Listed below are recent posts across all of CalRecyle's blogs.

  • ZZ Ziff Proves Not All Heroes Wear Capes


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    “Every child is born a naturalist. His eyes are, by nature, open to the glories of the stars, the beauty of the flowers, and the mystery of life.” - Ritu Ghatourey

    Thinking back, I have difficulties recalling environmental advocates who catered to children when I was growing up in the ’90s. I vaguely remember Captain Planet, and the Native American man shedding a tear in that 1970s public service announcement about litter and pollution, and Recycle Rex (that “Recycle, Reduce, Reuse” song has been burned into my memory since I first heard it in kindergarten). Maybe the real problem was not the lack of characters, but the lack of characters I could really connect with. I was somehow born knowing the environment mattered, but I needed someone to shepherd me through the beginnings of my environmental journey.

    Like a lot of kids, I often resorted to television to entertain me after my room was clean and my homework was done. I was intrigued by the dynamics of the group of tweens and their bumbling camp counselor on the show Salute Your Shorts. Sure, the title sounds silly, but it’s a reference to a longtime camp tradition of stealing kids’ underpants and running them up a flagpole.

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    Set at Camp Anawanna, the characters embodied various persona (the brain, the bully, the cool kid, etc.), including the tree-hugging, tie-dye-wearing ZZ Ziff.  For me, ZZ was someone I could identify with and admire. She was just a few years older, she was enthusiastic and energetic, she loved animals, and she had a mouth full of metal, which I thought was pretty rad. She donned big globe earrings and cared intensely about our fragile planet.

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    In one episode, while fighting over a prize-winning frog, ZZ sacrifices her pursuit of a trophy to save the frog’s life. And in an even more memorable episode called “The Environmental Party,” ZZ opens the show explaining to the camp counselor that she has found “710 distinct pieces of trash” between her bunk and the main hall. ZZ proceeds to alienate her fellow campers by turning off water and electricity to save resources while they try to blow-dry their hair and take showers, turning their bunk into a sorting station, and rudely blaming everyone for the planet’s poor health.

    In order to win her friends over again, ZZ throws a party to collect recyclables and teach everyone how to treat the environment. They raffle off a can-crushing dance with the most popular girl at camp—and just when everyone is having a blast, ZZ loses the crowd when she premiers a frightening song predicting a bleak environmental future if we don’t clean up our act. The party ends with a food fight, and ZZ laments as she cleans up all the wasted food.

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    The next day she meets with an old friend who provides her with some perspective about winning over the hearts, minds, and wallets of the other campers. ZZ changes her approach and appeals to their sense of capitalism when she informs them that recycling, growing their own food, conserving resources, reusing textiles, and repurposing old tires can earn them money for a trip to the local waterslide. In the end, they learn about environmentalism, earn the money, and end up using the cash to buy a tree. Awwwww!

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    So, why was ZZ able to make an impression on me, even all these years later? I think first and foremost, she was a real person in my age range, not a cartoon or a puppet. I could identify with a strong girl who fought for the planet. She was flawed in that she naively assumed everyone else shared her goals, and that leveraging guilt was an effective way to persuade people to become conservationists.  But she found a way to be a leader and rally everyone around her by using their interests to accomplish her mission—one that benefited everyone in the long run. She didn’t focus narrowly on recycling but rather the overall idea of sustainability. She demonstrated this when she spoke about upcycling old textiles, composting to nourish the soil, conserving water and energy, and the dangers of Styrofoam, tire waste, and oil spills. 

    ZZ Ziff proves that not all heroes wear capes. Some wear globe shaped earrings and tie-dyed shirts.

    Posted on In the Loop by TC Clark on Sep 27, 2017

  • Back to School, So Cool!

    It’s the beginning of a new school year–see what these elementary school students learned about plastic pollution and what they decided to do about it! For tips on teaching kids about the environment, see CalRecycle’s Education and the Environment Initiative website.

     
    Posted on In the Loop by CalRecycle Staff on Sep 11, 2017

  • Nonprofit Group Works with CalRecycle to Promote Environmental Literacy

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    CalRecycle’s Education and the Environment Initiative offers California K-12 teachers a free science and history-social science curriculum that uses the environment as a context for learning. Teachers throughout the state have incorporated the EEI curriculum into their classrooms and harvested content to enrich their science classes and field trips. Behind the scenes, this work is supported by a long-running partnership with Ten Strands, a nonprofit organization that promotes environmental literacy statewide.

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    Over the past two years, Ten Strands worked with CalRecycle and the State Education and Environment Roundtable (SEER) to have the State Board of Education require textbook publishers to integrate a set of Environmental Principles and Concepts (EP&Cs) into future science and history-social science textbooks.  This will ensure that all students will explore how humans rely on and influence the natural world as part of their K-12 education. 

    Ten Strands is also involved in a project with the California Department of Education to implement Superintendent Tom Torlakson’s Blueprint for Environmental Literacy. Will Parish, the founder and president of Ten Strands, is the co-chair of a 30-person steering committee charged with this work, and Karen Cowe, Ten Strands’ CEO, is the project director. The blueprint will enable California to fully integrate the Environmental Principles and Concepts into K-12 instruction. 

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    The Blueprint offers a plan to implement the EP&Cs and other environmental literacy strategies throughout the state, and Ten Strands is committed to seeing this plan implemented. Funded by a $3.1 million grant from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and ongoing support from the Pisces Foundation and the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation, the steering committee is working to strengthen existing education initiatives as well as build relationships between schools and science-based organizations. 

    Teacher training becomes an important step in seeing the EP&Cs taught in classrooms. Some teachers, especially those new to education, may feel daunted by teaching environmental literacy, including more science, so Ten Strands is working to gather together teachers, training providers, and non-formal science organizations like museums, aquariums, and university research centers. 

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    “There are 6.2 million kids in California public schools, who attend 10,000 schools in about 1,000 districts,” Ten Strands CEO Karen Cowe said. “We have identified school districts as the unit of change in the system because of the way schools are funded and because of the state government’s focus on local control.”

    “In the short term, we are working with schools in different areas to model the ideas we want to see statewide,” Cowe said. 

    One group is focused on building relationships with school district leaders to better understand what they need and are responsible for in terms of curriculum and teacher training. The group has created a tool to help administrators and educators think through district-wide science curriculum implementation that includes environmental literacy. “When a district is writing their local plans for the next three years, we can help them with a tool kit that supports how to incorporate environmental literacy into their plan in a seamless and integrated way,” Cowe said.

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    Ten Strands also collaborates with science and education organizations to support teachers and students throughout California. Among their key partnerships are UC Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of ScienceChangeScale of the San Francisco and Monterey Bay areas, TreePeople of Los Angeles, and the California Regional Environmental Education Community (CREEC).

    “We don’t want to only see certain kids in certain places understand the Environmental Principles and Concepts,” Cowe said. “We want to see environmental literacy flourish in every classroom across the state.”

    Posted on In the Loop by Christina Files on Jul 10, 2017