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.
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