Director’s Message

I always love attending the retreat because it’s a great way to start the year. This year, I was so impressed by how everyone came together and worked as a group, without regard to what grade they are in. We designed the retreat this year to have several mentoring sessions, including the last day where each senior gave a piece of advice to the rest of the school. Some of my favorites were:

·     Take ownership and step forward if you want to see a change.

·     Participate in as many volunteer events because they are fun and a great way to learn and bond with other classmates across grades.

It was really lovely to see all the different ages come together and bond. I hope this will continue throughout the school year, and something our amazing teachers will help facilitate. At the teacher training (before the retreat), we focused on culture and how teachers can help instill a deeper sense of community within MarinSEL this year. In particular, the goal is for each student to embrace what is means to be a MarinSEL student. To better define what it means to be a MarinSEL student, we partnered with Envision Learning Partners to define our Expected Student Learning Outcomes (ESLO). You’ll be hearing about the ESLOs throughout the year, especially during the Portfolio Defense students give at the end of their sophomore and senior years, which requires students to reflect on how they are excelling at the ESLOs and where they still have room to grow. Next time you are in a MarinSEL classroom, look for the new ESLO poster, which links the ESLOs to the more familiar language of the 4Cs.    

For the first time, we incorporated a session on Myers Briggs personality types into the retreat (one of my personal favorites that we do each year at our staff retreat). I felt during this session that students really had an eye-opening experience. Throughout the rest of the retreat, I would overhear students talking about their personality types in relation to other activities and recognizing there is value in different personality types. In particular, students recognized that by pairing with people with different types helps bring a vision into action in the most effective way possible. I’m excited that we were able to help the students deepen their understanding of themselves and how they work together. This understanding will only benefit them as they work in group projects throughout the rest of MarinSEL and eventually throughout their career. If you want to take the Myers Briggs test the students did, you can here!  

And for fun, I recommend watching this video of the seniors performing a song during the talent show. This year’s skits and songs were some of the best yet!

Best Regards,


Myers Briggs: ENTP

Westminster Woods Leadership Retreat 2018 

By: Ronelle Scardina

The beautiful campus at Westminster Woods in Occidental provided an intimate setting tucked in the redwoods for the annual MarinSEL leadership retreat. According to senior Ally Teper, “It was familiar and nostalgic. I remember being here as a freshman and I instantly felt connected.” The retreat provided a unique opportunity for the students to come together and build a foundation for what’s ahead in the coming school year. 

The retreat includes many activities and senior Ally Teper said her favorite was the talent show on the first night. Students can sign up to participate in a spontaneous, non-structured way, allowing complete creative freedom. “Usually the seniors aren’t super spirited, but this year, we came up to the stage and sang together as a class.” As the seniors belted familiar tunes, such as “Country Road” and “Bohemian Rhapsody”, the crowd joined in as if it was a sing-a-long. “Then, the other classes came up because they felt comfortable, not judged. It was a very loving and bonding experience,” Ally added. “At some point during the talent show, I started crying. We are there for each other. It’s always good to see how we bond together.” The seniors set the tone for acceptance and inclusion – not only for the retreat, but for the entire school year.

Another senior, Miranda Craig, found climbing the wall to be her favorite activity during the retreat. “I had so much fun … it’s sad to know it’s my last retreat.” Miranda wasn’t sure she could climb over the 12-foot wall anchored between two trees in the forest. “I was very hesitant to do it. When I first saw it I thought, “No way am I climbing that thing.” But then Miranda remembered how MSEL values collaboration. “It was both the Junior and Senior class working together that got everybody over that wall,” she said. “I felt supported, literally and figuratively, by the classes.” The Westminster staff was very impressed by the groups’ cohesion. “Apparently, a lot of adult groups never succeed. And we did!” Miranda said.  

At the end of the retreat, families gathered in the outdoor theater to witness the students first hand. It was obvious that the seniors set the tone and the others followed:  looking forward to the amazing MarinSEL adventure ahead!

“THANK YOU” Leadership Retreat Volunteers!!!

Thank you to the parent volunteers who helped the MarinSEL students find ways to connect with each other and with nature during the retreat. A special shout out to our fearless leaders – Sarah Tiederman and Stephan Barbiero. 

