As COVID-19 heads into its third year, the impact on students’ mental health and well-being continues to weigh heavily. This is compounded by the worsening climate crisis, which leaves many young people feeling afraid, angry, and concerned for their future. MarinSEL parents have shared with me about the mental and emotional burdens their children carry. Despite the challenges of recent years, I must implore us to remain hopeful for their future. Because there is reason for hope.
In the next decade, we can expect to see millions of new environmental jobs created, driven by new climate policies and commitments. The volume of people entering a green workforce will have a transformative impact, and MarinSEL students are primed to become leaders in the transition. Students are building the skills and the knowledge needed to develop and support a sustainable society. Approached in the right way, sustainability can forge a path to a more resilient future encompassing a new relationship to the planet and each other.
I’ve been working in the sustainability field for a long time, but I see that we’re on the cusp of radical change. There are new jobs, new opportunities, a rapidly-increasing awareness of climate issues and climate solutions. Perhaps most excitingly, there is also new interest, passion, and joy. Never has there been a more hopeful time to be a sustainability leader.
Creating a Business Plan
By: Jack Rosenthal (Class of 2024)
At the beginning of the semester, I was lost on how I would be able to create an entire business plan that would be useful to me in the second semester when operating a small business. This was because almost everything I was learning in this class was so different from anything I’ve learned in school before. Fortunately, I have a very good teacher (Mr. Wat) from College of Marin who is excellent at teaching us several brand new concepts in a limited amount of time. Every one of these principles were used as a section of my business plan.
The first part of my business plan was marketing. This was determining the target market/market demand, and why my business would succeed and stand out amongst its competitors. This section taught me a lot of research skills and tested my creativity. We then learned about finance, which was the hardest part of the business plan for me. My business is creating sustainably made chewing gum, so finding fixed costs of ingredients was extremely challenging because all my ingredients are supposed to be from local sources. This took hours of research, and even then, there was still incomplete data. Because of this, I was changing my financial plan all the way through December. The second half of the semester moved faster, where Mr. Wat introduced the operational and management portion of our business plans. In addition to teaching us about the necessities of these aspects, which included the important “behind-the-scenes” work, we learned the different roles required to run a business. Throughout this section of the class, Mr. Wat also helped us develop important life skills such as leadership and teamwork.
Finally, the last couple of weeks were dedicated to putting our official business plan together. While writing a 15+ page business plan might seem very stressful and time consuming, I was able to use the assignments that I had done throughout the semester to help write my business plan. Ultimately, creating an official business plan took time and determination, but being well prepared made it far easier to achieve.
Civic Action Project
Ally Marovich and Mila Rege (Class of 2026)
For our final in Ethnic Studies, we created a civic action plan. This meant we had to think of an issue or landmark that is a significant problem, both historically and today, and create a lesson, slideshow, or plan to help solve and educate people about the issue. For our project, we decided to make a lesson plan based on gender inequality in the workplace. Being two young women, we thought that it was very important to focus on an issue that women and men face every day: gender discrimination. We included all types of gender discrimination such as verbal remarks, unfair promotions, unfair hiring, and refusal to accommodate specific needs based on gender.
In this lesson plan, we wanted to include all the elements of a regular lesson plan, but also make it interactive. Let’s be honest, sometimes lessons in class can be super boring, so we wanted to create something that would engage the people listening. So, we added a mock court case along with a quick write, vocabulary, videos, and some history on past court cases. At the beginning of the project, we were researching court cases about gender discrimination, and hearing about all of these heartbreaking stories inspired us to create a mock court case that the students could participate in and get to feel what a real-life example could be. Our mock court case was completely made up to represent a real case that might be brought to court in regard to gender inequality. The court case was based on a woman suing her boss for promoting a less qualified man instead of her. Some of the actual court cases we talk about in the lesson relate to this specific subject matter. Our teacher has even given us the opportunity to test the lesson plan in our class and we are very excited to see how much they learn about the subject.
