Message From the Director

We have completed another incredible school year in MarinSEL! This year has been unique to say the least and these students, our teachers, and this community have been nothing but exceptional during this extremely difficult year that we have endured. Thank you all for a successful, rewarding, unforgettable year.

I especially want to acknowledge the students. There have been many challenges, transitions, and changes to their lives during the past school year and in the midst of the turmoil, the students continued to be creative, communicative, collaborative, and use their critical thinking skills to engage in meaningful community projects. The 9th graders completed two LEAD projects virtually including the launch of environmental campaigns in the spring semester. Perhaps some of you bought a tomato plant at the MSEL garden sale, or have participated in the Wildfire group’s Fire Ready lawn sign campaign. The 10th graders accomplished their year long LEAD projects focused on local policy change. One group created park exploration kits for the students and families of Laurel Dell elementary school while another group created a weekly blog detailing how to make buildings more environmentally friendly. The 11th graders created Rube Goldberg machines in their remote engineering class while simultaneously running successful sustainable businesses. The 12th graders completed impressive work in their year long internships and will soon complete their MarinSEL careers and leap into new adventures. 

Looking forward, I feel hopeful for our students. They are launching into a time of transition completely prepared and equipped with in-depth environmental knowledge and experience. A time when our federal government has recently committed to the well being of our future, our planet, our climate, and all people, the MarinSEL students have an advantage heading into this future out of the MarinSEL program where they focus on local change, equity, environmental issues and solutions, carbon drawdown solutions, and so much more. I feel confident as the graduating seniors leave the nest and begin to shape their futures and careers with these lessons and knowledge at hand. 

This impactful program cannot be what it is without your support. This year has been very challenging in terms of funding and our family giving contributions have been low. We understand that this has been a difficult year for all, and we appreciate your continued support. 

I wish you a restful and adventurous summer. We can not wait to be back in person next year after a rejuvenating summer break!

Earth Day Challenge

By Benjamin Bronstein

This spring, students across California participated in the Earth Day Challenge to learn more about sustainability topics and launch conservation campaigns. A competition of SEI’s Energize Schools team, the Challenge aims to engage students and their communities in the celebration of Earth Day while expanding their understanding of energy, waste, transportation, air quality, and water conservation. Through four weekly challenges, students expanded their breadth of knowledge in these areas through video games, interactive activities, and creative campaigning. Students who completed all four challenges earn a Sustainability Specialist Certificate from SEI.

The tenth grade MarinSEL class participated in the Earth Day Challenge upon completing their year-long LEAD projects. After focusing deeply on one topic during their LEAD projects, such as energy conservation or public transit, students had the chance to focus on broader topics of sustainability through the Earth Day Challenge. 

For Challenge #1, People & the Planet, students explored sustainability through an online video game, “Duckie’s Adventures: Earth Day,” designed by an SEI team member. In each level, players discover simple, everyday actions they can take to reduce their personal environmental impacts. Playing as Duckie, students defended cacti from acid rain, avoided catastrophic drought, charged a battery using renewable sources, and solved various other levels.  

Challenge #2, Build your Knowledge on the Environment, tasked students to research and analyze how air quality, transportation, waste, water or energy affect their community and the environment. Students used CalEnviroScreen, a mapping tool that allows users to understand the disproportionate impacts of pollution on California communities, to look at environmental injustices in the Bay Area and the state. Students also engaged in the topic of redlining to better understand how policy has led to certain areas bearing the largest brunt of this issue. Students completed the Earth Day Challenge by creating and launching virtual conservation campaigns. In groups, they used social media and other online platforms to encourage their peers to reduce single use plastics, promote carbon-free transportation, conserve water, and reduce their environmental footprint in other ways. 

The tenth grade MarinSEL class contributed greatly to the Earth Day Challenge’s successes this year. Across 15 high schools in California, the Earth Day Challenge engaged over 2,300 students through conservation campaigns. This class also helped garner support from their peers by distributing Earth Day pledge forms, through which participants made promises to reduce their environmental footprint by making a specific behavior change. 

While remote this year, the Earth Day Challenge allowed MarinSEL students to work collaboratively and join a statewide community in celebration of Earth Day.

