Director’s Message

Welcome to 2016

The winter holiday season has always provided me with precious time to rejuvenate and re-focus. This year proved no different, and with such a wonderful 2015 officially under our belts, I look at 2016 with even more vigor and intent.

This semester, MarinSEL is launching into an impressive set of new LEAD projects, working alongside our growing community of partners with newcomers including the County of Marin- to help strategize fair housing practices in Marin and California Native Plants Society- to help our thriving native garden at the front of TL. Freshmen and Sophomore LEAD projects are continuously evolving, and student progression and impact is fascinating to track. While Freshmen and Sophomores transition to new projects – our Juniors and Seniors delve deeper into their year-long engineering projects and internships. These upperclassmen problem-solve and test out their 4Cs as they implement year-long play-house construction projects and balance work demands with both fellow students and outside employers.                                                                                   

This January, MarinSEL also welcomed its largest student applicant body in school history— receiving more than 70 applications for the Class of 2020. As our applicants prepare for the rigor of Exploration Days, I was reminded during an alumni gathering this January of what it means to be a MarinSEL student. When the Class of 2015 returned to the halls of Terra Linda High School, I was humbled to listen in on their reflections and words of wisdom for their MarinSEL peers. Not only were these graduates successfully building community in new cities and schools, navigating new environments, taking action, speaking up and pursuing passions and interests – they were connecting their growth back to MarinSEL experiences and realizing their power as individuals and leaders. Furthermore, they were imparting advice to younger generations that would make any teacher or parent beam. As our alumni body grows, I am excited to further the role our graduates (not to mention, amazing human beings) can play in the lives of our younger students and to begin a longitudinal study to better understand and track the impacts of this program.  

Reflection is an important step in everything we do at MarinSEL, and half-way through the school year I am grateful to take time and reflect in all that we do and to thank the many parents, teachers, administrators, volunteers and partners that make this program so meaningful.







Please connect with us online at our website, on Facebook and on Twitter.


Upcoming Events

Exploration Days: January 30th, 31st
Exploration Days, held on January 30th and 31st, are a critical part of the MarinSEL admissions process.  All prospective students that submit applications to MarinSEL are invited to come to one of these two days at Terra Linda High School. During Exploration Days, potential MarinSEL students are evaluated through an interview, essay, group activity, and case study. 
• Business Leaders Mixer: Thursday, March 31st 4:30 – 7:00 PM @EDG Offices, Hangar 7, Hamilton Landing, Novato, CA
Come celebrate and support the Marin School of Environmental Leadership at its annual business leaders gathering with keynote speaker, Michael Kobori, VP of Sustainability at Levi Strauss & Co. Hear firsthand what MarinSEL students have accomplished, and what’s in store next. Connect with fellow business leaders in the community and join us for thoughtful and engaging dialogue on sustainability issues.  For more information on the event and to purchase tickets and/or sponsorships, please visit our website at

• Family Welcome Picnic: Sunday, April 10th  11:30 AM – 3:00 PM @ Terra Linda Community Center & Pool

Don’t miss this MarinSEL family gathering! Additional details coming soon. 

• Green Fling: Friday, April 29th 6:00 PM @ the Marinwood Community Center
Join us in supporting the Marin School of Environmental Leadership at our annual Green Fling Gala and Silent Auction. Our theme this year is Seaside Soiree! This is  
an evening to celebrate our school with fantastic food and drinks, music, dancing, games, and auction prizes. New and current parents will not want to miss this night! Purchase your early-bird tickets here.

Let the LEADs Begin!

