By George Spencer
From my work in schools, I hear the argument over and over that K-5 students cannot hear about climate change, environmental and social justice, or the reality of our world because it "is not age appropriate" or in line with the standards. It comes from everyone: teachers, parents, school administrators. And I get it, it is tough to bring up these incredibly complex and dynamic challenges to young people, especially when we are likely struggling with them ourselves. It can feel overwhelming to plunge into a conversation where we do not have the answers. I wonder, though, if our students and kids don't understand reality, what type of adults are we raising them to become?
What if it was okay for us to not always have the answer in the classroom? For us to say: “I’m not sure; let me look into that,” and actually follow up to address their question, introducing them to experts who are already working to address these issues. What if we told our students and our kids, what is actually happening, not to disempower, but to listen and hear what comes up for them? So often, young students, especially, surprise me with their creativity, ingenuity, and imagination.
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!”
High School Students Leading the Charge to Make a Historic Stadium More Sustainable
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