Making a Change During a Pandemic

By Emarson Dearborn (Class of 2023)

For years to come, the year 2020 will be a year taught, read, and spoken about as a historic year. What seemed to be a never-ending string of time stuck at home amidst civil unrest, the death of friends, family and idols, a contentious election, financial instability and inability to buy toilet paper, the year 2020 kept surprising us. The pandemic challenged us mentally, physically, and tested our patience. The uncertainty struck everyone. Through this chaos, however, we knew COVID wouldn’t last forever. We also knew that there had to be change so that another pandemic wouldn’t continue to devastate our society. We had to plan ahead for a safer future. Tasked with the challenge of making real policy change, a group consisting of myself and five other students from my MarinSEL class worked with Marin Transit to create a safer future for transportation. 

Having an entire school year, our main goal was to propose policy change to the Marin Transit Board of Directors. We started by researching public transportation.  After having a better understanding of our topic, we then presented the basics and benefits of public transportation to two classes from Glenwood Elementary. For insight into where our community stands in regards to taking public transportation, we conducted a survey. This survey not only asked questions, but also provided factual information on why taking public transportation is still safe and is advantageous. Ultimately, this survey received 33 responses. We used the information gathered throughout the process to create many policy ideas until we finally agreed upon one. Our suggested policy change was to increase the ridership capacity of Marin Transit buses from 9 to 14 people.

Given the amount of space on the buses and the successful lowering of COVID cases in Marin, combined with the bus safety initiatives such as correct ventilation and cleaning, increasing the allowable ridership capacity to 14 people would be a beneficial way to get vehicles off the road. Along with our proposed policy, we created stickers (see image to left) for the Marin Transit buses, which gave riders the guidelines to follow to ensure safety. On top of that, we created a video for the Marin Transit website to give a visual as to how to follow the requirements. 

Towards the end of the project, we presented to the SEL team as well as the rest of my MSEL class at the annual LEAD presentation ceremony. After receiving feedback, we then presented to the Marin Transit Board of Directors. In the end, our policy idea was considered, but not approved to move forward, however, our stickers and video were both advanced to the next stage. This was a huge win for our team and a great experience despite having done so almost entirely online.  It is creative projects like these that give students experience interacting with policy makers and presenting to Boards of Directors, that make MarinSEL special and unique. MSEL has exposed me to opportunities like this, to speak up and propose changes to better my community, while also giving me the ability to bond with a great group of dedicated students and teachers. 

Editor’s Note: We acknowledge that public transport is indispensable to the livelihood of many essential workers in Marin, largely low income and/or BIPOC residents. We honor the risk and additional burden beared by these workers in order to support the function of the rest of the community.

Student Leaders Spearhead Equitable Park Access

By Tyler Valdes and TTriss Williams Renard

For over 10 years, the School of Environmental Leadership (SEL), a program of SEI, has built strong, innovative leaders who are empowered to creatively and critically analyze issues and formulate plans of action. In the spring of 2020, as growing research has demonstrated the extensive health benefits that result from exposure to outdoor environments, Marin County Parks announced the continuance of its community grant program named Breathe/Respira! which seeks to provide the means to help the local community have access to parks. The title symbolizes the ability of outdoor recreation and connection with nature to reduce stress and improve health with the Spanish translation of “breathe”, respira, included to underscore the importance of making parks available to all Marin communities regardless of language or cultural background. Upholding strong values of equity and inclusion, SEL was successfully awarded a grant to support equitable access to parks for underserved communities –  a project that would be spearheaded by SEL students.


Under the guidance of SEI staff and the Marin Environmental Forum, 10th grade students in SEI’s flagship SEL – Marin School of Environmental Leadership (MarinSEL) – coordinated a year-long Leadership and Environmental Action Development (LEAD) project that bridged students at Laurel Dell Elementary School to local green spaces. LEAD projects, a key component of SEL, are equity-forward, community-based environmental action projects that focus on policy change. While the original project design culminated in a field day for K-8 students and their families in Marin County parks, the challenge of COVID-19 restrictions called for solutions driven by creativity, a 21st century skill fostered through SEL.

A Laurel Dell family participant, using their Park Exploration Kit to spot local flora and fauna from their “Nature of San Francisco and the Bay Area” field guide (and maybe some family members too).