By: Noel E. Olson
Two much-anticipated events took place the morning of December 11, 2015. The wee hours ushered in a long-awaited and fabulous rainstorm, which cleared at dawn for the early-rising MarinSEL freshmen arriving on campus. They looked sharp and seemed eager to present their Freshman LEAD Projects.  Dazzled by my kid’s ability to 
attend a zero period class every day, but somewhat dazed by the hour I had to be there, we attendees filed into the TL Performing Arts Center to hear what the kids had to say. Five groups tackled five projects: Zero Waste through Administrative Change, The Garden Group, The Floating Island Group, Zero Waste Through Behavior Change and The China Camp Group.
Seminar/Biology teacher Sara Frack introduced the event by giving us a nuts and bolts overview of how the semester-long projects evolved. The students chose several favorite topics from a list of projects, and groups of six students were created according to these choices. The students then wrote research papers, presented proposals with goals, and began working as a group on their assigned projects. Ms. Frack then passed the microphone to MarinSEL Director, Cyane Dandridge, who welcomed us warmly and said, “One of the things I love is watching the students- especially the ninth graders -dive in. Real-world issues cropped up, and it was amazing to see everyone work through.”  We applauded, and the first slide of a Powerpoint flashed onscreen while six confident freshmen assembled on stage.
The first intrepid presenter was the Zero Waste Administrative Group. Miranda Craig, Cameron Evans, Myla Gupta, Jillian Hickey, Joseph Huang and Hayden Nuyens worked with community partner Zero Waste Marin to fix policies at TL that improve the flow of recyclables and minimize waste. David Kessel was the parent volunteer. They updated bin colors, posted educational signs and identified best placement. They also eliminated hallway trash cans used as doorstops by purchasing actual doorstops for classrooms. The group took Q & A, then dropped a spectacular rap, the gist of it being: “Recycling, thought it was lame – we had to step up our game! Let the green begin!”
Owen Bartolf, Jackson Darby, Noelle Habashi, John (Jack) Irish, Ben Kanter and Ally Teper took the stage next as the Garden Group. Jonathan Kaufman of Global Student Embassy was their community partner, and Emma Blatcher was the parent volunteer. In addition to growing, harvesting and selling their crops at Marinwood Farmers Market, these busy kids completed the unfinished chicken coop! They also designed and developed technology to monitor soil moisture levels to control evaporation and over-watering. They proved that analog composting does coexist happily with digital gardening. They also presented a “stretch goal” re-design of the garden, which included a new teaching/gathering space. The presentation closed with a beautifully illustrated and thoughtfully written garden story projected across the giant screen. 
Probably the most public project, and certainly the one with the best press was the Floating Island Group. Elly Blatcher, Evan Gabbard, Max Manwaring-Mueller, Cole Parker, Ben Wagner and Sophie Yoakum partnered with The Gallinas Creek Watershed Council to try and remediate the Civic CenterLagoon’s water. Cesar Leglava was the parent volunteer. Their restoration project goal was to install temporary floating islands of growing plants designedto naturally filter and improve water quality. They researched structural engineering, and filed for an extension of time with Marin County to keep the islands floating as long as possible. They took their data and presented to three local middle schools, and I imagine those kids were as shocked as I to hear that 50% of that water is pollution. The group has not been able to measure improvement yet, but would like to see more islands installed in the future. A quick backstage clothing change happened next, and the now-costumed troupe performed their humorous yet hopeful skit.
Claire Barbiero, Erin McDaniel, Julian Olson, Ana Ostrovsky, Liza Panfilova, and Mica Smith rounded out the Zero Waste Through Behavior Change Group.  Marin Sanitary was their community partner, and the goal of this group was to increase recycling and reduce trash at TLHS by changing the habits of the community. Rachel Pound was the parent volunteer. They accomplished this by enticing kids to play a sorting game that offered prizes. The hope was that the game would encourage and reinforce more students to recycle. They also created a social media campaign entitled @learn2sortitright as a call to action. After three waste audits and playing the game with many students, the group was gratified by a marked increase in recycling.  The group closed the presentation by showing a documentary-style movie they filmed about what kids at TL are thinking/doing about climate change, recycling, and their environmental future. 
The China Camp Outdoor Education Group gave the final presentation. Ava Abeck, Gia Asher-Lagleva, Luke Berkley, Gracen Evans DeRaffele, Charles Smith and Sawyer Taylor had the task of helping to ensure the future preservation of China Camp State Park. Alice Ostrovsky was the parent volunteer. To do this, they wrote, illustrated and produced a 40-page children’s book entitled FINDING HOME about the diverse wildlife and natural environment there. The group published 75 copies, and two lucky second grade classes in San Rafael listened to a presentation of FINDING HOME. Every child received their own book and an invitation to visit the park for free. Community partner Friends of China Camp was instrumental in funding this project, and helping to streamline the China Camp State Park approval process. Lastly, this super-creative group recited a poem they wrote, and I thought this line was especially salient for all:   “Now that our picture book is finally done, I realize that it was a lot of fun!”

