Director’s Message

Dear MarinSEL Parents,

“There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth: not going all the way, and not starting.” -Buddha

Spring is a time of change and renewal and this season was no exception for the School of Environmental Leadership. This February, we ushered in an unbelievably talented class of incoming students to the school. As the Executive Director of MarinSEL and again as a parent in the program (my youngest will start this Fall), I am very excited for what’s ahead.  In April, we welcomed a new Lead Teacher, Randy Baker, who is a phenomenal educator.  Randy has been teaching at Terra Linda for 14 years and brings an impressive breadth of instructional experience, extensive media and broadcasting savvy, and a deep love of nature to complement our program. This May, we also launched a new fundraising Generosity campaign, “We Have an Idea”, which we hope will help us fund student projects and the training and resources to bring more environmental equity concepts to our teachers and students.

As with any new beginnings, we’ll also soon be saying ‘goodbye’ to a few very dear parts of our school. Our former Lead Teacher, Jesse Madsen, will be accepting a new position as the Senior Pathways Coach for the Marin County Office of Education (MCOE). I am ecstatic to see Jesse continue building incredible opportunities for the students of Marin and look forward to the knowledge, resources, and inspiration he’ll bring back to MarinSEL through this new position. My eldest son Taren will be graduating with the MarinSEL Class of 2016 today, all of whom I have had the privilege of watching transform into even more exceptional people and leaders over these past four years. I am so incredibly proud of all of them!

I hope that as new projects, plans, challenges, and opportunities enter your life, that you too will embrace change. Our future, and that of our students, alumni, parents, and staff, is very bright with much to anticipate ahead.



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


AnchorSupport MarinSEL

There are exciting ways to support MarinSEL this month! 

  1. You can donate to and share our We Have Ideas! We’re trying to raise $2,000 in two weeks! Generosity campaign with your family, friends, and networks. Our donor prizes include a specially made MarinSEL bumper sticker, artistically penned and personalized thank you cards, and the top secret MarinSEL pizza dough recipe. Visit the link above and share using #WeHaveIdeas #MarinSEL. All funds will support innovative curriculum development, teacher training, and project implementation support.
  2. Take one minute to click and vote on our video in the TechSoup Storymakers 2016 contest. The prize is $5,000 and voting ends June 15th!
  3. Sign up to help out! Our Volunteer Spot page has many opportunities to lend a hand, including writing, editing, and technology roles for these newsletters. Visit and sign up today.
  4. The Environmental Engineering class spent an entire year designing and prototyping playhouses. They are available for purchase and delivery on Craigslist. (Specific links for the Old West Saloon, Surf Shack, Hobbit Dome, and Mural Playhouse) Check out the links, share with your friends, and message with questions and interest.

AnchorUpcoming Events


TLHS Graduation: June 9th 5:30PM – 7:00PM
Terra Linda High School Amphitheater, 320 Nova Albion Way San Rafael, 94903

MarinSEL Parent Potluck: August 9th 6:30  8:00PM
Lucas Valley Community Center, 1201 Idylberry Road, San Rafael CA 94903
MarinSEL Leadership Retreat: August 12th 7:00AM  August 14th 5:00PM
6510 Bohemian Highway, Occidental, CA 95465


AnchorMarinSEL’s Senior Internships Offer Students Real Project Leadership

By: Georgie Craig

MarinSEL is a unique program with its emphasis on environmental leadership. So, it’s no surprise that the internships it offers are as unique as the program itself. Where else can students choose between workplaces as diverse as Bioneers, Marin Clean Energy, San Rafael Airport, and Christ Presbyterian Church, among others? These diverse opportunities to actualize change and receive hands-on learning are what attract students to MarinSEL.

