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

  • California Teachers Integrate Environmental Literacy into Classrooms with CalRecycle Curriculum

    Kyle McDaniel is an Earth Science teacher at Grant Union High School in Sacramento. He is integrating environmental literacy into his classroom instruction by using the Education and the Environment Initiative (EEI) curriculum as a foundation for his science classes.

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    CalRecycle’s EEI curriculum teaches K-12 science and history-social science through an environmental lens. The EEI curriculum is a model for upcoming science and history-social science textbook adoptions, which are required to integrate environmental principles and concepts.  

    McDaniel appreciates the flexibility of the curriculum. “If I’m looking for a two-week curriculum that is self-contained and student-driven, I look at the available units on the subject I’m teaching,” says McDaniel. EEI curriculum spans kindergarten through 12th grade and includes 6 biology units, 6 earth science units, and 45 history-social science units that incorporate environmental literacy into topics like world history, economics, and American democracy.

    McDaniel looks for ways to teach earth science concepts in light of current events. He is currently teaching an EEI curriculum unit on California’s water, titled Liquid Gold: California’s Water. “Water is an important topic in California right now. Students can learn about the political debate around emergency drought water restrictions staying in place. The California drought is so current and so important in their lives.”

    McDaniel loves the flexibility of the EEI curriculum. “I print the student reader material and instruct students to take notes on the pages.” McDaniel encourages students to keep their student workbook and take it home with them at the end of the unit.  He allows students to use the reader booklets during tests, too, but he requires that students properly cite their sources. “I wanted a closer alignment between finding information, extracting it, and citing it. Students need to be able to learn how to cite their evidence.”

    McDaniel uses the EEI curriculum to take students outside to study their campus environment. Students toured their campus and noted on a map the areas of their school property that had surfaces permeable to water. “I wanted students to analyze how water moves around our campus. After a rainstorm, where does the water flow? Where does pollution end up?” McDaniel also incorporates geometry to help students calculate the surface area of the campus. “There are a lot of topics you can cover with an EEI unit,” says McDaniel. In the coming weeks, students will be using water quality probes to gather water samples from different places in the community to analyze the pH, salinity, and turbidity of water.

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    McDaniel first heard about the Education and Environment Initiative at the California Education Seminar in Sacramento. “I attended a workshop and met another teacher using it. I learned about the different units and how to use it in my classroom. Since then I’ve taught biology and earth science using EEI,” recalls McDaniel.

    If you’d like to learn more about the EEI curriculum please visit CaliforniaEEI.org. Teachers interested in using the curriculum can choose to attend an in-person training or watch a pre-recorded webinar.

    Posted on In the Loop by Christina Files on Mar 16, 2017

  • Lodi Students Learn About California Watersheds with Environmental Science Curriculum

    Three years ago, Kathy Grant, the City of Lodi Watershed Program Coordinator, enlisted the help of CalRecycle’s Office of Education and the Environment (OEE) to organize a free teacher professional development program to equip educators with resources to teach students about water. The event was such a success that the city has continued to offer the program to new teachers each school year.

    The foundational piece of the City of Lodi’s program is the Education and the Environment Initiative (EEI) curriculum, a free K-12 resource from CalRecycle that uses the environment as a context for learning science and history-social science. More than half of the EEI curriculum addresses the topic of water and complements the city’s efforts to incorporate field trips, journalism, and community art into science education.

    This year’s Free Annual EEI Workshop was held in September and drew 21 teachers from the Lodi Unified School District. Teachers trained in past years’ programs returned to share stories about their experience with the curriculum and offer advice to new teachers. This year, Grant also invited representatives from the California Water Education Foundation and the California Department of Parks and Recreation, both of which offer resources that can complement the EEI curriculum. The California Water Education Foundation provides water conservation resources such as the Project WETcurriculum, and the Department of Parks and Recreation’s PORTSprogram offers online, virtual field trip resources for teachers and students.

    If teachers choose to use the EEI curriculum, the watershed program offers a $200 stipend for their classroom. Every year, she sees five to ten teachers start using the curriculum, which represents hundreds of students throughout the city.

    “Every year there’s a new face, which is all I’m personally after,” Grant says. “The teachers who use EEI become involved in the local community. We see students and teachers participating in cleanup events near local watersheds.”

    Grant is especially excited that so many educators use the curriculum as a starting place for field trips. Many teachers have reported that using the EEI curriculum in the classroom is a great way to build their students’ knowledge on a subject before venturing out on field trips. As a result, Lodi Unified teachers are taking their students out of the classrooms and into the mountains, to the Delta, to the Pacific Ocean, to see the Sandhill Cranes, and to study water quality in different watersheds around the region.

    Watershed field trips make a big impact on Lodi students. To memorialize the experience, Grant has been instrumental in coordinating a clay art build by inviting Davis clay artist Donna Billick to help students sculpt a clay mandala depicting the wildlife they saw on a field trip. Students at Heritage Elementary built a clay mural that was ultimately installed at the Lodi Library entrance. 

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    If you would like to host a similar training in your community, please visit the California Education and the Environment website and contact your local environmental education specialist.  

    Grant is pleased that the program has been so successful. At the end of the school year, teachers return to the workshop to present their experiences to the EEI workshop. “That’s probably the best meeting,” says Grant. “Teachers get to talk to and learn from each other.” Grant also oversees a blog dedicated to Lodi teachers using the EEI curriculum to educate students about California’s watersheds. 