After weeks of research and preparation, MarinSEL students virtually led eco-literacy lessons for 70 Laurel Dell Elementary students that provided information on visiting and connecting with Marin County parks. Also, MarinSEL students coordinated outreach to 7 classrooms and found that 83% of students want to visit County parks more.  With this knowledge, MarinSEL students followed up the virtual lessons by creating and distributing Park Exploration Kits to 56 students that included field guides, sprouting pencils, journals, binoculars, and magnifying glasses. The kits not only supported eco-literacy lessons, but also served to increase students’ sense of belonging in and studying of nature and natural ecosystems. Alongside the curriculum and kits, MarinSEL students supported student engagement with the Laurel Dell campus garden by providing garden supplies such as pots, soil, and seeds. Both the kits and garden supplies were made possible through Breathe/Respira! funds. 

Two Laurel Dell Elementary School students opening their Park Discovery Kits.

In order to further alleviate access to outdoor spaces, the project team leveraged Breathe/Respira! funds to empower families with the resources to embark on park excursions using their kits. MarinSEL students provided Laurel Dell families with public health tips and instructions for their kits in both English and Spanish which encouraged  increased outdoor activity. Overall, 14 families enjoyed their Park Exploration Kits in local green spaces with an enriched sense of belonging and joy.  With the help of dedicated Laurel Dell teachers, SEL distributed stipends to families to support standard mileage and food allowance associated with their outdoor adventures. Through empowering families with knowledge, tools, and resources, this LEAD project deepened Laurel Dell students’ connection with nature while sparking newfound curiosities and enthusiasm for the outdoors. As SEI continues to address systemic barriers to safe and healthy environments, SEL students’ dedication and ingenuity drive us closer to creating a resilient world where all communities thrive.

A Laurel Dell family enjoys time together visiting a local park, outside in the open air, and near now familiar flora.

Another Laurel Dell family, enjoying time together in an outdoor setting, discovering the kit resources.

Peek into the Classroom

Ray McClintock

It has been great having students in the classroom after the long virtual year. Some of them I met in person for the first time! I am impressed by the students’ hard work, creativity, motivation, and community engagement despite spending the majority of the year behind a screen.

9th Grade: 9th graders had a busy final few weeks in which they completed their second LEAD projects focusing on campaigns, had their first dive reflecting on their personal and academic growth with Portfolio Defense, and completed their 21-Day projects where they altered a personal behavior that in some way benefits the environment, for 21 straight days.

12th Grade: 12th graders also had a very busy few weeks. They formally presented their internship experience during their Senior Internship Poster Symposium, reflected on their growth and journey through their 4 years in MarinSEL with their Senior Capstone Projects, and finished off AP Gov with a mock presidential election. Congratulations!

Alex Robins

Our MarinSEL AP US History students just took their long-awaited AP Test on Wednesday. After weeks of review and lots of individual studying, spirits are high and confidence is strong. We await mid-July to get the results! Although our class together was in the Fall terms, students continued to practice AP skills and study content so they would be ready for the exam. Couldn’t be more proud of their work this year and, despite not spending class in-person together, I look forward to seeing them around campus in the coming Fall.

As for SLAM! we have worked to create a strong foundation of student leaders committed to the work of anti-racism. Ultimately, our work in person in the Fall will continue to help build and repair systems within the school and district that have inadvertently created inequitable opportunities and outcomes for our students of color. With more diverse stories coming into the English curriculum via Diversify Our Narrative as well as the creation of an Ethnic Studies class in the Social Science department for 2022-23, we are well on our way to making a difference within the Terra Linda community.

Allison Oropallo

In engineering the students have been building a Rube Goldberg Machine. 

This machine must have all six simple machines and must be in motion for 25+ seconds. Their machines must have a circuit component (motor or lights) that the machine turns on. 

They are only allowed to build on a 1′ x 1′ plywood base and their project can’t go over the edges of that base. It can be up to 3′ tall. It is a challenging project but engineering all the way. 

They are constantly using critical thinking and problem solving while building this project.

The final project will be to design an Earthship. 

Brent Lumsden

We’ve been reading A Lesson Before Dying and exploring some of the history of the notion of “white” through the podcast Scene on Radio, Seeing White. The students have been exploring different elements of race history including the presence of institutionalized racism in the book as well as some of the debate related to Critical Race Theory and capital punishment (and its connection to race). While part of what we are doing is traditional argumentative analysis writing, the goal is to weave some historical events and people (especially Thomas Jefferson) to formulate a deeper understanding of the book and then to take the lessons from the book and see how much they connect to Black Lives Matter and other movements and related debates. 

