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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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 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:
Equitable Green Economy Expert, Vien Truong, Shares Career Advice with Emerging Environmental Professionals
By Hernan Gallo
“My goal in life wasn’t really to escape Oakland; it was to understand the tools that I acquired while I was at Berkeley to bring them back home to Oakland and to begin changing the things that were fundamentally unfair and unjust not only for Oakland, but to cities that look like Oakland” - Vien Truong
Truong serves as the Director of Climate Justice for former presidential candidate Tom Steyer’s political action committee and Principal of her firm, Truong & Associates. She holds a background as a policy expert and strategist on building an equitable green economy. She began her keynote address at the virtual Climate Corps Fellow orientation on September 1st by telling her story. Truong grew up in a family of immigrants from Vietnam who left their home country during times of war. Truong’s family landed in Portland, Oregon prior to moving to Oakland, California where her parents worked low-wage jobs in sweatshops while supporting 11 children. Truong grew to love her community in Oakland and always wanted to build up her hometown through sustainability and equity.
Truong spoke about her in-depth background in climate justice, advocating for community electric van share programs, no-cost solar installations, and her experience at the United Nations Climate Change Conference. Of the many lessons she’s learned throughout her career, two of the most important are: “Enter the work with humility and listen to organic intellectuals in the community. People who live in working communities are most proximate to the problems and really fundamentally understand the solutions that will and won’t work better than anyone.”
One of the attendees of the event, Max Jimenez, asked Truong, “What are some challenges you faced when working with different communities? How did you overcome them?” Truong responded, “The hardest part is always remembering who you are and not having to pretend to be something else. Once you’ve got that, I think you’re good. As long as I remember who I am and I wasn’t trying to pretend, I think people understand and see that authenticity.”
Watch Truong’s inspiring keynote address on Youtube
In light of the Fellow orientation being held virtually amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing wildfires across the West, one attendee asked “What do you think is the biggest opportunity to advance climate equity in the next 5 years?” Truong responded,
“We’re gonna be seeing huge investments in climate equity in the next five years. We have commitments that we’re hearing from the presidential nominee on the Democratic side to state governors across the US. With the urgency that we’re seeing around science, and the amount of public pressure to companies, they’re gonna be investing. A low estimate is $5 billion, which is very low. On the high end, we’re talking at least 5 times that amount of money.”
Attendees of the event left inspired by Truong’s words of wisdom and advice, allowing them to push forward with critical climate action work as entry-level and emerging professionals across the US.
To read Vien Truong’s full bio, click here.
Climate Corps is an award-winning fellowship program that provides professional development opportunities for emerging leaders through implementation of sustainability and resiliency projects with local governments, nonprofits, and for-profit businesses. Host organizations receive the support of qualified, passionate, dedicated Fellows, who gain real-world expertise in sustainability project implementation.
The SEI Team
Environmental education and workforce development experts share stories from the field