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    The EEI curriculum supports Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards, and it works well for integration with curricula for accelerated classes as well as for English language learners and students with special needs. Grant observed one class field trip during which students captured leaves, bugs, and water in a watershed. “It was rewarding to see students struggling with English get excited about looking at bugs under a microscope,” Grant says. Advanced students take field trips a step further and write newspaper articles about their favorite trip or project. Their articles are published in the Mokelumne Current, a section of the Lodi Sentinel Newspaper.  

    “Water is the most important resource we have,” Grant says. “It cuts across cultures. We shouldn’t take it for granted. The younger we can impress this upon kids, the better.”

    If you would like to learn more about the Education and the Environment Initiative curriculum, please visit our website at http://www.californiaeei.org/. The curriculum features both science and history-social science, and free face-to-face and online trainings make it easy for teachers to start utilizing the curriculum right away.  

     

    Posted on In the Loop by Christina Files on Feb 27, 2017

  • Environmental Justice: Theory and Practice

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    CalRecycle’s Education and the Environmental Initiative (EEI) curriculum defines environmental justice as “respecting and valuing every individual and community by conducting public health and environmental protection programs and policies in a way that promotes equity and fair treatment for all, regardless of race, age, culture, income, or geographic location.”

    In California, environmental justice issues are prevalent in rural and in urban communities. The state’s CalEnviroScreen tool helps decision makers, community leaders, and educators explore these issues in California. The tool maps multiple sources of pollution and pairs that information with population data to create a score that reflects environmental and public health issues in a particular area and the vulnerability of the people who live there.

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    As an employee of CalRecycle and a graduate student in Urban Sustainability, I had the unique opportunity to develop an environmental justice project. I approached CalRecycle’s Office of Education and the Environment to seek out a fieldwork experience that proved to have many benefits: It offered me an opportunity to explore something I am passionate about, it satisfied my school credits, and it moved the needle in CalRecycle’s environmental justice efforts.

    This unfolded as a yearlong effort to explore the nexus between environmental justice and CalRecycle’s Education and Environment Initiative (EEI) curriculum. The EEI is a part of a statewide effort to increase environmental literacy among K-12 students by integrating key environmental concepts into the teaching of traditional science and history-social science standards. The curriculum is provided to California teachers free of charge, and various lessons can be used to address environmental justice issues in the classroom. 

    All students, whether or not they are from environmentally impacted communities, can benefit from developing environmental literacy and a foundational understanding of how environmental injustices occur and how they can be addressed and, ideally, prevented in the future. 

    One of the first outcomes of this project was an environmental justice teacher training for educators in Los Angeles. We highlighted an 11th-grade U.S. History-Social Science unit titled “The United States and Mexico: Working Together.” We conducted role-play activities to showcase how students can explore different perspectives of the same issues and empathize with others. An outline of this training can be found here: https://goo.gl/8QrG9u

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    Another exciting outcome of this project was working with a group of students from an environmental justice organization in Los Angeles, Pacoima Beautiful

    This high school club of Pacoima Beautiful, Youth United Towards Environmental Protection (YUTEP), is led by Diego Ortiz and Jazmine Saucedo. Together, we crafted an environmental justice service-learning project that explored environmental justice issues in their community using CalEnviroScreen and the EEI curriculum as tools. The essential question was: How can we combat environmental justice issues within our community in order to keep people safe and healthy?

    YUTEP was trained to use the CalEnviroScreen tool as part of Cal/EPA’s Enforcement Initiative in Pacoima. You can read about the outcome of the initiative here

    Students used CalEnviroScreen to identify, research, and investigate issues such as illegal dumping, lack of green spaces, air pollution from diesel truck emissions, and Superfund sites in their community.

    EEI resources supported participants’ preparation and the reflection. The project culminated with a student-led environmental justice forum as the “action” to share with the community what they had learned and how they can address the issues the explored.

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    The next step is to outline this project in a form that teachers can recreate in the classroom.  A group of teachers in Pacoima is embarking on an interdisciplinary environmental justice project modeled on the project.

    CalRecycle has embarked  on its environmental justice journey under the leadership of Maria Salinas. 

    “At its core, environmental justice is about equity,” Salinas said. “In California, the nation, and the world, low-income people and people of color are most impacted by pollution burdens.  Environmental justice is about improving these conditions for healthier communities.  At CalRecycle, we are continuing genuine efforts to work with disadvantaged communities and respond to their comments and concerns.  Correspondingly, we are making our programs, services, and decision making process more accessible by providing more information to the public and disadvantaged communities and translating materials when needed.  I call EJ ‘the civil rights of the environment.’ After all, the civil rights movement is about equal access to, and opportunities for, basic privileges and rights in America.  There is nothing more basic, important, and deserving than human health and the environment for everyone.”

    This project is about making sure all California students receive equal access to the curriculum.  It is also about educating our youth about environmental justice in order to help combat these injustices within our communities. It has been an honor exploring the intersection between environmental justice and the EEI curriculum, and I look forward to establishing CalRecycle’s role in educating our youth to create and sustain healthy communities. 

    Posted on In the Loop by Angela Vincent on Nov 17, 2016