Overall, we learned so much from working on and researching this project. We are so glad we chose this topic because it really helped us get a deeper understanding of gender discrimination, especially in the workplace. Going forward, we will use this knowledge not only to educate ourselves but also other people. This way we can help pave the way to understanding and fixing this problem for when our generation goes into the workplace. It’s all about creating a better future and fixing the issues of the past.
Teacher Spotlight: Emily Lichty
Emily Lichty is an English teacher at Terra Linda High School. She previously taught at San Marin High School in Novato. While she is technically a new teacher at Terra Linda, she actually completed her student-teaching at TL, so she is excited to return. Emily recently completed her Masters in Science of Education last year at Dominican University of California. Prior to that, Emily attended California State University San Marcos, where she majored in Psychology and played collegiate golf. Outside of teaching, Emily enjoys reading, exploring new places, cooking, playing golf, and spending time with her fiancé and two cats. She is excited to join the MSEL program!
Where did you teach before coming to Terra Linda?
Before Terra Linda High School, I taught at San Marin High School. I actually student-taught at Terra Linda HS, so being here again is really exciting!
How does MarinSEL differ from other teaching opportunities you have had?
The MarinSEL program is different from other programs that I have been part of because of its tight-knit nature. As an Advanced Placement (AP) teacher, I am accustomed to the rigor, but I have not been part of a program that encourages students to experience multiple classes together as a group.
What attracted you to the MarinSEL program?
First and foremost, the fact that the program focuses on environmental and social issues is exciting and hopeful. On a large scale, the program allows students to have the foundation to make uplifting change in our world. On a smaller scale, the MarinSEL program challenges and prepares students for life beyond high school by providing them with experiences such as presentations, research projects, and internships. I am excited to be part of a journey that prepares students to be leaders for change.
What have been some of your favorite aspects of the MarinSEL program so far?
Along with getting to know the students and their passions, I have loved collaborating with other MarinSEL teachers. As a new teacher to the program, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. All of the teachers, especially Karen Madden, have been so welcoming and helpful.
Are there any projects that you have done or are looking forward to doing with the students?
After reading To Kill a Mockingbird, my students researched themes in the novel that have ongoing issues today. For example, some students chose the theme topic of sexism. They connected that topic to issues like the wage gap and female reproductive rights. They started by researching credible sources to inform them on the topic and eventually created an informative presentation for the class. I am hoping to do a similar project this semester.
By Joseph Zeno (Class of 2023)
I have learned a lot while working with the ICF Fish and Aquatic Science team. Over the summer, I had planned to start a bird study with ICF in the Sacramento River delta. ICF, partners with the US Fish and Wildlife Service to study endangered fish populations and their environments. They try to determine where the populations are distributed, and the factors that limit or assist their chances of survival. One major factor that impacts fish populations is piscivorous (fish-eating) bird distribution. I realized that I had a lot to offer them in terms of what I knew about avian ecology, so I wrote a proposal for a study in the delta. I joined aquatic researchers on boats out of Rio Vista, CA, and counted birds at each of the site locations that they surveyed, as well as keeping count during transit between sites. Sometimes I would help the researchers collect samples and measure the quality of water as well.
I have learned many essential skills involving conducting research in the field. Surveying the abiotic (nonliving) factors of a site is vital to the study as it can display the range of tolerance or ecological niche that each species has. A large part of this in the delta is measuring water quality. I have learned how to measure water quality using a sonde and record data such as dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll, temperature, salinity, and pH. I have learned how to measure turbidity using a secchi stick, collect samples using different nets, and learn about various invertebrates, algae, and plants that live in the water.
I have had many successful experiences in my internship. One accomplishment is the data that I have been able to collect. I have collected data on avian distribution from two different seasons from widespread sites along the Sacramento river and will be able to use this data in comparison with fish surveys to determine how large of a factor piscivorous birds are on endangered fish species.
I am grateful for the opportunities that ICF has given me to join them on their boats and allow me to help them improve the scientific understanding of the Sacramento River Delta’s ecology.
