Last quarter I don’t think any of us could have predicted I would be sending this message from home, as all of you receive it in your homes – where many of us are working while simultaneously sharing a space with and caring for our children. While the effects of this global pandemic including the closure of schools statewide has been devastating in many aspects, I can’t help but treasure the opportunity for us all to connect with our kids.
I have two seniors, one in high school and one in college. It’s been difficult for them being away from friends. However, the time we are able to spend closely bonding through long dinners, cooking, and an array of games provides opportunities for gratitude in a very scary time.
Meanwhile, I have been impressed with the level of dedication exhibited by our teachers. Ray McClintock has done a fantastic job, investing heart and soul to ensure students retain the quality of education expected from the MarinSEL program, all while creating routines and opportunities to support students’ emotional wellbeing. Students have also shown much initiative and have remained engaged despite new challenges.
When the need to majorly shift plans and programming presented itself, San Rafael City Schools District (SRCS) really excelled in its response. SEI works with 250 schools across the state and SRCS has had an impressive level of responsiveness. Some parents may be experiencing concern over the fluidity of transition but we are, in fact, advanced in our response compared to many other districts.
This pandemic has had a huge impact on us all, including job loss or sick family members. As we face these challenges, let us not forget the support we can offer one another. We are building the resilience we wish to see. SEI and MarinSEL teachers are working hard to uphold MarinSEL values, creating opportunities for students to interact with and learn from one another. From our upcoming Family “Picnic” to the Green Business Leaders Event, we have, and will continue to virtualize our events, and include as much interactivity as we can. Our programmatic response to Shelter In Place is in the article below.
I recognize that times are difficult. I encourage you, if you can, to continue to donate to MarinSEL. The funds contributed are being spent in a deep and meaningful way. If you can step up, it is much appreciated; but also step back if you need to.
I had certainly not envisioned my last year with a student in the program to be like this. But I want to reassure you all I will continue to be involved in guiding and supporting the program into the future. As you’ll read below, our teachers are having some students send themselves messages from the future. As I look at the global reaction to the pandemic, I am heartened by the intensity of what we teach in MarinSEL; collaboration, critical thinking, creativity and a whole new level of communication. May you all find hope and joy in these troubling times.
Recently, the junior class went on a field trip to Urban Ore, a local gem of reuse in Berkeley, with Ms. Oropallo. We thought we would check in with her to see what the trip was all about!
Q: Why did you visit Urban Ore?
Ms. O: We visit to find materials that we can incorporate into our chicken coop designs such as windows, hardware, metal components, etc. We also learn about how this business has taken trash directly from the landfill and has been a business doing so for over 40 years. It is a very cool business.
Q: What do you think/hope the kids and the adult chaperones got out of the trip?
Ms. O: I think the students and chaperones discover a place where they can go to find the treasures that would have otherwise ended up in the landfill. Everyone states how they are definitely coming back to this place on their own to shop around.
Q: What are take-aways you see the kids have each year with the chicken coop project?
Ms. O: The number one takeaway from the coop project is the confidence my students walk away with. They make their ideas and design a reality and have such pride at the end of the year. They have a “can-do” attitude when they leave my class and don’t depend on others nearly as much.
Q: Do you have any recommendations for other places that you can find repurposed/salvaged items for construction projects?
Ms. O: Well, there are a few places I can think of:
Urban Ore (Berkeley)
ReUse People (Oakland)
Habitat for Humanity Reuse Store (various spots but Oakland is closest)
Checking local thrift stores does not hurt either!
Q: Anything else you would like to communicate?
Ms. O: This is a favorite trip of the year. It opens the kids’ eyes to reusing in a deep way.