Sophomores Lead Presentation

By: Andrea Taylor
The 10th Grade LEAD Presentations in December 2015 took on a list of environmental issues that concern our planet right now. There were 5 groups tackling issues that we see and recognize as problems, and others we did not even know were a problem.  The five projects were Plastic Use in Restaurants, Microbeads in Beauty and Body Care Products, Transportation Issues, LED Demonstration Room at Marin Clean Energy and A Native Garden at TL. 
The presentations are given in three parts. The first is meant to be informative, the second, reflective of their experience, and the third, a creative expression of their project and process.  It is always informative to go to these presentations, but it is especially fun to experience the creative aspect of the LEAD projects. This year was no exception, with one group creating a Haiku Deck, others putting on a skit, and most impressively of all- one group creating a film which had the students lip-sync to Adele’s music. That was truly hilarious! There is no end to the creative possibilities, and it is great to see the students explore them all.
The first group tackled the issue of plastic containers for take-out in restaurants. Students Aimee de Blauuw, James La Rue, Lizzi McEligot, Mady McKim, Georgina 
Norman and Ben Pearson reflected that the plastic pollution in the world needs to be decreased, but that compostable, so-called bio-plastic, is not a good solution as it 
requires a special facility to compost it, and there are no facilities around here that can do that. Compostable plastic is, as a result, the new plastic, creating as much garbage as the old. They brought their concerns to local restaurants, including Chipotle and Starbucks, and developed a few ideas for these restaurants to use to address the problem of take-out containers. The best idea I heard was for Starbucks to offer a Bring-Your-Own-Mug discount card.
The next group presented on the problem of microbeads. Students Chris Barajas, Morgan Denker, Jasmine Inouye, Jacob Meshel, Michaela O’Brien and Nicole Reznik 
took a look at the presence of microbeads, tiny particles of plastic, that have begun to show up in beauty products primarily as an exfoliant. The microbeads do not dissolve and are washed down the drain and into our water systems. Some water treatments systems are able to capture and filter out these microbeads, but if they end up in the ocean the fish feed on them thinking they are eggs, and they die, unable to digest this plastic.  We also are eating these plastic bits in our fish. This was new information for much of the audience, and it is clear that the students were surprised by what they learned about these popular beauty projects. In response to this huge corporate issue, the group decided to design and produce their own facial products to sell to the TL students as part of their information campaign. 
The third group continued with a LEAD project of last year, examining the issues of offering public transportation to TL students. Individual car use is the primary emitter of GHG in Marin. They held three green transportation events and created a carpool map for the students of TL to refer to. The students Mina Anderson, Varian Bartolini, Michael Kessel, Nathan Roll and Katie Serna tried to encourage and urge the TL students to use the public bus that had been designated for their area and drop off in order to keep the line active.
The fourth group was the LED Demonstration group, which worked on creating an educational display for the public to show the benefits of using LED lights. The display is at the MCE building on Tamalpais Avenue in downtown San Rafael.  This was a partnership with MCE and the students Ben Blum, Maya Carter, Lien Harper and Esther Mondesir created take home fliers and a video on LEDS as well.
The fifth group continued a project in the TL courtyard that was begun by the Freshman LEAD group last year. Their goal was to establish a native garden in the front of the 300’s classroom, but due to the lack of a timely response on the part of the District offices, granting permission to garden in one area, the students had to design and install the native garden in the TL courtyard. The students Rene Rodriguez, Natasha Saccardi, Paloma Siegel, Devon Stapleton and Patrick Swallow were able to win a donation from SLOATS for plants and materials that will help the subsequent students continue developing this garden. 
The LEAD projects are an exemplary process for the students to go through to understand how it is to work with each other and with the larger community on issues 
that affect us all. Bravo!