Alumni Corner

Featuring Axel Hsu (Class of 2020)

Recently, we connected with class of 2020 alumni Axel Hsu in response to a kind letter about how MarinSEL changed his life. We were able to learn about his path since graduating MarinSEL as well as how the lessons he learned in the program have shaped his life.

MarinSEL: What college/post graduation path are you currently attending and what are you majoring in?

Axel: I am studying Finance at the Foster School Business at the University of Washington.

MarinSEL: How did MarinSEL impact you as a person as well as a student?

Axel: MarinSEL has taught me to be confident in expressing my thoughts, sculpting me into a greater leader. I was able to increase my critical thinking abilities and public speaking skills, which all students need. 

MarinSEL: What was your favorite MarinSEL project and why?

Axel: My favorite project had to be the sustainable cooking challenge freshman year when we got to go to the farmers market, buy food, and cook a dish. It was exciting to put what we were learning about sustainability into practice, work as a team, and make/try some great food. 

MarinSEL: What would you recommend to the incoming MarinSEL 9th graders?

Axel: I would recommend trying to get close to all the people in your class. I can speak from experience, before my first retreat, I wasn’t friends with anyone in my class. As I spent more time with them through 4 years, I can say that they are some of the closest friends that I have, still hanging out after high school. It makes all classes, projects, field trips, and high school so much more enjoyable. 

MarinSEL: If you hadn’t been in the MarinSEL program do you think you would have had the same opportunities? How did these opportunities benefit you?

Axel: Definitely not. On my college applications and interviews, I was able to speak to so many things during my time at MarinSEL. For example, the sustainable business project during junior year. MarinSEL presented the opportunity for me to run my own business, creating my own marketing and financial strategies, while leading a team. There is also the internship, LEAD projects, public speaking, Walker Creek, among many others. You don’t see that type of real experience anywhere else. 

MarinSEL: In what ways has MarinSEL prepared you for life/career beyond high school?

Axel: The 4 C’s translate so well to life beyond high school. The projects you do in MarinSEL, and the outcomes you focus on, teach you to work beyond the high school curriculum, with real professionals and community members. 

MarinSEL: What is one word of advice that you would give to the current highschoolers about the future?

Axel: You are presented with so many opportunities in MarinSEL. Take advantage of as many as you can. Everyone at MarinSEL is there to help you, so take risks. It will pay dividends. MarinSEL has proven that they can shape well-rounded, and strong students, as seen in college acceptances and other career paths alumni have chosen.

12th Grade Internship Updates

By Milo Yoakum (Class of 2021) and Jason Hsu (Class of 2021)

Milo Yoakum – Kids Cooking for Life with Lara Rajninger

 My internship at Kids Cooking for Life has been a very fulfilling experience. I have been able to assist in teaching multiple classes to a variety of students from all kinds of backgrounds, in which they are able to learn sustainable, healthy eating habits and practices. Though I do not want to go into nutrition or education as a field, I have found KCL to be extremely rewarding. I am constantly looking for opportunities surrounding social advocacy and policy change, which has led me to the field of law. However, though KCL is an educational non-profit surrounding cooking, they are founded off of the basis of attacking social inequities in agricultural accessibility, affordability, and nutritional instability. These are all things that public policy and federal regulation effect, meaning the students I am assisting KCL in helping, are all victims of the current inequitable and negligent mandates and laws that have inhibited their community from being as nutritional as others. Though I do not know what area of law yet I wish to enter into, my main reason for obtaining a law degree is to utilize in ways that benefit the lives of those who are underserved, marginalized, unseen, and silenced. KCL caters to these types of communities in a way other than legal, yet through impactful, meaningful efforts.

Some key takeaways from my internship have been: learning how to accordingly adapt a curriculum to meet the needs of its students, developing a certain amount of patience when educating kids, learning the ways in which an organization must alter its practices in order to remain equitable and promote an image as truly conscious and considerate, etc. I have also learned so much from these cooking classes in terms of dietary needs, nutrients or vitamins found within certain products, cooking methods, reasoning behind the nutritional facts on any given label, etc. 

My internship has not taught me what I want to do or want not to do with my career, but rather enforced my already established wants. I want to help a variety of people concerning issues in which their local or federal government’s decisions have failed them time and time again. These children come from the very families in which this occurs, the government has failed to provide them with access to proper, organic, accessible, affordable produce. This has caused generations of people to develop certain health conditions, unhealthy lifestyles, with some even becoming inherited by their descendants. KCL helps give these kids access to not only produce, but everyday canned or packaged items and utilizes them in ways that are creative, easy, and nutritionally and financially beneficial.