Talking Climate Change with TAY Radio Marin
By Natalie Tar, Sophomore
Being a MarinSEL student means you are constantly getting to be a part of unique opportunities that you never would have imagined otherwise. I had one of these amazing moments when I was interviewed by TAY Radio Marin and got to be a guest on one of their weekly shows to talk about climate change. I was connected to the show’s host, Brandon Gomez, through our LEAD project’s community partner. The radio show is completely student-run and is one of the many teen programs that is supported by the Multicultural Center of Marin, who our LEAD group also works with. Episodes air every Friday at 4:00 p.m. and are video live-streamed on Instagram and Facebook and the audio is put on KMWR radio later on. On the show, I talked about MarinSEL in general as well as the application process since it was around the time of freshman applications. We also got to discuss climate change and some of the ways that it is affecting the Canal community, along with my group’s plan to combat those effects with our LEAD project based around Climate Change in the Canal. It was great to talk with other teens my age about a topic I really care about. The interview also gave me the chance to spread awareness about how climate change will impact local communities as well as inform a wider audience about MarinSEL and our LEAD project. Since the show was such a hit, the rest of my LEAD group did another interview about our project specifically a few weeks later and a couple of other sophomore LEAD groups were interviewed on different days as well. Overall, I had a great experience working with TAY Radio Marin and it was an amazing opportunity to get hands-on exposure to broadcast media that only MarinSEL could have provided.
You can check out our interview here: TAY Radio Interview
One MarinSEL freshman LEAD group has created a podcast about solar energy wittily named The Kilowatt Hour. The group works with community partner Phil Alwitt of SolarCraft and Siemens and also volunteers for Drawdown Marin. Not only do students learn how solar energy is produced, but they also develop unique reports advocating for a switch to solar, backed by facts and calculations.
To listen to their first episode “of light and lightning” click here.
Social Equity in Marin Transportation
By Angela Tsai, Junior
Marin is a county known for being environmentally conscious. Marin Transit, our county’s bus system, is a great representation of that. As more people take buses, traffic congestion and gas emission rates decrease. However, at the same time, this opportunity may be less accessible to people who need it the most. Seeing the strict, inequitable fare system, a group of classmates and I decided to enact change. We started a year-long project aimed to make Marin public transportation more accessible to people of lower-income through policy change.
Our project consisted of three steps: research, collecting data, and proposing a new policy solution. We wanted to get familiar with the Marin Transit website and pricing. Immediately, we realized that the site was only available in English, which could pose an inaccessibility challenge. Therefore, we met with the Marin Transit website team and asked them to implement more languages on their website. About a month later, we saw that the website was now available in more languages, such as Spanish and Chinese.
My team also wanted to ensure that buses themselves were easily accessible. Getting from a transit stop to home or school can be a really long walk or can feel unsafe. We decided that one of the easiest ways to approach this issue is to bike from location to transit stop. We wanted to make biking more accessible for the people of the Canal, who depend on public transportation the most.
In February 2019, we hosted the Canal Bike Event. We worked with Marin Transit, Trips for Kids, Safe Routes to School, the San Rafael City Police, and multiple other organizations to host a day of bike and bus education. We offered free bike repairs, taught people how to save money on bus fares, and had arts and crafts for the kids. We were also able to raffle away $2,000 worth of donations such as bikes and gift cards to our attendees.
Our attendees also filled out a survey about our group’s policy proposal. Earlier, we had decided an update was needed for the transit fare collection system. Paying in installments for monthly bus passes would make fares more accessible to people who struggled to put down that much money all at once. To test this idea, we surveyed Canal residents who came to our bike event. 65% of responses said paying in installments would help and 79% of adults said they could pay $20 a week for an $80 monthly pass. We also surveyed the youth, seniors, and persons with disabilities, the majority of which said installments would make bus fares more accessible to them.