Junior Sustainable Business Plans Advance

Congratulations to our junior class on completing the first round of their sustainable business project! These creative businesses aim to hit the triple bottom line: social, 
environmental and financial. We’re thrilled to announce the selected businesses that will move into implementation this spring semester:  
LAX Panda by Nich Barrolaza 
Business Type: Lacrosse sticks made from reclaimed bamboo flooring 
Green Jean by Gaby Elias 
Business Type: Backpacks and pencil pouches made from reclaimed blue jeans
Redone Denim by Morgan McDaniel 
Business Type: Shopping bags made from reclaimed blue jeans 
HydroJar by Eileen Powers 
Business Type: Portable aquaponics system 
Bounce Back by Everson Smith 
Business Type: Used tennis balls reclaimed into mini- terrariums 
Kidz2Kidz by Samantha Stilson
Business Type: Recycles old dolls and action figure toys to make new, diverse toys for children with jeans and other reused materials


Ani’s Alumni Corner

Life after high school perspective from 2015 alumna, Ani Pirinjian:
Hello everyone and welcome to Ani’s Corner, 2016 edition. Lately, I’ve been feeling the absence of my MSEL family in college, so I decided it’s time to get involved. The topic I want to explore for my second blog entry is creating a college family. At the start of the new quarter, I got an invitation to join the National Society of 
Leadership and Success, sounds fancy, right? Anyway, we have networking teams that meet weekly to talk about our individual goals. My group is very diverse and our first meeting went really well; despite the two instances where everyone was timid — I used my MSEL super power and started a conversation that ended up lasting for an hour.
The next step I took toward integration was joining a club that cares for horses. We had orientation this past weekend where I met the group that I will be working with and learned the basics for my horse, her name is Pacifier. You may already know this about me, but, when I’m older, I want to live on a farm; so not only am I getting to know my peers, this is also my first step toward future “farmhood”. 
Finally, one of my friends convinced me to join rugby. It’s a club, but they play against other colleges. Today was my first practice and it was a bit overwhelming to start, but everyone was super friendly. I will definitely be back next week.
Now I know that a lot of people choose to get involved in Greek Life, as it is an excellent way to network. Personally, I chose to wait until my second year before thinking about a sorority, but I often consider rushing.
It is important for me to mention that while I am ecstatic to be here, I still have moments of homesickness and times where I doubt myself; but that’s totally normal.
So, kids (I call you kids now that I’m basically as old as Mr. Madsen) here comes more of my infamous unsolicited advice. Give yourself time to adjust to your school and just as you feel like you’ve finally established your new comfort zone, get out of it and start to create a bigger one.

Why Organic Clothing Fibers are More Green

Article courtesy of our friends at
Transitioning to a more eco-friendly lifestyle goes deeper than adopting effective recycling habits and investing in an economically sound vehicle, even though these are 
important steps to make. Believe it or not, what you wear can make a huge impact on your overall carbon footprint. Most of the clothing sold in the United States is made overseas, where the use of toxic chemicals and dyes tends to be commonplace.
Not to mention, all the pesticides that are used to grow non-organic cotton put a huge environmental stress on the planet. Just one conventional T-shirt requires the use of almost an entire pound of harmful chemicals for production from beginning to end. In the following list, Modernize offers additional insight into why organic fibers are a more eco-friendly choice than conventional options:
It’s a Fair Practice
Because a majority of conventional clothing on the United States market is produced in countries where labor and human rights laws are poor, low pay and unsafe working conditions are a reality for people who work in the factories that produce such clothing. On the other hand, organic clothing is typically produced under fair-trade practices, which ensures that workers are paid fairly and aren’t exposed to dangerous toxins or other workplace hazards.
It Shows Compassion for Animals
Organic fibers lessen the burden on animals that rely on natural resources to survive, and they don’t require the use of animal skin or other animal-made resources for 
production. The more organic fibers become popular as a clothing option, the less materials such as silk and leather are used, which is a win-win for the animals, the earth and, therefore, the people. 
You Can Breathe Easier
Pesticides used in conventional cotton growth are usually sprayed from the air, which results in the toxins being spread into communities where children and adults alike rely on clean air for optimal health. Those same toxins are absorbed by plants, taken in by animals, and leaked into water systems far and wide. Those working in the cotton fields often succumb to lung diseases and other health problems. Buying organic helps eliminate these problems so that everyone in the world can breathe easier.
Take Advantage of Easy Maintenance
Organic fibers such as cotton, bamboo, polyester, and hemp are typically easy to take care of, with many of them offering a wash-and-go quality that makes maintenance not worth a second thought. These fabrics also happen to hold up well to wear and tear, offering a long shelf life that tends to beat out conventional counterparts. This means that buying organic can save you time and money in the long run. 
You are sure to love the look, feel, and performance of your closet full of organic clothing—friends and loved ones will appreciate that new organic cotton hoodie or hemp purse you get them for their birthdays, too!