, and utilities sector courses Innovations in Green Technology and Energy and Environmental Design to jumpstart an energy and power technology pathway at your school!
Students in Antioch High Schools IGT class solder solar USB chargers
The SEI Team
Environmental education and workforce development experts share stories from the field