Taking these 80 survey responses as data, we proposed our policy to the Marin Board of Supervisors. We explained the plan behind paying in installments and how it would benefit people of the Canal. The board was very accepting of our idea and was happy to see students like us take charge on this issue. After a year of debate, the Marin Board unanimously voted to implement our change in bus fares in 2020. Policy change can be a very slow process, but our group was very excited to know that our efforts contributed to equitable pricing in the Marin public transportation system. Read more about the policy proposal here: https://marintransit.org/farepolicy2019
By Axel Hsu
Through my internship at San Rafael Airport, I have encountered many challenges, had success, and improved on some very important skills. One of the main challenges I have encountered here was learning how the solar tracking works, what is effective production, and how to work the systems the airport has. There are four unique systems the airport uses, so getting accustomed to all was difficult. I solved this problem by asking questions, researching myself, and exploring the tracking systems. One of the most valuable resources to me was the binder that the past intern left me, explaining the aspects of the job, and past solar tracking data, to have some references on past production. Once I was able to get the hang of what numbers I was looking for and how they compared to past data, it got better.
I have definitely had some success during my time at the airport so far. My boss and I have put together some programs and tasks that have kept me busy and engaged. One of them being a weekly and monthly solar production report. Because the airport has three different sites and tracking systems of solar panels, it is hard to keep track if they are making as much money as they can be. It is my job to look at the systems, write a report explaining their production, if there are any problems, and explain why the problems occurred. For example, if production is down 15% from the previous week, it could be due to the weather not being optimal for production. Along with the reports, I am also in charge of reporting any issues with the solar assets through a system called UpKeep. On UpKeep, I take the information I have found from my weekly research to log it into a database in order to keep track of these problems. This is useful because I can refer to past information about the inverters as well as have this data to look back on in the future. I was also tasked with finding money to finance the new sports facility that is being built. I contacted three different lending firms to get a price quote, and continue to be in negotiation.
Some of the skills I have enhanced so far are analytical and communication. In order to effectively understand why the solar panels aren’t functioning correctly, I need to be analytical in order to look at the data and messages within the system to piece problems together. Through contacting local financing firms to fund the new sports facility, I have used communication to find out their interest rates, how they finance hard versus soft costs, and how our project fits into their programs.
All in all, San Rafael Airport has a great fit for me as a learning place to get into the finance and management business later in life. I have thoroughly enjoyed my first few months here and look forward to keep working.
Jillian Hickey, a 2019 TLHS graduate, sheds light on life after high school and the impact that MarinSEL had on college. See her responses during our candid (email) interview:
Can you share details about the program you are in now?
This is my third day of Spring Quarter online at the University of Washington and students are calling it “Zoom University.” Currently, I am a pre-public health major with a focus in environmental sciences. Although the quarantine has been strange, I am keeping busy with classes and activities around the house.
How did MSEL experience help with what you do now?
Spending four years in an environmentally focused program is a privilege that not many of my peers in University experienced. I find that the knowledge that I have about the issues facing our society today gives me more authority in class discussions. Additionally, the project-based learning and structure of the courses in Marin SEL is the norm in college. There are skills and experiences that I had in Marin SEL still featured in my resume.
All of this better prepared me for college however it also gave me a passion for learning. The reason I am attending University is that I was inspired to make a positive impact on the world and that’s what drives me to do well.
What did you wish you knew as a Freshman in MSEL?
As a freshman in Marin SEL, I wish that I realized that not all of the benefits of Marin SEL, and school in general, are going to be handed to you on a silver platter. You have to go out and find those things that ignite your passion for learning. Those are the experiences and connections that will allow you to succeed.
How are you and fellow mates dealing with the COVID-19 Crisis?
The program I am in, surrounding green infrastructure in the global south was canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. However, there will hopefully be more similar experiences in the future when the outbreak passes.
My friends and I try to facetime as much as possible but unfortunately, there is only so much you can supplement for actual interaction.
Since you recently went through the college application process, would you like to share any tips for the current students? What surprised you the most about the college application process?
The college admissions process is a stressful time for any student no matter what their path is. As you are applying, remember to reach for any opportunity that is available to you. I applied to the Honors College at UW just because I thought “Hey why not?” and was accepted. You never know what could happen if you don’t take these opportunities when they come your way. Also there is something to be learned from the college admissions process about self worth and confidence. These are qualities that Marin SEL helped me to develop through all that reflection. I was denied from what I thought was my dream college but I couldn’t be happier at UW. No matter what happens, the admissions process doesn’t define you as a student, you know your worth and that’s all that matters.
