Director’s Message

Dear Friends,

The School of Environmental Leadership was born out of partnerships with education experts, local parents, and nonprofits with the aim of increasing student ownership of their educational experience and building leaders equipped to handle 21st century challenges and job market.

In the sixth year of the program, I am heartened to see the continuous expansion and development of our school’s partnerships with the local and global community. Alongside the growth of MarinSEL, parent organization and founding nonprofit, Strategic Energy Innovations (SEI) continues to bloom. In 2016, SEI became California’s provider of energy and sustainability education for high-schools and post-secondary institutions. Energize Schools and Energize Colleges respectively pull the best of MarinSEL into new environments. From the businesses, foundations, families, and organizations that fund our program to the professionals and experts that train our teachers and guide curriculum development, MarinSEL is well-positioned to remain a leader in the educational field.

This fall, we welcomed several new educators to our stellar team. As our teacher group grows, so does the breadth and depth of our program. This fall’s student projects and courses have explored sustainability themes from waste to equity, and as a school we are eager to continue these explorations and discussions in 2017. In a tide of recent political events, our school is a brighter light than ever. We will continue to prosper and empower youth leaders with the support and strength of you all, our community. With our semester coming to a close, MarinSEL sends warm wishes for a joyous (and environmentally mindful) holiday season to you and your loved ones.

Best regards,




AnchorSupport MarinSEL

There are easy ways to support MarinSEL this season with your regular shopping! eBay, Amazon and Office Depot will donate a percentage of your total purchases to our school:

  1. eBay Giving Works
  2. Amazon Smile
  3. Office Depot Give Back (MarinSEL ID# 70236873)

AnchorUpcoming Events

Exploration Days – January 27th & 28th
Applicants will have a chance to explore and demonstrate their interest in the MarinSEL program through a variety of group activities, as well as a writing assignment, and an oral interview.

AnchorMarinSEL Welcomes New Staff

By: Georgie Craig

The Marin School of Environmental Leadership is excited to welcome three new teachers to its current impressive team of educators. They are Lanie King, Ray McClintock, and Karen Wilhoyte. These exceptional educators shared a little bit about themselves and their vision for the school year.

Lanie King is a Terra Linda native who will be teaching 11th Grade US History. King believes when it comes to teaching history it’s crucial to take what’s been told, sift that information, turn it over and study the untold stories, the untold history.

“I want them to know that there’s another side to every story. Every person in this country has rights and it is our job to see every side of the story and do our best to make our own decision about things,” King said.

She is passionate about history. King leans forward and her eyes sparkle with intensity as she shares how crucial stories are to instilling in her students their critically important role as a voting citizen. Because, as King said, unless they engage with this country, democracy dies.

King also believes it’s important that the students are able to learn about US History using the lens of today’s society. There are so many local stories that reverberate down to present day.

For example, an anti-immigration stance isn’t unique to Donald Trump. Labor issues will be discussed by studying the most successful labor action in US history, which took place on the San Francisco Waterfront.

These stories are what King wants to impart to her students.  “I love it when you can give kids a story, a fact, a piece of information that makes their jaw hang open. They have to chew on it to understand what they’ve heard,” King said.

In MarinSEL, with its outside funding, and with freedom in the Social Studies curriculum, King has the ability to dive deep and veer from topic to topic.

One topic sure to cause jaws to drop will be that of local Labor leader, Harry Bridges, and his fight to stay in the US while the government tried deport him for being a rabble rouser. Another is Marin County’s own Mr. William Kent, who donated Muir Woods to the federal government. Though that was a commendable act, Kent ran for Congress in 1920 on an anti-Chinese immigration platform. “We never talk about the fact that he was a very serious bigot. Very serious,” King said.

King herself is well traveled, and well educated, with degrees from USC, Tel Aviv University, and Richmond University in London. She is excited to return to Terra Linda, her home town, and raise her two children, Ruthie and Sam.  King is determined to share her well-trained brain and loves to have deep discussions with her students.