Many kudos to our chaperones:

·     Maya Bartolf

·     Chris Case

·     Amy Frey

·     Kristen Huang

·     Naveen Kumar

·     Heather Leporte

·     Karen Madden

·     Sally Lo

·     Xander Santos

·     Craig Tackaberry

·     Tom Taylor

·     Li Zhang

·     Jie Zhu

What a wonderful way to kick off the new school year. Thank you MarinSEL parent volunteers!!!

Fall 2018 LEAD Projects

By: Sheri Matteo

LEAD:  1. to cause a person to go with one by holding them by the hand while moving forward; 2. to show someone the way to a destination by going in front of or beside them; 3. to be a route or means of access to a particular place or in a particular direction; 4. tobe a reason or motive for someone;  5. to culminate in a particular event; 6. to be in charge or command.

Leadership in Environmental Action Development (LEAD) Projects are part of the Environmental Leadership Seminar course taken by Freshman and Sophomore MSEL students.  They are semester-long group projects which amazingly accomplish all of the above.  

At the beginning of the school year, project choices are presented, students rank their top three choices and are subsequently sorted into groups of six or seven. The project begins with a research paper on the project topic. Following the paper, students begin to meet with their community partner and project work commences in full!  

LEAD Projects are designed to address one or more of the following environmental themes: climate, transportation, energy, water, waste, and food. They are also designed to challenge and develop the students’ 4 C’s skills: communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity.  Advised by parent volunteers, the students work with community partners who are interested in making real change in our community on current issues. Led by the students, the work is focused on real and practical solutions. 

Freshman repeat the process in the second semester working on a new LEAD Project, while Sophomores participate in longer, more challenging LEAD projects which span the entire school year.  

LEAD projects culminate in presentations before the entire MSEL student body, parents and community partners.  Presentations follow a structured format that includes the following:

●     the group’s description of the problem or challenge

●     their hypothesis regarding a solution

●     strategies and methods of data collection, design and implementation that they’ve employed

●     the outcome of their endeavors, including an analysis of its success or failure

●     their self-reflections  on their own performance, strengths and weaknesses, working with their peers and on the project at hand

●     finally, a song, a skit, a video, or a poem created by the group that creatively encapsulates their experience

MarinSEL is proud to announce the LEAD projects for 2018-19 and their community partners (several of whom are new to working with MSEL):

9th Grade:

  1. Food – MarinSEL Garden – Global Student Embassy –  Angelica Andrews Buot
  2. Natural Resources – Native Garden – California Native Plant Society- Charlotte Torgovitsky 
  3. Water – Microbeads – Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District – Sahar Golshani
  4. Climate – Air Quality – 350 Marin – Andrea Taylor
  5. Waste – Zero Waste School Supplies – Annika Osborn *(NEW PROJECT PARTNER!)

10th Grade: 

  1. Energy – Energy Conservation/US Green Building Council – K12 School Facilities – Bill Savidge and Rosa Mason *(NEW USGBC PARTNERSHIP!)
  2. Transportation – Green Transportation – Safe Routes 2 School – Gwen Froh
  3. Climate – Climate Report Cards and City-Wide Climate Policies – iMatter – Larry Kraft
  4. Transportation – Bettini Transport Center and Public Transit Accessibility/Equity – Marin County – Mary Sackett  *(NEW PROJECT PARTNER!)
  5. Food – Farm to School Pathways and Food Waste – Sanzuma – Lori Davis *(NEW PROJECT PARTNER!)

[A HUGE thank you to our early LEAD Project parent sign-ups: Tracy Prose and Scott Allsop for the 10th grade, Michael Whiteley, Trip Allen, and Matthew and Merrit Harrison for 9th-grade fall, and Carolyn Anderson and David Cohen/Toni Grimes for the 9th-grade spring semester.

We still need a few more LEAD parent volunteers, 2 more volunteers for 9thgrade and 3 more volunteers for 10thgrade. Parent volunteers attend one seminar class every two weeks (9th grade:  Fridays 1:00-2:35pm; 10th grade:  Fridays 10:40am-12:15pm).  Parents are not expected to have subject matter expertise or become disciplinarians. Instead, parent partners work with students on project-management, communication, organization, and the other professional skills that are extremely important to any project’s success. This is a fun and rewarding way to take care of all your volunteer hours and engage with students in the classroom!]