ASHRAE Fellow and Lifetime Rotarian Achiever
By Malhar Dev
When I went to India last year, I interviewed my grandfather, Arvind Surange. He works in the refrigeration and air conditioning industry and has received a myriad of awards for his work. Primarily, he focuses on creating and implementing large scale, sustainable air conditioning and refrigeration solutions. His work in this area has taken him all over the world. 50 years ago, he started his own business, which is now one of the most innovative in their industry all over the world. So, when I traveled to India, the opportunity to interview him was one I couldn’t pass up. What follows are the questions I asked him and his responses.
AS– My grandfather
MD: You’ve been working in the field of sustainable air conditioning and refrigeration for over 50 years, so what, in your opinion, is your greatest sustainability-related achievement?
AS: So basically, our work has involved using natural refrigerants to reduce energy usage in these instances. We are trying to promote natural refrigerants and energy-saving solutions, as well as creating concepts that reduce the amount of energy used as much as possible. A big part of this is using efficient equipment as well as using innovative technologies. Reducing water consumption and using air to cool things instead is also a big part of this. However, the air’s temperature has to be taken into account, and given that the air in India is usually at a somewhat high temperature, it uses a lot of water and energy to cool the air. We have designed systems that cool the air using a very small amount of water, which is very efficient overall and is one of the biggest leaps made in this area in recent years.
MD: How do you think developing countries can avoid dependency on fossil fuels?
AS: There’s this saying in my industry, it goes something like this: “The Earth will always have enough for humanity’s needs, but it will never have enough for humanity’s greeds”. This goes in line with humanity’s excessive consumption of Earth’s natural resources. We have a limited amount of fossil fuels left, and they won’t last for that long. So, we need to get people in these countries to use renewable energy. For example, in India, there is a lot of sunlight, so we can use solar energy in this context. Also, wind and hydroelectric energy could be viable. Biomass would also be quite applicable in India, and it’s already being used. Overall, we need to convince people in these countries to use renewable sources of energy that are already available to them and make the means of using that energy more affordable.
MD: Finally, how do you think younger people can create change in their community?
AS: There are some building techniques that were created a very long time ago, which don’t require energy, but achieve a similar result to air conditioning or heating. Similarly, younger generations can spread information about more efficient techniques that already exist and make efforts towards convincing people to adopt said techniques. For example, rather than using artificial lights, windows can be on multiple walls and extend across the walls to cover as much surface area as possible. This allows for more sunlight to enter a room, which means the usage of artificial lights isn’t as necessary. In addition, using multiple smaller appliances to gain a similar result to one large appliance is preferable, as they use less energy in total.A big concept in my industry is to use the heated air released from a refrigerator and boil water with it. Of course, this is only one of a myriad of possible ways to conserve the used energy to create super efficient solutions. So overall, the usage of solutions that already exist and the continuation and improvement of the tech that has already been developed will be a big help to younger generations to create change.
This annual convergence of community members and business leaders, celebrating the Marin School of Environmental Leadership junior class, will take place as planned on April 30th. From 6:00 to 7:30 PM, students will showcase their sustainable enterprises. (See the article Spotlight on Sustainable Enterprises for more information on the businesses.)
The evening will feature inspiring speakers, including student representatives from each grade, the junior business teams, Mike Cairns from the College of Marin, and CEO/co-founder of B Corporation EO Essential Oils Susan Griffin-Black. Your host and MC will be our very own Cyane Dandridge. This lively event will wrap up with the opportunity to purchase students’ innovative products.
Attendance is free to the public. Register here to join us on April 30th from 6:00 to 7:30 PM!