Just ask Julietta Saccardi, one of two MarinSEL students interning at Bioneers. As a Miller Creek Middle School student and intern at the Terra Linda Wind, her neighborhood newspaper, Saccardi went to the Bioneers’ 2010 Annual Conference and reported on the amazing women she saw there. She heard presentations by environmentalist Jane Goodall and women’s activist Gloria Feldt. Now a mere five years later, in her fourth and final year of MarinSEL, Saccardi explores the working world at Bioneers. Sacarrdi is one of 23 interns in 15 organizations as part of MarinSEL’s Senior Internship Program. The other organizations involved range from Agricultural Community Events to City of San Rafael. Saccardi finds the internship experience at Bioneers to be as enriching as the first conference. “Education and inspiration are the most important tools for creating social and environmental justice,” Saccardi said. “Bioneers provides both with its conference and other programs.”

Julietta is also learning how she can implement positive environmental and social change on an international level by learning real project leadership with community partners. “You can learn a lot if you really take advantage of it,” she said. Saccardi finds working at Bioneers to be a wonderful experience. “It’s not a really strict model. They allow you to follow your goals and support you in figuring out how to reach them.”  

For Arty Mangan, Director of the Youth Leadership Program at Bioneers, helping environmentally aware youth fulfill their dreams is a wonderful experience. “I really value the opportunity to work with students who are focused on developing their personal leadership in service of healing the planet,” he said. He was especially impressed by the community mural Julietta and Selena initiated as part of their Bioneers Youth Leadership Program Internship. “Julietta and Selena created an intergenerational mural that was showcased during the Saturday Night Dance Party. They invited Bioneers attendees to co-create the mural and engage in conversations surrounding the effects of drought and wildfires and the role each individual can play to effect positive change. They are now in the process of planning a Bioneers event on campus for Earth Day.”

For Saccardi, the internship is also a way to reengage with the conference she attended 5 years ago. Her experience with co-creating the community mural was uplifting. “It was cool how people flocked to add their creativity to the mural. It was a community experience. That’s how it feels to be at Bioneers,” she added. “I’m part of their community.”

As for a bit of wisdom for the students that will follow in future internships? Saccardi says “First thing is to really put yourself out there. Take advantage of what is in front of you. Go for it. It will be worth it in the long run. Your soul will be replenished.” Now in her final semester at MarinSEL, the intern’s next project is coordinating an Earth Day celebration and Bioneers outreach at Terra Linda High School. “It’s an outreach to the Terra Linda population. Most TL kids have no idea what Bioneers is. We want to change that. People come from all over the country to attend the conference and it’s here in our own backyard.”

She added that it’s important that the larger Terra Linda and Marin County community take advantage of such a special and inspirational event the Bioneers conference offers.

Senior Internship Employers for the 2015/2016 academic year:

Agricultural Community Events
Bioneers Camp H
China Camp State Park
Christ Presbyterian Church
City of San Rafael
Clough Construction
Community Media Center of Marin
Indian Valley Farm
IONS EarthRise
Marin Educational Tall Ship
Marin Clean Energy
San Rafael Airport
Sierra Electric
Strategic Energy Innovations


AnchorJuniors Find Pitching Their Sustainable Business Plans to be Challenging, Rewarding

By: Georgie Craig

At the MarinSEL Business Leaders Mixer on March 31st, Juniors pitched their sustainable business products to our local community. The students found it to be both a challenge and a valuable learning experience.

For Everson Smith, creator of Bounce Back, there were actual sales involved. The product, which transformed used tennis balls into mini-terrariums, were a hit. “The Business Mixer was a great opportunity to get awareness for our business. We were able to take down many people in the community’s e-mail and we plan to notify them when we go to the farmer’s market or if we have any other Bounce Back news. It was also great because we made money, but also filled people’s names for future orders (which we were unable to fill in the moment). It was, finally, great practice for our group to present at future events or farmer’s markets, as we got the chance to talk to powerful business leaders in the community,” Everson said.

“It was a great opportunity for the students to see what’s involved in showcasing your product,” said MarinSEL’s former LEAD teacher, Jesse Madsen. “The mixer provided an educational opportunity that’s real life. That’s hard to replicate in the classroom.”