For juniors, I would tell them to do extreme research into each internship opportunity and inquire as to what they really will be asked to do during their internship, and then determine whether or not they feel passionate about the given organization, proposed work, and cause.  If they only have some interest in the work they would possibly be doing, they should move on and find an internship that really highlights their skills or features something they are passionate about.


Jason Hsu – The Buck Institute with Susan Hickey

At the Buck Institute, I’ve reaffirmed and “narrowed down” my future career and personal path interests and goals. I’ve always remained open about my future, not wanting to limit myself to a career without really knowing what I am getting myself into. At the same time, however, I’ve remained anxious about not knowing where I’ll end up. My internship at the Buck Institute has eased the tensions of this internal pressure. 

I’ve always had a sustained interest in business innovation and entrepreneurial startups. My internship was primarily focused on making the institute a more sustainable research center. This entailed cataloging negative eighty and negative twenty degree freezers in order to estimate their energy output, market the efforts of the green team, cultivate an Earth month, and more. This focus on sustainability has taught me the importance of being detail oriented in business. Although being sustainable from an environmental sense isn’t necessary in some industries, it can certainly be a way to save or earn money. It doesn’t just apply to sustainability for the environment or even in business in general – it also means healthy business practices, managing your personal life with work commitments, being a diligent and effective communicator with your coworkers or boss, planning your week beforehand, and much more. In that sense, being detail oriented, I’ve learned, even if it includes monotonous tasks, is necessary. Although my work at the Buck hasn’t necessarily nailed down what I aim to do in the future, it has given me a better perspective and respect for this attention to detail.

In addition to being exposed to how to make a company more sustainable, I was inadvertently exposed to science and scientific practices, which has always engaged my curiosity. While my job wasn’t to work with the labs or any of the scientists, the internship provided me different opportunities in which I was able to gauge my interest – summer zoom learning program, understanding the projects and goals of each lab, and what it meant to do concentrated research. Although I still maintain an appreciation for it, the internship has ultimately led me to conclude that it isn’t something for me. I primarily liked science because I did well in it in school, but that doesn’t mean I enjoyed it wholeheartedly. Maybe I felt an obligation to pursue it because it didn’t come too hard for me. However, I’m not dead set on this belief, so I would be open to changing my mind if something different came my way.

One of the more valuable lessons that I took away from my internship would be to leverage as many opportunities and experiences that you can grasp, even if you don’t particularly enjoy your internship. This is going to look different for everyone. For me, it meant attending these summer classes to gauge my interest in science, asking to do specific things within my internship that I would enjoy or learn something from rather than just doing monotonous tasks, or going into the institute to get a feel for what it would be like to really work there. Generally, I’d say that taking risks is never a bad thing – choose an internship that you think you’d enjoy based on what you are already passionate about or interested in. From there, take control of your own experience, ask questions, be professional and polite, and make connections with as many people as you can.

11th Grade – Sustainable Enterprises

Every fall, MarinSEL juniors are tasked with writing a sustainable business plan, which they pitch to a panel of mock investors. Eight of the most promising businesses were selected for spring-time implementation. 

This year, along with businesses worldwide, students are experiencing major disruption to production and distribution as we face the deep and many impacts of the novel coronavirus pandemic. In true MarinSEL fashion, students have impressed with their agile resourcefulness and community spirit. During this challenging time, students will continue to learn about adaptability as an indispensable element to a successful business model. 

We applaud the students for their ingenuity and work ethic, and encourage the community to support them as they forge on!

There are prizes awarded to four businesses upon completion of the class. One award for the business that best embodied the environmental aspect, another for a business that had the highest profit (economic award), the business that best incorporated equity, and the best overall business that was able to incorporate all aspects of the triple bottom line (environment, equity, economy) at a high level. This year the awards were presented to the businesses below:

Environmental Award: Bee Clean

Equity Award: Old & New

Economic Award: Chikyu

Best Overall Award: Simple Grounds

You can view all of the student businesses and purchase their products HERE!

MarinSEL Merchandise BOGO Sale

You can still purchase Limited Edition MarinSEL merchandise! With the purchase of one item you will receive another one for FREE! 

NOTE: Sizes and colors are limited. Please view the color and size options HERE. We will do our best of update the options regularly.