First LEAD Project Experience
By Ben Smulewitz (Class of 2026)
I am a 9th grader in MarinSEL and I just completed my first semester LEAD project. I was lucky enough to get into my first choice that I wanted to do for my LEAD Project. The garden group taught me a lot throughout the semester. Yes, I had some friends in my group, but I was also with people that I didn’t think I would become good friends with, but I was wrong. Working with my community partners Dave and Carolyn Anderson (owners of Monarch Gardens) we successfully obtained 60 pumpkins and made centerpiece succulent pumpkins out of them. We then sold them in front of Big Rock Cafe multiple times and in front of Andy’s market where we made a couple thousand dollars for the school garden. I had so much fun doing this and also got to reflect when we had peer feedback at the end so now I know what I need to work on in my next LEAD group. I am so appreciative of the opportunity to do this project.
Alumni Corner: Rosie Cohen (Class of 2020)
By Sophia Smulewitz (Class of 2023)
What made you want to major in Environmental Science?
I’m currently a freshman and studying Environmental Science with an emphasis in Environmental Management at Northern Arizona University. I hope to go into the conservation field, do field research on ecosystems, and study biodiversity. Throughout my life, I’ve always felt the best in nature, and the fact that I am able to study and gain a deeper understanding of the environment around me is really special. The fact that all of the organisms on this planet are interconnected is fascinating to me. On top of that, our Earth needs protecting now more than ever and I want to do what I can to conserve all of our unique species.
Which 4C has been the most helpful in college?
I’d say that the 4 C that has proven to be the most helpful and which also has the biggest learning curve is critical thinking. Recognizing what isn’t working for me, and creating solutions to make a better lifestyle for myself was probably the hardest part of college. Fall semester was definitely a learning experience for me and for most of the people around me. Why go back to my room and study when I can just keep hanging out with friends? That was the attitude of most of the people I know living in the dorms. What helped me to grow from this experience was thinking about my priorities and ordering them. This definitely took critical thinking skills, and what I ended up with was #1: Myself, #2: Academics, #3: Social. I realized I needed the “work hard, play hard” mentality. Finding motivation and managing my time to have a balance of each was a struggle, but once I started thinking critically, I was able to change my actions in a way that worked for me.
Is there any one specific project or activity in MarinSEL that inspired you to be environmentally active in your future life?
For my LEAD project sophomore year, my group focused on waste, recycling, compost, and problems with disposal. I really enjoyed this project while we were working on it, especially the chances we got to be active in and educate our community, in addition to being able to tour Marin Sanitary Services. Fall semester of college this year, I was in an environmental sustainability class, and for one of our semester-long projects we chose an environmental problem and had to reduce our impact in that field. I chose food waste, and it was interesting getting a college-education inspired view on the issue, and implementing the change into my life. Furthermore, my previous knowledge on waste from the LEAD project definitely came in handy when it came to writing the research paper at the conclusion of the semester. While waste isn’t the environmental science area I particularly want to go into, I’m glad the LEAD project inspired me to learn more about the issue and do my part to lessen the impact of it.
What was your favorite MarinSEL activity and why?
One of my favorite MarinSEL activities was the sustainable food project sophomore year. It was fun going to the farmers market, doing research on the food we were using for our dishes, and getting to use San Domenico’s outdoor kitchens to cook the meals. Another event that I’ll never forget was our graduation dinner, where we all got our MarinSEL diplomas and were able to reminisce on memories we had together throughout our four years together.
What is one piece of advice you would give current high schoolers about their future?
One piece of advice I’d give current high schoolers about their future is to find something you are truly passionate about. Find something you, personally, are really interested in and hold onto it. Whether that applies to your future career or hobbies aside from your learning, when you have something you actually care about, and that you can nurture for yourself, it makes life a lot more exciting. That’s one of the parts of college that I love the most. For example, this spring semester, I am in ski class, which is something I’ve loved my whole life and having time in my schedule to do this sport I love actually makes everything else more exciting. Taking classes and being invested in my education because I am passionate about it is really refreshing.