By Dan Kirk
2021, we shall see, continues to be a mantra for the new year, and so our education team will continue to lean into being flexible, meeting the varying needs of different students and teachers in the area. Being flexible is good, but challenging at times, and so we are proud of what we have accomplished during the first half of the pilot virtual school year. Having already implemented our programming to over 200 students (with success and joy), we move forward with that success and joy as momentum.
“In my opinion, what I really like about this program, is that it involves nature and encourages us to go outside more, and care about our ecosystem and environment. My favorite part was when we had to examine a plant that has flowers, for about 10 minutes, because we had a chance to relax our eyes from our tablets/computers and had a chance to enjoy the outdoors.”━6th grader from Olinda Elementary
The momentum brings us to a packed beginning of the new year, with two teacher trainings coming up at the end of this month for our Ocean Acidification and Resilience high school program, which is a brand new teacher-led program funded through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA). Engaging students in discussions about the climate change induced phenomenon that is ocean acidification, is part of a larger conversation about personal and community resilience. Coastal communities, like the Bay Area, are especially vulnerable, and youth and young adults will hopefully feel more connected to the Bay Area through this program, and perhaps be part of the collective fight against climate change.
Indeed, all of our programming looks different this year. A few things that are fresh in our curriculum that span through all of our K-12 programming include: mindfulness, land acknowledgments and nature journaling. These activities, over time, intend to ignite a deeper connection to place, while also serving to fill in some gaps left open by traditional school systems.
“My favorite part was when we went on a virtual field trip.”━5th grader at Downer Elementary
One of my favorite parts about our programming is how much we use relationship building with nature as a tool for knowledge sharing, self-care, community resilience and decolonization. Land stewardship is more than just knowing the land and protecting it, it’s about building a relationship (and not a dysfunctional one) with the environment. This can be challenging, given different levels of access to nature and the screen culture we live in, so the only thing we can do is have that be part of the conversation as well. And while we talk about access and climate change, and pollution, etc, we also get to have fun and play games that help us understand very cool concepts like the water cycle (specifically how it moves through a watershed), or food webs or carbon cycles. Having fun is important, especially in this moment in history and especially while learning. The students we’ve partnered with so far have made the mantra we keep saying feel… a bit lighter.
2021, we shall see.