By Fernando Gil
In spring 2021, SEI hosted a virtual Energy Challenge, giving students a fun opportunity to learn about energy conservation, help spread awareness about energy use and climate change, and win scholarships to support their future college and career goals. In partnership with Whitehorse School in the Navajo Nation, Swinerton Renewable Energy, and Heart of America, SEI made this programming available to students fully offline, as 80% of students there do not have access to the Internet at home. This meant creating alternatives for all the online aspects of the original challenge, including educational resources and ways for students to share their work. The transition was a success as Whitehorse seniors were able to engage with content and launch creative energy conservation campaigns including presentations, poems, and infographics.
Energy Conservation Poem by Xavier Martin
Energy Campaign Reflection by Diana Whitehair
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 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
By Giselle Serafin
Instilling environmental principles in a class of students who all have different relationships with the environment is challenging. Madison Niesyn, Environmental Leadership teacher at Del Mar Middle School, was looking for ways to engage her students, some of whom were passionate about caring for the environment and others who had not yet made the connection between environmental protection and their own lives. Madison saw zero waste as an area of common ground, a place where she could start a pathway to advocacy for students at any level of familiarity with environmental stewardship. To bring education on waste to her students Madison reached out to Zero Waste Marin(ZWM).
To kick off this partnership, Zero Waste Schools Program (ZWSP) staff held an instructional planning meeting with Madison to discuss waste topics that interested her students, and how to best incorporate these themes in her virtual classroom. ZWSP staff and Madison decided to focus on what zero waste means, why the waste sorting rules are important, and where waste goes. Students were particularly interested in plastic pollution, a locally important issue in the San Francisco Bay.
ZWSP staff developed a plan for two classroom presentations on zero waste with Madison’s 7th grade class. For the first presentation, the ZWSP team joined Madison and her class virtually on Zoom. Students asked insightful questions about zero waste careers, the role of zero waste in other environmental fields, and how to take action in their communities. After the presentation, one student reflected, “Something that I’ve learned from the ZWM presentations is that if one cares about a topic, they can find outlets to pursue their interest and make our world a better place simply by educating others!”
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.
By Liz Fitzpatrick, Jessica Redden and Tyler Valdes
Teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge for educators across the United States. In the Navajo Nation, limited access to electricity, running water, and the Internet has made distance learning an even more difficult task. At Whitehorse School in Montezuma Creek, Utah, 80% of students do not have access to the Internet at home.
“Not being able to interact with the students face to face has been hard...there are days where I only have four students or just one joining in because of the lack of Internet access,” reflected Brittany Redhouse, a Whitehorse teacher. To continue providing meaningful learning opportunities to their 288 students who span 6 grades during shelter-in-place, Whitehorse School teamed up with the PowerUp! Empowered Education Program.
PowerUp! sent education kits and supplies with essential items like school materials, books, solar powered lanterns, hand sanitizer, and masks to 7,000 students, including those who attend Whitehorse. These kits also included a mini solar powered car that students could build and experiment with, and SEI’s contribution: learning materials focused on solar energy to go along with the car.
By Emily Usaha
San Diego High School, located in the heart of San Diego, was founded in 1882 and is one of the oldest public high schools in California. The school has a rich history, which includes the construction of a castle-like building called "The Old Gray Castle" in 1907 and the Balboa Stadium in 1914. The San Diego Chargers used the Balboa Stadium as their home field for six seasons. Over the course of its history, San Diego High School has grown in student numbers as the city expanded, and as a result new buildings were built and renovations made. Today, San Diego High School is divided into three small theme-based schools including the School of Business and Leadership, School of International Studies, and the School of Science and Technology serving over 2,500 students.
U.S. Marines creating an American flag at Balboa Stadium in 1932
Image from Wikimedia Commons
Within the School of Science and Technology lives the GeoTech Academy, a small learning community serving students who are interested in focusing their studies on engineering and design rooted in sustainability and clean technologies. As Jackie Rivers, one of the six lead teachers of the academy, described it, “Geotech is a community and one big family. When any of our students are struggling they have a whole dedicated team they can go to”.
The SEI Team
Environmental education and workforce development experts share stories from the field