The students received instant feedback on their ideas as potential clients visited each station. The attendees offered feedback on target market, pricing, and design.  

Madsen professed, “I was so impressed with these students and so were the local business community. I had so many attendees asking me how they could be more involved with MarinSEL. These business leaders were blown away by the professionalism of our students.”

One of the biggest challenges the students faced was communicating easily with the business leaders as attendees flowed past their individual stations. “It was difficult for the kids to communicate their product message quickly and clearly. The venue was loud and the students had to be concise, clear, and loud with their descriptions and sales pitches or their information was lost in the surrounding sound.” Madsen added.

Despite the obstacles, the students saw the value of getting real-time market feedback, research and design ideas for working professionals. “That’s the beauty of the Mixer,” Madsen said. “You have professionals asking them real-world questions, such as: What’s your target market, what’s your pricing, and what’s your supply chain?”

Students also understood the value of that old saying: “Location, location, location.” Madsen added, “At the feedback session after the mixer, many students said that nextyear they would be more thoughtful as to where they set up their presentation. Places with good acoustics may be at a premium.”

Student Products presented at the 2016 Business Leader’s Mixer:

• 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


AnchorWalker Creek Ranch Outdoor Camp Week March 28 – April 1, 2016

By: Andrea Taylor

There was a welcome break in routine for MarinSEL Sophomores when the entire class went to Walker Creek Ranch for the last school week in March. The Sophomores were Cabin Leaders for 5th grade students from our local public elementary schools, Dixie, Mary E. Silveira, and Vallecito and, without a doubt, it was a win-win experience for everyone.

The MarinSEL Sophomores had a large responsibility in managing the 5th graders. They had to enforce camp rules, build teamwork among their cabinmates, and model best practices and behavior for 24 hours a day, including mealtimes, which was an exhausting experience, a few MarinSEL students reported. MarinSEL students found that “there was a difference between being along for the ride and being a leader,” which made a significant in their Walker Creek experience. Time flew. “There was no time to think about anything but your kids,” stated Paloma Siegel, sophomore.  Small conflicts required the leader to be adroit, managing the mood so it remained positive and light while also disciplinary. For some of the MarinSEL students, fresh communication skills emerged as the leaders learned to turn questions back to the students so they could see the answers themselves. For example, questions like “Do I have to carry this trash?” were answered with “Do you think someone else should carry it for you?” This form of dialogue helped both leader and student come to the same conclusion, with the leader finding new ways to solve issues. 


The days were focused on environmental education, occurring in the bucolic rolling hills of West Marin. An all-day hike (3 miles) to Walker Creek was not long, but beautiful when they arrived on the top of Walker Peak and surveyed the land. There was the “Solo Hike” which required the 5th grade students to hike a set trail alone to find clue cards which helped them note and discover elements in nature. No one balked and no one cried.  Another day, they went to the pond, took off their shoes, walked in the mud, found tadpoles, and did the “Polar Bear Plunge” with the top of their heads dunking into the pond. It was fun, relaxing and very playful. They finished the activity by face painting with pigments made from rocks, blue, red, and white. At the end of the day, they ate camp food which was “not bad at all” and even included a vegetarian and a gluten-free option.

Being in nature, away from technology and the confines of their home, was good medicine for students, big and small, and an important chance to be reminded why nature is worth fighting for.


AnchorFreshmen LEAD the Way on the Four C’s with their Innovative Projects

By: Alaina Yoakum

As MarinSEL parents, we hear a lot about the four “C’s” that guide this incredible high school program here at TLHS – but rarely do we get to see these in practice. In April, I had the privilege of watching the ninth graders exemplify collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity in action while they worked on their Leadership and Environmental Action Development (LEAD) projects. To say that I was impressed is an understatement. The focus, ingenuity and commitment they showed was awesome and inspiring. You should all be proud of what your teens are doing! Here’s a taste of what they’re up to:


Students: Ben, Myla, Charles, Evan, Hayden, Liza

Project goal/focus: To maintain and improve the MarinSEL garden, promote local food growing and buying – and introduce four chickens!

