By Emily Mallen
In SEI’s Climate Corps Education Outside Program (CCEO), we plant the seeds of science and ecoliteracy to grow environmental leaders in two big ways — with the students we teach and with the cohort of 31 early-career, environmental educators we place in outdoor classrooms on school campuses in the San Francisco Bay Area. To support our educators as they enter the field of environmental education, we provide a rigorous training and professional development program. This semester, our educators have already participated in 88 hours of training! As we prepare them for their work in schools, we offer instruction on a wide range of topics from lesson planning, equitable teaching practices and best practices in the outdoor classroom, veggie gardening, community engagement, and more.
Join us as we take a look at some of the highlights from this semester of the CCEO training program!
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 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 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?”
By Dru Marion
This fall, after a year of remote learning, SEI's Climate Corps Education Outside Fellows worked to rehabilitate the campus gardens at their schools and bring students back outside for garden class. Thanks to our cohort of twenty-nine incredible Fellows, thousands of students are once again getting the opportunity to engage with inquiry-based, hands-on science and ecoliteracy lessons during the regular school day and directly on their own school campuses. We hope you enjoy these snapshots joy, growth and (re)discovery in the school garden classroom:
By Katrina Hagedorn
Image by Trang Nguyen
Climate change is not just an individual issue, state problem, or national concern. It is one of the greatest challenges the world has ever faced.
The current workforce is not ready to undertake the challenge of transitioning to a clean economy. Additionally, marginalized communities are disproportionately impacted by the effects of climate change. Given both of these issues, SEI aims to strengthen leaders across communities and integrate environmental justice, equity, community engagement, and collaboration into all of its programs. Our Climate Corps program has been doing this work in collaboration with communities across California for over a decade. We are excited to announce that we have been expanding Climate Corps into new areas to help drive a national workforce transformation! One such area is the Pacific Northwest, including the state of Oregon.
Within Oregon, a diverse group of organizations has partnered to develop the ‘Oregon Climate Equity Project,’ which will broaden the climate movement in the state and strengthen BIPOC leadership in climate policy, advocacy, and development. In the Project, five Climate Corps Fellows focused on climate justice within BIPOC communities will be placed with nonprofit organizations and public agencies serving Oregon. Our partners on this project include Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI), Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO), Climate Solutions, Coalition of Communities of Color (CCC), Earth Advantage, Forth, the Oregon Environmental Council, and Verde.
When and how did you know you wanted to pursue a job in the environmental sphere?
I’ve wanted to work in this field since early childhood - in large part due to informal science programs like CCEO. For a long time I thought I would be a scientist, specifically a marine biologist, but then in the first year of undergrad I took a class called “Experiential Education in the Outdoors''. I remember unspooling string for young people to weave webs of life around ancient trees and feeling a sense of deep alignment. I think in The Secret Garden Frances Hodgsen Burnett refers to it as “The BIG GOOD THING.” While the field of environmental education requires a ton of shapeshifting, this feeling has remained central to my practice. It powers my commitments to kinship, celebration, and dismantling patterns which isolate people from their inherent worth and belonging. There is so much potential within the environmental sphere for communal and personal liberation -- I can’t imagine myself anywhere else.
By Hernán Gallo Cornejo
How do we engage all Californians in climate action while also preparing the next generation of sustainability leaders?
This is the key question the California Climate Action Corps program seeks to address. SEI is implementing the California Climate Action Corps program alongside Bay Area Community Resources (BACR), as part of California’s comprehensive strategy to address the climate crisis. California Volunteers, Office of the Governor, created this state-level climate service corps to catalyze meaningful climate action in California communities. As part of this effort, we provided climate career training to over 200 Fellows across the state this summer.
SEI Staff kicks off the training series with an orientation in June 2021
We harnessed the power and expertise of SEI’s Climate Corps fellowship program (launching sustainability careers since 2010) to provide summer Fellows with the tools to tackle real climate challenges, including food recovery, home hardening for wildfires, and urban greening. Once a week Fellows logged on to virtual training sessions that explored equity, climate careers, resilience, and networking.
Emerging professionals need to engage in meaningful hands-on work, but can also greatly benefit from additional investment in preparing them for careers that are truly transformative and create sustainable change. Confronting climate change requires “green” skills, including sustainability research, education, and environmental remediation. For these reasons, we felt it was imperative to provide in-depth training and skill development to the 200+ participants in the program.
SEI is spotlighting our amazing Climate Corps Fellows who have been working to protect our climate through a wide range of sustainability initiatives. This week we are highlighting Billie Hervas, Education and Training Fellow at the The Energy Coalition.
By Anne-Christine Strugnell
When Chloe Ney graduated from UCLA in 2019 with a BA in geography and environmental studies, she was eager to get started on a career in sustainable urban planning.
“Conservation of open space is hugely important,” she says. “By making urban spaces more appealing, sustainable, and better for our physical and mental health, we can reduce the tendency to sprawl and enhance the synergy between nature and the built environment.”
But Chloe found no entry-level opportunities: all the jobs in her preferred field required experience, and despite having completed an internship, she couldn’t get a foot in the door. One of her friends had participated in SEI’s Climate Corps program and urged Chloe to check it out. When she went to the SEI website, one opportunity jumped out for her: a Fellowship with Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) to promote on-campus energy conservation. LACCD has the most aggressive and comprehensive sustainability goals in the California community college system: 100% renewable electricity by 2030 and 100% carbon free by 2040.
“I grew up in LA, and it’s a special place for me,” Chloe says. “And a college campus is a perfect place for an urban planner to get a start, because campuses are like mini cities.” She applied and was selected for the position.
Chloe and her supervisor Aris Hovasapian, Utility Program Manager at LACCD
Pivoting to professional achievement
Just six weeks after Chloe started her Fellowship at LACCD, the office went virtual in response to the pandemic. All the in-person outreach activities she had planned were cancelled. Now what?
The SEI Team
Environmental education and workforce development experts share stories from the field