New Faces, Familiar One Brighten MarinSEL’s Teacher Roster

By: Georgie Craig and Ronelle Scardina 


(From Left to Right: Lisa, Chelsy, and Brent)

The Marin School of Environmental Leadership is delighted to welcome two new teachers, Lisa Crawford and Chelsy Newton, to its tremendous staff of excellent educators. MarinSEL also is elated by the return of Brent Lumsden to the roster.

Lisa Crawford is excited to join the MarinSEL staff as the new Freshman English teacher. Lisa comes from “the open green spaces of Davenport, Iowa, right along the muddy Mississippi River.” The dedicated and creative team of teachers and staff drew her to the MarinSEL program. “I was eager to join them and learn from them. I also was curious. I enjoy learning. MarinSEL is such a great program that I knew I would be learning alongside some pretty special students who were able to articulate their desire for challenge and growth by choosing the MarinSEL path.” Her teaching philosophy is built on creating relationships with each of her students. She wants to support them in pursuing their goals. In the classroom, Lisa prides herself on “breaking down complex concepts and tasks into comprehensible strategies and skills.”

Challenging her pupils to “see themselves as leaders,” is her primary goal this year. She intends to build a foundation for their pursuit of academic excellence. Lisa hopes they’ll embrace this challenge by improving their “close reading, research, note-taking, creative, and critical thinking skills.” One crucial point she wants to pass on to her students is that no one is perfect. “No one has it all, we are all struggling. Struggling or facing difficulty is not something to avoid in order to seek comfort. Instead, try embracing the struggles and find comfort in your growth through conscious effort and reflection.”

Lisa loves nature. “I live in West Marin on the floor of the redwood forest along the Lagunitas Creek. The forest and the beach are two of my best friends. They delight me and console me, and they give me the space to expand my thoughts and find peace in the moments that I am in their presence.”

Chelsy Newton is happy to come aboard the MarinSEL staff as the Physical/Health Education teacher. Chelsy is a local, hailing from Napa. She’s an experienced teacher with 18 years in the field, the past 10 in Auburn. Chelsy joined MarinSEL because she “was interested in a new challenge.” Her love of the outdoors drew her to the program. Chelsy finds the curriculum exciting and enjoys her students immensely. She calls her teaching style assertive, honest, and organized. “I show respect to students, their thoughts, and opinions. My class is structured for students to feel safe and comfortable. I believe in students being themselves.” Her goal for this year is to provide students a wealth of knowledge they can apply to their own lives. “I want to give them the tools and the information to understand such topics as Fitness, Environment, and Health. When she’s not teaching MarinSEL students, Chelsy enjoys being active with her family, including her three children. She loves to hike and dance. And she believes being a mom has given her a tremendous amount of experience in imparting important information to children. 

Brent Lumsden is thrilled to return to the MarinSEL teaching staff after a two-year absence during which he focused on the Freshmen Team project. Brent finds teaching English to MarinSEL sophomores “a pleasure.” He wasn’t expecting the opportunity, but was delighted to accept the position when it became available. Brent is an environmentalist and “enjoys pursuing a lifestyle with a low carbon footprint.” He’s thrilled to be able to “work with young people to both develop leadership skills and a deeper understanding and compassion for our shared environment.” In addition to being an MarinSEL instructor, Brent will continue with his current project, The Freshmen Team at Terra Linda HS. This group is a “collaborative project for freshman teachers from different subjects.” Its focus is to “align expectations and some routines to make the freshman experience more seamless and supported while also doing a number of initiatives to help struggling kids.” Other teachers on the team include “three English teachers, the SPED teacher who works with the freshmen, an Algebra teacher, a Biology teacher, and at times different counselors and administrators,” Brent said.


Alumni Corner: Natalia Fernandez (Class of 2015)

By: Noel E. Olson

MarinSEL Class of 2015 graduate Natalia Fernandez carved time out of her busy schedule to speak with us today. She recently returned from a holiday camping trip.