Long-term goal: Sustainability

Community Partner: Jon Kaufman, Global Student Embassy

Parent Volunteer: Emma Blatcher 

Is there an educational component?  Our hope is to work with Vallecito Elementary School kids – there are so many of them!” Liza said. “We want to educate them on how to garden and about organic gardening practices.”

What are you most excited about? Charles declared what the entire group was thinking: “To get the chickens!” Myla agreed: “That’s what we’re really looking forward to.”

A word from the parent leader, Emma Blatcher… “Creating a business model of how to take goods to the farmer’s market, doing projections, figuring out plant cycles – it’s a lot of work compared to other projects,” affirmed Emma, the parent leader. “The students have to think ‘what can we grow that will be in season and ready by the time we’re at the next Farmer’s Market?’” Emma also explained how the students are also learning how to talk to the public and explain what MarinSEL is all about.



Students: Sophie, Ben, Max, Owen, Claire, Elly

Project goal/focus: Reduce traffic congestion by promoting alternative transportation options to and from TL.

Long-term goal: Reducing traffic-related hazards and reducing ridership of single-person vehicles by 15%.

Community Partner: Gwen Froh, Safe Routes to School

Parent Volunteer: Brian Anderson

Is there an educational component?  The group is considering doing a pledge drive, a walk audit, and tabling during Earth Day at school.

But one idea stood out – “We’re hosting a morning B&B – a bike and breakfast,” according to Max. “With the B&B, we’re trying to get a whole bike movement started first here and then have it spread throughout the entire community.” The group said they’re working to get business sponsors for B&B, like Mike’s Bikes and Bikes for Kids.

What are you most excited about?  “I’m most excited about seeing traffic reduced – watching it get less and less,” Ben said. “That would be the best reward I got from this project.” What’s Sophie most excited for? “Breakfast!”

A word from the parent leader, Brian Anderson…  “This is the second class I’ve worked with, and I love seeing the freshmen feel more empowered to actually execute change,” Brian said. “They’re really living the four “C’s” – creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and creative thinking. And these are life skills.”



Students: Ally, Luke, Jack, Gracen, Sawyer, Miranda

Project goal/focus: Changing the amount of waste generated by TL. “We’re going to do this by encouraging better sorting habits of waste and by minimizing extra garbage,” Luke said.

Long-term goal: Changing administrative behaviors and processes.

Community Partner: Zoe Pearl, Marin Sanitary

Parent Volunteer: Lian Goo

How are you building on the last group’s work on this LEAD project?  “Last semester, the students on this project worked on getting a recycling system in place,” Miranda said. “Now our goal is to introduce a compost system – at least a basic one. We want to educate people on how to use the system and why.”

What are you most excited about?  “We’re really excited to do something that MarinSEL has never done before – that the school has never done before,” Sawyer said. “I’m really looking forward to seeing how people respond – I hope it’s a positive response!” Miranda said, adding that they also hope to get the cafeteria on board and build a better relationship with them.  

A word from the parent leader, Li Goo…  “I really enjoyed bringing the experience of touring the Marin Sanity Service recycling center back to MarinSEL – and I’m looking forward to creating some visual tools to help promote recycling – like posters and installations, like filling a glass case with a month’s worth of used water bottles,” said Li, a graphic designer in the professional world.



Students: Mica, Joseph, Cameron, Gia, Jillian, Jackson

Project goal/focus: Working with the Marin County Board of Supervisors on affordable housing to successfully gather information, brainstorm solutions, and devise a plan that can help the board overall.

Community Partner: Liz Darby, County of Marin

Parent Volunteer: David Kessel

“Our goal is to provide tangible, good ideas. The Supervisors are trying to bring in students to get some fresh perspectives,” Mica said. “There are a lot of people working on affordable housing already, but we’re going to interview the residents first-hand and base our solutions on our conversations with them.”

