Graphic from Sam Huang's sustainability campaign
When I met Sam Huang, a senior at Rosemead High School in Rosemead, CA, their passion for encouraging climate action shone through immediately. Though just a few days from graduation, Sam was thinking about how to support their garden club with summer volunteer work before heading off to college to study education. Sam and I spoke soon after they were announced as the Southern California winner of SEI's Earth Day Challenge for their social media campaign urging their school community to improve their local and global environments through small changes to their daily habits.
By Matilda Peck
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 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 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 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.
By Alexis Fineman
Between fires, floods, and droughts, more and more people of all ages are waking up to the climate crisis. One common question that people young and old are asking themselves is, “What can I do?!” While there is no shortage of meaningful ways to engage in climate and sustainability work, for many people, and younger folks in particular, the answer to that question is just two words: green jobs.
With its mission to build leaders for a resilient world, SEI has long been focused on providing students the knowledge and skills necessary to enter the sustainability workforce with confidence and a sense of purpose. Compiling several decades of industry leadership in green careers readiness, SEI is now launching its first-ever Career Connections Toolkit, a one-stop shop for educators, counselors, and emerging professionals.
The Career Connections Toolkit provides tools for job seekers interested in green careers. The toolkit will guide you through the early stages of a job search, starting with an exploration of sustainability professions and moving through applying for jobs and networking. It also includes an introduction to industry certifications. Access SEI’s Career Connections Toolkit here.
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.
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