Ray McClintock, MarinSEL’s new 9th grade Geography teacher, is a genial young man with a football player’s build and a big smile. He comes to MarinSEL fresh from the teaching credential program at UC Davis, where he’s completing his Master’s in Education. His teaching experience includes seven years of coaching in his hometown of Petaluma at Casa Grande High School, and student teaching in Fairfield.

“It’s gonna be a whirlwind, let me tell ya. I’m excited,” McClintock said with a grin.

When he found out he was going to be teaching at MarinSEL, McClintock wasn’t even sure what it was. At first he thought it had something to do with English-language learners. But when he investigated further, McClintock was stoked. The geography class he’d be teaching dovetailed with what he’d wanted to teach: a food unit on where food came from, the transportation issues facing Marin, climate change, and water rights. Especially water rights. “Here the kids are more apt to actually think about where water comes from, what the issues are around it. I’ll think I’ll do a local vision on it and also a more global one, concentrating on how scarce water is other places.”

McClintock wanted to branch away from teaching a more traditional geography path, so being part of MarinSEL provides him with that lucky opportunity to bring in real-world applications.  “The curriculum Jesse (Madsen) and Cyane (Dandridge) have developed is out of this world,” he said.

Another interest of McClintock’s is using restorative justice practices to build the classroom community. “Instead of me telling them the classroom rules, we’ll decide on them together,” he said. The research shows if you build community and trust, the kids buy in more to the classroom and their education and to you as a teacher, he said.

McClintock loves teaching and has been drawn to it for years. Though it wasn’t a straight path to the classroom.

Through middle school and high school, he was interested in athletics not academics. After high school, McClintock worked for Pepsi for 7 years. In that time, always felt he wanted more and could do more. Finally, he decided to make the change. “I got up at 2 in the morning for the next two years and finished my shift early so I could go to school in the evenings. In 2013, I was accepted to Sonoma State.” From then on academics and education have been his priority.

His teaching philosophy mirrors his experience both inside and out of the classroom. He hopes to establish a classroom community where kids want to learn what he’s teaching them. And he wants to offer his hard-earned insight into how education can be very beneficial to each student by leading them to the pathways of what they want to do.

Karen Wilhoyte will be teaching 9th Grade Biology to MarinSEL students. She hopes to impart an enthusiasm for science and learning.

“It’s easy for students, parents, and teachers to get caught up in test grades and performance goals, and while they are also important, we often forget that the purpose of school is to stretch our brains and make us better people who are prepared for whatever life hands us.”

Her goals for her first year with MarinSEL are to get the students engaged and excited about science. “The biggest change I will make is that this will be the first year the MarinSEL students will receive NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) curriculum, which I really enjoy teaching. My graduate degree is in Biology with an emphasis in Ecology and Evolution, and that’s exactly what the new standards cover.”

She’s very excited about integrating environmental education into the Biology curriculum.

“One of the great parts about these standards is that they are about half ecology and half evolution, so there will be a lot of ways to bring environmental ed into the biology curriculum. I love doing labs and hands-on activities, and we will have opportunities to bring in guest speakers as well.”

She hopes that nurturing students’ curiosity and leadership skills will help them become responsible citizens who are proud of what they do.

Wilhoyte understands how important one class can be on a student’s life. How such an experience can set one on a life path.

“I grew up in Miami, Florida, and was really inspired when I took an ecology class in high school. I remember reading Silent Spring and feeling appalled about the side effects of DDT. I also took a “Radicalism” course. We spent a lot of time studying the environmental movement and read Edward Abbey. Those two courses really sparked my interest in biology and ecology.” An interest she hopes rubs off on her students.