MarinSEL: Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed! Where are you going to college, and how did you decide it was the best fit for you?

NF: I attend Sacramento State University. I chose it because I wanted to major in Criminal Justice. Sacramento State has a great Criminal Justice Program, and it is the perfect distance from home for me.

MarinSEL: Can you tell us about your course of study?

NF: I changed my major to Child Development, and, even though it was my “Plan B,” could not be happier with my decision. It is amazing to learn about the child’s mind and see why children act the way they do. I want to become an elementary school teacher after college, so this major is perfect for me to learn how to understand the students I may have. I want to make sure they are comfortable in my classroom.  

MarinSEL: Have you been involved in any campus-based clubs, activities or movements?

NF: I was a member of the rugby team at my University. I made a lot of great friends, and they showed me how to have fun and get my studying done. It helped me branch out, make new friends and meet new people.

MarinSEL: What skills from MarinSEL do you think prepared you for college?

NF: MarinSEL definitely helped me a lot. I learned how to work within group projects, how to be professional and how to have good communication skills. In my particular major, we do a lot of group projects with children and with peers. Doing the many projects in high school really helped. I do a lot of fieldwork, which means I am emailing organizations, schools and other teachers. MarinSEL helped me learn how to write and speak professionally.

MarinSEL: Of your four years in MarinSEL, which project stands out as your favorite (LEAD, Internship, Sustainable Business) and why? 

NF: The Sustainable Business was definitely my favorite project. I was part of an up-cycling clothing business, and it was so much fun! We took clothing donations and made better clothing out of the donations that people could wear. Not only did I get to work with amazing people, but I also learned about running a business and dealing with customers and money.

MarinSEL: Have you or would you consider expanding on or leapfrogging into another project like this? Why or why not?

NF: I would have loved to continue to expand the business, but it became too hard when my group graduated and went to different colleges. We just didn’t have the time to continue it because of school and other extra-curricular activities.

MarinSEL: Is there anything you want to encourage the MarinSEL program to hang on to, change, and/or continue?

NF: I believe the LEAD projects and the Sustainable Business projects should stay the same because I think students really learn a lot from them. One thing I truly think should stay is the requirement for Ms. Oropallo’s engineering class. I know that so many people — myself included — learned so much in that class. I was taught to be confident in myself, not only while using power tools, but in general. Being in that class showed me that I could do anything if I planned it out and continued through from start to finish.

MarinSEL: Do you have any advice for current MarinSEL students?

NF: One thing I would like to tell current MarinSEL students: don’t procrastinate! Give 100 percent in everything you do. I know it can be easy to glide by and do the bare minimum, but one doesn’t learn from doing that. When I was in high school, I would be up for hours making sure my projects, presentations and homework were done to the best of my ability. If you do great work, you get great results.

MarinSEL: Looking back, would you have done anything differently in high school?

NF: The one thing I would have changed was my mentality coming into freshman year. I thought that because I was going to be in MarinSEL, I wasn’t going to be able to make friends outside of MarinSEL or do extra curricular activities, but I was wrong. I played soccer throughout high school, hung out with people who were not in MarinSEL, and had fun.

MarinSEL: Last question! How do you picture yourself making a difference in the world?

NF: One of the major reasons I want to be an elementary school teacher is to make a difference. I want to teach the next generation about making the environment better, and teach them the skills I learned in MarinSEL. It is amazing that I learned about the 4-C’s in high school, but imagine learning them at a younger age! By the time these kids get to high school, they will have mastered the 4-C’s and learned much, much more.

Upcoming Events

Annual Blind Wine Tasting Fundraiser – Saturday, November 3rd

Join MarinSEL’s ED, Cyane, for an exciting evening of wine tasting, socializing and fun. Support MarinSEL while connecting with MarinSEL’s director, teachers and families. We’ll have a variety of wines — your job is to see if you can taste the difference within each group! Nibbles and fun provided. Get your ticket here.

If you have a bottle of wine you would like to donate and enter into the blind wine tasting, please contact Nicole at

Save the Date: Saturday, March 9th, 2019 for Green Fling

More details to come, but mark your calendars for March 9th for this year’s Green Fling. If you would like to become more involved or have donations for the silent and live auctions, please contact Lisa at