For more information, please visit: https://thesel.org/events/business
Our talented MarinSEL teachers have shown impressive dedication and agility in adapting our project-based courses to remote learning. They have prioritized keeping to program tenants, as they work to deliver the same quality of education despite new challenges. Meanwhile students have proven to be engaged, continuing to interact with peers and teachers in a significant way.
We plan on continuing to honor the hard work of students. The annual Green Business Leaders Event (GBL) which is a powerful platform to our young entrepreneurs, will take place as a virtual event this year on April 30th, free to attend by the public. As the GBL moves to a virtual platform, other events are following suit. All students will participate in SEI’s Green Careers Webinar Series, providing valuable insight on careers and career paths into sustainability and STEM. Even the annual Family Picnic will be celebrated virtually on April 19th. We are excited for the fun, virtual editions of these MarinSEL classics!
Circumstances are changing weekly and we aim to update parents and the community as much as we can. To keep most informed, be sure to keep an eye out for district updates. We will send out additional updates as they arise.
In the meantime, here are a few program highlights directly from our instructors!:
9th Graders –
“Freshmen have been busy since the very beginning of online learning. In Geography, students are in the middle of our Food unit, and are currently getting ready to remotely present research presentations on food-related issues of individual countries all over the world, including current and historic imports and exports, specific food growing regions, and how the country will adapt to climate driven food sustainability. Additionally, I am working on adapting the yearly favorite, Food Project, in which students have taken a field trip to the farmers market and worked in groups to create a local, healthy, and of course delicious dish. While the current situation will prohibit certain aspects of this project, I am excited for the new possibilities the project holds.
In Seminar, students are skillfully adapting to our distanced lives, and working to continue their LEAD projects centered around campaigns. Rather than settling for the challenging nature of this situation, students are working to create informational webinars, have started Change.org petitions with hundreds of signatures already, have a presence on NextDoor, have posted weekly tips for things like home gardening and limiting food waste, and have been continuing to hold bi-weekly meetings with partners in the community.”
“In science, the students are continuing to work on their partner project titled “Extinction versus Evolution.” In this multi-unit project students will look at the factors that cause species to go extinct or evolve in the face of climate change. They will create a digital portfolio as they explore evolution through the lens of populations, genetics, and DNA.” Students will also write letters to themselves from the future in a cross-disciplinary English project from one of these perspectives.
10th Graders –
“Sophomores were fortunate enough to have finished their LEAD projects right before the school closure, but many students have chosen to continue their projects through this crisis, inclduding being involved in the youth-driven Sunrise Movement. In World History, students are wrapping up their WWI unit, and have been engaged in thoughtful and relevant analysis of the connection between COVID-19 and the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1917. Being the natural collaborators that they are, these students have been working in partners, while still remotely, to create interactive posters for specific battles of WWI. I am looking forward to students presenting these in pairs via a virtual “Museum Walk” this week.
Lastly, in order to encourage students to feel more connected to the topics and issues we are studying, they are creating historical-fiction diaries for our Forrest Gump Project, in which they chronicle their characters’ life experiences from pre-WWI until the Cold War, using a combination of primary and secondary evidence, as well as their own personal creativity.”
TTriss Williams Renard (SEI):
“Sophomores will also be learning about online campaign development and management as they participate in SEI’s statewide remote Earth Day Campaign Contest with Mr. Lumsden. They will learn how to remotely influence their peers and communities to take climate action as they further develop aims and strategies from their LEAD projects. This is an exciting opportunity for students to marry any natural interest in connecting with peers to the real fields of online organizing, (remote) community actions, and social media campaigning. We are excited to see this extension to LEAD projects and their creativity in campaign development abound.”