Engineering with Oropallo

By: Andrea Taylor

Ms. Oropallo is the Engineering Technology teacher at MarinSEL, taking the students from their heads to their hands three days a week to construct their designs out of recycled materials. For four years she has been the teacher for what my generation in high school used to call “shop class”, and as a female instructor, her gender in a typically male dominated field is only the beginning of her influence. Ms. Oropollo has a strong reputation at MarinSEL for teaching an innovative, creative, and challenging design and construction class to both the girls and the boys.

Last year the Junior class made seven playhouses for kids from recycled materials obtained from Urban Ore in Berkeley and The Away Station in Fairfax. The class took a field trip to find their materials, a field trip that the kids say is their favorite. Using recycled materials to build structures is not easy, Ms. Oropollo says. She acknowledges that it is easier to work with new materials, and frustration arises when old boards split and fail, but her focus on sustainability requires that these are the materials to be used, and Urban Ore and The Away Station are destination that inspire the imagination.

The students invited the 2nd grade class at Vallecito Elementary to become involved in the design process. A group of 80 2nd grade students eagerly came to MarinSEL and went through the design process which led to the making of the prototypes for the playstructures. The 2nd grade students were later asked to review the final playstructures and offer their wisdom, noting that as high schoolers they no longer had the same perspective about what made a great playstructure. This review led to such observations like the need for more windows. Of course! The 2nd graders were also invited to spend some time playing in the playstructures, which they did with great enthusiasm.

The playstructures are available for purchase and were not sold over the summer because Ms. Oropallo was not here to facilitate the sale.  She has dropped the price from $1000 to $600, which she says is a great deal because there is at least $2000 in materials in each playstructure. To claim a remaining playhouse structure, please contact Ms. Oropallo by email

Ms. Oropollo is leading the way towards a gender-neutral cultural perspective, where girls realize they can handle the intimidating power tools and boys realize that women are excellent construction engineers.  “I do what I do because I give the students’ confidence that they never had before.”  She says. Her students find working with their hands and bodies to be a great stress relief from the academic rigors of MarinSEL curriculum. They find confidence they did not have through the exersize of using of tools and constructing useful structures. Ms. Oropallo’s Engineering Technology class allows them to reflect upon how they view themselves in our culture. This is an essential core application that MarinSEL offers as part of their high school program, and this class epitomizes one of the core cultural shakeups needed in todays world.


Class of 2016 Futures

Graphic courtesy of Alaina Yoakum. 


Alumni Corner

Oh the things our graduates do!

My post-graduation summer has been fast-paced and very eventful. I eased into the summer with a two week vacation in Switzerland–a country I deeply admire not only for its rich culture and its very functional governing system, but also for its excellent environmental philosophy and policy. Did you know that Switzerland has been on a reforestation uptick for the last 20 years? In the 80s and 90s there were fears that Swiss forests were vanishing.  So, between 1995 and 2006, through political efforts and the decrease in cattle grazing and crop cultivation, woodlands were expanded. In fact, their reforestation efforts have been so successful that the Swiss government now encourages wood energy instead of fossil fuel energy!

When I returned to California, I started a summer job at the one and only Clough Construction! Deanne Clough, the prominent MarinSEL community partner, and I are working together to create a website ( to educate and encourage schools and companies to commit to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) paper products. The website is on course to be finalized by early September. Working for Clough Construction and designing this website has taught me a lot about the forest industry. Because my area of study is forest ecology, I believe that this job is gearing me towards a life in conservation in the future.

Mid-July I attended my freshman orientation at UC Santa Cruz. The campus is divided into ten residential colleges, and every residential college has different themes and requirements that must be satisfied prior to graduating. I chose to be in College Eight, because of the theme: Environment and Society. For my first quarter, I get to take an environmentally-centric writing course and a seminar class titled “Environment and Us.” I am SO excited! Although I do not want to work a campus job during my first quarter, sometime in the future I hope to land a position in the UCSC Office of Sustainability. I believe MarinSEL has pointed me in this direction, and my experiences in the program will qualify me for many future jobs and internships in sustainability and leadership.

Best of luck to the future MarinSEL graduating classes, I know you will all do great things!