Long-term goal: Improve overall sustainability in Marin City and the San Rafael Canal, areas where there is affordable housing.

What are you most excited about?  The students in the group are all really excited to meet the residents. “We’re going to hear a lot of different perspectives,” Mica said, “and I’m sure it will make me appreciate what I have.”



Students: Ava, Cole, Ana, Erin, Julian

Project goal/focus: Spreading awareness about the benefits of native plans, planting in the first plot (prepared by the first LEAD group) and preparing a second plot for planting (for the next LEAD group) by mulching. The plots are located in the front entry of school – so the end goal is also to beautify the front of the school with native plants for everyone to see!

Community Partner: Charlotte Torgovitsky, Marin California Native Plant Society

Parent Volunteer: Jo James

Long-term goal: To have a native plant gardening elective added to the school curriculum.

Is there an educational component?   “On Earth Day, we’re going to have a table and educate students about the value of native plants through games and showcasing the actual plants,” Cole said. The plants will be donated via a grant by Sloat Garden Center.

What are you most excited about?  The group really enjoyed touring a local nature garden to develop the plan for their plot. “Sheet mulching is actually really cool,” Ava said, while Erin noted that she was excited to talk to the kids at Miller Creek Middle School about MarinSEL and the work they’re doing. “Maybe they’ll be the ones that continue our work if they become MarinSEL students some day!”


AnchorAni’s Alumni Corner

Life after high school perspective from 2015 alumna, Ani Pirinjian:

Hello everybody! I’d like to start of this entry with a brief life update. I ended my winter quarter with a solid grade point average and had a blast being back in Marin for spring break. This quarter I am taking some really fun classes, such as Philosophy Through Children’s Literature, and finding more ways to stay involved among the student body.

For this entry, I will talk about a trait that members of the MarinSEL community highly value: resourcefulness. While undergoing the college application process, it is important to be aware of the resources that are readily available to us. I encourage high school students to talk to college students in order to get a full perspective. One event I took part in during my spring break was the TL Alumni Panel. That panel is excellent because it provides insight directly from students that went to Terra Linda.

When I applied to this school, Cal Poly Pomona was not necessarily at the top of my list. However, a friend who graduated from Terra Linda in 2013 and attends this school was immensely helpful in providing information and encouraging me to attend. She even told me which dorm buildings to list as my preferences based on which ones were the newest, cleanest, and closest to the dining hall.

As per usual, this advice comes solely from my personal experience and everybody goes through a different path. I hope you all enjoyed reading this edition of Ani’s Corner and I am eager to find out how the college application process plays out for everyone this year.


AnchorMarinSEL Family Giving Campaign – Final 2015-2016 Update

By: Sheryl Denker, Chair, MarinSEL Family Giving Committee

We are grateful for the incredible financial support from parents, which have allowed the Marin School of Environmental Leadership to grow and offer an innovative program within Terra Linda High School.

MarinSEL receives grants and other outside funding; however, family contributions remain a key component to its financial success. We should hit this year’s monetary goal of $120,000, as many of our families’ payments are still coming in monthly. As important as the monetary goal is, so is the level of parent participation in this year’s campaign.  Our freshman class achieved a record 100% parent participation. Well done! We reached 87% participation for our school overall and look forward to bringing engagement up even higher next year.

Next year our monetary goal will be higher in order to raise additional funds to cover more leadership development and special training for our teachers, as well to support administrative costs.  We hope when you receive our letter for the 2016-2017 school year, you will continue to support of the MarinSEL program and help us to achieve our goals.

Thank you to parents Barbara Kessell, Tina Cheplick, Nubia Barajas and Sheri Matteo for your help on this year’s committee.  And, thank you to all the parents who recognize this dynamic program by contributing financial support to MarinSEL!