11th graders –
“Learning engineering through the computer is not ideal however I think the projects will still be fun, engaging, challenging, and self confidence building activities. The junior class will be documenting themselves fixing or building something in their homes as an independent project. They will also be designing an earthship with another student and creating a presentation and 3D model of their dealings to touch upon 6 core concepts. “
Naomi Asimow (SEI):
“The MarinSEL 11th graders are keeping busy! They recently participated in 3 virtual Zoom workshops with the Marin Small Business Development Center focused on Marketing, Operations, and Finances for their Sustainable Enterprises. The students have shown immense creativity and resilience in adapting their businesses to operate from home. Join us for the Virtual Green Business Leaders Mixer on April 30th to learn more about their innovative enterprises. Additionally, the junior class just completed the interview process for their senior MarinSEL internships. Each student interviewed with 3 potential internship employers (over video call, of course!) and internship assignments will be made in early May.”
12th Graders –
“While COVID-19 may be in its peak, Senioritis seems to have skipped this class! In a time of the year where it is very easy for seniors to wind down, these students have continued to perform at a high level. In AP Government, students are completing a Landmark Supreme Court Case project in which they formally brief a historical case, and then work in groups of three to create an informational presentation on that particular case. This week, students will be presenting an in-depth analysis of the lasting significance their case has had in regards to Civil Rights and Civil Liberties in America. We will soon be moving into examining our own political ideology, as well as what the factors are that influence one’s political ideology…..not like it’s an interesting time in our country to do that!!
Lastly, as these students begin their final months as a MarinSEL student, they will be working on two major culminating projects. The first is their Senior Internship Poster, which will summarize all of the goals, challenges, successes, measurable results, and lasting impacts they have learned throughout their internship this year. Students will present these posters formally at our Senior Poster Symposium in May. The other is the MarinSEL Senior Capstone Project, which gives each student the opportunity to reflect on their personal and academic growth over their 4 years in MarinSEL, and highlight which particular “C” they grew the most in each year. Students will present these via a virtual “Gallery Walk”, in which each project will have several multimedia components.”
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!
Introducing the amazing products these student-run businesses are offering…
Buddha Balm – Embodying You, Me, and We
An all-natural muscle rub with benefits of aromatherapy. Made with only a handful of simple ingredients, this product is safer and more eco-friendly than synthetic alternatives. Each purchase gives back to the community, leaving both your mind and body at ease.
Perfectly Imperfect Fruit Rolls – We create delicious dehydrated fruit rolls
Made from fruit that would normally be thrown away at grocery stores 🙂 Our goal is to eliminate the food waste issue.
Purchase: Instagram @perfectly.imperfect.fruitrolls
B-Wraps – Eco-friendly food wrap company
We replace the need for single-use plastic food bags and plastic wrap. B-WRAPS uses locally sourced beeswax and second-hand fabric to create reusable, washable, and biodegradable wraps that will keep food fresh!
Earth Toys – Wooden Children’s Toys Made from Recycled Materials
Our goal is to cut down on deforestation as well as eliminate toxic chemicals from the lives of children.
Purchase: Instagram @earth.toys
Loopley – Colorful Lanyards and Wristlets Made from Recycled Materials
Suds of the Sea – Cultured with care
Fresh organic plant-based soaps made with live cultures, for the maximum benefit of the user, as well as the planet that we all depend on.
Laundrylab – We’ve got the clothes on your back!
A chemical-free laundry detergent tablet made from a mix of toxin-free laundry ingredients. We strive to make Marin waters cleaner and spread education about clean waters globally.
California Native – Good for the earth, good for you
A sustainable business selling eco friendly car fresheners made from local wool and essential oils. The fragrances are native to California and counteract any poor driving skills through the power of aromatherapy. We are striving to create a more zen, balanced and blissful world for us to inhabit while supporting our Mother Earth.
Purchase: Instagram @californianativecarfresheners
Want to see more of these businesses? Save the date for our virtual Green Business Leaders Event on April 30th at 6 PM!
NAAEE has once again opened the search for 30 game-changing leaders under 30 years old who are using environmental education to build a sustainable and equitable future. Nominations for EE 30 Under 30 are open until May 8 for leaders of all kinds, from any country, sector, or discipline. The Class of 2020 will join a growing community of passionate leaders with ongoing opportunities for professional learning and networking. Visit naaee.org/ee30under30 to learn more and submit a nomination.