Frequently Asked Questions

Below are a number of frequently asked questions covering numerous topics. Please click on the question to be taken further down the page to view the answer. 


Why environmental leadership?

Why is MarinSEL a magnet school and not a charter school?

Can students from any district attend?

How is progressive education different?

Why does MarinSEL teach Language Arts, Social Sciences, Science, and Health/PE, but not Math?

What is MarinSEL coursework like?

When did MarinSEL start?

How many students will be in each grade?

Where is MarinSEL located?

How much does MarinSEL cost?

What is the MarinSEL application process?

What counts as community service?

Is acceptance into MarinSEL determined through a lottery system?

How is MarinSEL legally structured?

I think this is great! How can I get involved?

Does MarinSEL give any preference to students that apply before the application deadline?

How many teacher recommendation forms do I have to fill out?

Do students attend the Open House or is it just for parents/guardians?

Do I have to attend a Shadow Day to apply to MarinSEL?

Is registration required to attend the MarinSEL Open House?

Can I attend MarinSEL even if I do not live in San Rafael?



Why environmental leadership?

Our world is on the brink of irrevocable change. We recognize the responsibility of humanity to conserve and protect our world through ecology, health, and human rights. MarinSEL builds strong, innovative leaders, empowered to creatively and critically analyze issues and formulate plans of action in response. Regardless of the chosen field, MarinSEL students will be prepared to lead positive change in the world. 


Why is MarinSEL a magnet school and not a charter school?

Magnet schools operate as part of the public school system and exist within a traditional public school. Charter schools, on the other hand, have their own charter that releases them from the public schools’ administration to some extent. Charter schools tend to pull good students away from the public schools in a similar way that private schools do. We believe that public schooling has much to be desired. MarinSEL is a “school within a school” that combines the breadth and diversity of public school education with the depth and integrated learning of project-based education. At MarinSEL, teachers guide students through inquiry-based projects where they apply theories from multiple disciplines to address real-world environmental and social issues in our community.


Can students from any district attend?

The District of Choice (DOC) law, which has been our mechanism for serving high school students living outside our district boundaries, is set to sunset at the end of the 2017-2018 school year. When the law expires, we will not have legal authority to serve these students. Given this uncertainty, we will not be accepting any new students under the DOC. Please contact your district office if you have further questions. 


How is progressive education different?

Briefly, traditional teaching methods are teacher-focused. The teacher passes the knowledge and information in a didactic way to each student in the same manner. There are few choices as to classes or projects, and learning is prescribed by standardized measures. Progressive teaching methods are student-focused. Though progressive methods are not rigidly defined, they share some common goals—that education should be integral with action, that learning should be multi-disciplinary, that a child’s personal initiative should be fostered, and that they learn to see themselves as active participants in the world around them. Learning happens through direct experiences and activities. At MarinSEL, teachers guide students in inquiry-based projects that allow them to creatively and critically analyze and apply theories from multiple disciplines to address real-world issues in their community.


Why does MarinSEL teach Language Arts, Social Sciences, Science, and Health/PE, but not Math?

A richness and diversity already exists in the Math Program at Terra Linda High School, which has a well-developed curriculum and great resources to meet students at their individual levels and abilities in math.  One of the goals of MarinSEL is integration of traditional coursework (e.g. math, languages) with Language Arts and Social Sciences through seminars, master classes, and real-world, field-based applications. Using an inquiry-based method intensified by a focus on environmental stewardship, students will apply the knowledge gained from all coursework to community service projects.


What is MarinSEL coursework like?

MarinSEL students are challenged to complete a broad range of projects both in and outside of the classroom, working with peers, volunteers, and community partners. In addition to project-based work, MarinSEL students are assigned and expected to complete everyday homework tasks as outlined by their teachers. 


When did MarinSEL start?

MarinSEL opened with ninth grade enrollment consisting of 25 students in the fall of the 2011/2012 school year.


How many students will be in each grade?

There are approximately 30 students per grade.


Where is MarinSEL located?

MarinSEL is integrated with and housed at Terra Linda High School in San Rafael, California.


How much does MarinSEL cost?

The unique experiences and rewarding opportunities that are provided by MarinSEL require a certain amount of funding. More specifically, funds are required to support essential program components including, but not limited to student projects, extra student classes, teacher management and program planning, teacher prep time and curriculum development, teacher training, sub release time, classroom curriculum costs, Exploration Day, a Leadership Fellow focused on student development, program partnership, and all of the necessary materials. Overall, these funds are essential to the operations of our specially-designed classes and extra teacher workload. The combination of all of these costs amounts to $2,750 per student per year. We understand that not everyone can contribute this amount, so we ask that each family contribute a minimum of $950 per year through the Family Contribution Fund. These family contributions are essential to maintaining the program and we encourage families who can contribute the full amount of $2,750 to do so. 


What is the MarinSEL application process?

The application process includes a written essay, a community service record, and letters of recommendation, as well as an in-person interview and participation in team-building exercises during scheduled Exploration Days. 


What counts as community service?

Community service is any volunteer activity in which the student has been actively involved. We are looking for commitment, passion, and dedication whether it is in Scouting, Church Youth Groups, Community Organizations, or other volunteer service.


Is acceptance into MarinSEL determined through a lottery system?

No. Students are admitted based on their application packet.


How is MarinSEL legally structured?

MarinSEL is a 501(c)(3) organization.


I think this is great! How can I get involved?

There are a number of different things you can do!

•  Subscribe to our newsletter, which will keep you up-to-date on all the latest MarinSEL news. 

•  Visit our Facebook page and click the "Like" button.

•  Donate to MarinSEL. We need visionaries like you to help MarinSEL grow and flourish!


Does MarinSEL give any preference to students that apply before the application deadline?

No. Applications will not be reviewed until after the application deadline.


How many teacher recommendation forms do I have to fill out?

As a part of the application process, it is required that each applicant submits one teacher recommendation form.


Do students attend the Open House or is it just for parents/guardians?

The MarinSEL Open House is geared toward parents and guardians of interested students, but of course prospective students are welcome to attend! During our Open House there will be a student-lead tour that is applicable to both potential parents/guardians and students. However, it is our Shadow Days that are specifically designed for prospective students.


Do I have to attend a Shadow Day to apply to MarinSEL?

No, students can apply even if they did not attend a Shadow Day. However, we suggest that students sign up for a Shadow Day in order to get a glimpse of what it is like to be a part of the MarinSEL community.


Is registration required to attend the MarinSEL Open House?

No, there is no registration or sign up required to attend the Open House. Simply show up at the designated time and location.


Can I attend MarinSEL even if I do not live in San Rafael?

No, only students residing within San Rafael City Schools District may apply at this time, as per the District of Choice law limitations. Please contact your district office if you have further questions regarding the District of Choice law.