— Anna Paula, Class of 2016


And just like that, college is right around the corner! MarinSEL class of 2016 suddenly parts ways after four years of seeing each other every day, and even on most weekends.

Our class, while having lost members throughout the years and constantly quarreling with each others’ opinions, has become the tightest knit. Together, we have learned to openly and confidently discuss political opinions, questions of morality and judgement, and controversial issues of today. Not once have these debates gone smoothly and peacefully, but at the end of the day, we have always come to some agreement and laughed at our differences. This is the most powerful thing our class has mastered; that and our confidence, communication, argument and defense, acceptance, consensus, and forgiveness. It still seems almost impossible to imagine starting a new chapter in our lives without this group, without the family with whom we’ve all grown in character and spirit.

While some of our fellow friends are off doing great things in Europe, the east coast or various parts of California, our group chat doesn’t go anywhere. Throughout the year, this group chat has kept us connected. Through this, we’ve planned hangouts and kept each other in the loop, and while we’re all off to college, the group chat will continue to keep us together.

I am very thankful to go to UC Berkeley this fall and stay relatively local. I know that MarinSEL and all the opportunities the program offered were a crucial factor in my early acceptance. MarinSEL alumni have also been extremely resourceful and I will remain thankful for alumni Claire Parkinson who has helped convince me to become a Cal Bear. Here’s a tip for all the remaining MarinSEL students, try new things! If public speaking is your biggest fear, then take all the student speaker opportunities and get rid of that fear! Change yourself while in the program. Take every opportunity given to you, it will make the biggest difference. And trust me, you’ll be thankful for it when your time to write college essays comes!

— Inès Guéneau, Class of 2016


AnchorProject Green Challenge

By: Ben Pearson, Michael Kessell, Lizzi McEligot, and Nathan Roll

Four MarinSEL Juniors (Ben Pearson, Michael Kessell, Lizzi McEligot, and Nathan Roll) competed this October in Project Green Challenge. Representing MarinSEL, these students competed in an international 30-day sustainability challenge to take real action on environmental issues. Our finalists were selected from a pool of nearly 4,300 participants! Read about their experience below in an excerpt from their Day 5 Challenge – Energy. The MarinSEL Team (Project Panda) had to audit and find information on their school’s energy use:


The Marin School of Environmental Leadership, a school located in San Rafael, California, currently sources 75% of its total energy from renewable sources. These sources include wind, solar, and geothermal. They use a local program associated with PG&E called Marin Clean Energy, MCE, that uses mostly renewable energy sources. Marin School of Environmental Leadership is usually very responsible with their energy use, trying to cut down on their use and the energy they do use is environmentally responsible. Their next goal is to share their techniques for green energy use with Terra Linda High School, the school they share a campus with. The students at MarinSEL are leading the campaign in an annual statewide contest to have the campus that reduces the most energy from their old levels.

Last year’s sophomore class ran an audit to decide where to start with their campaign to reduce energy. They found that most classrooms had more than enough light required for a healthy learning environment. At the school there is a sufficient amount of natural light yet many teachers still keep both classroom lights on. For most of the day the natural light would be enough and the artificial light would not be necessary. There are certain points in the day, especially in the morning, where the natural light is not enough and there are also certain classrooms that never get that needed light because of their location compared to the sun. Even in these situations only one of the two classroom lights would be needed to have a sufficient amount of light, yet some teachers are reluctant to change their habits. From the audit the students also discovered the large phantom energies from the electronics in the school, mostly from the computer labs, printers, and projectors. Since the audit, the students have successfully worked towards getting power strips that help lower the phantom energy levels. They have also made posters in classrooms and talked with teachers to turn off at least one of the classroom lights to help lower the energy usage of the school. We have learned that we can’t wait for the district administration to create change and that as students, it is your job to keep up the good work that the school is doing, and turn off lights whenever it is possible.

Look at Project Panda’s full Project Green Challenge portfolio here