Next Generation Back in Action!

After summer breaks spent exploring nature, gardening, travelling, relaxing, and spending time with family and friends, the Next Generation staff is back in the office and ready for another inspirational year!  Ellen, Rebecca, Lily, and Denielle (and a new staff member on the way…) are busy planning, developing great new activities, and paving the way to engage thousands of Marin youth in activities to help them learn about and take action for sustainability and conservation.  We are excited to expand our reach into new schools, incorporate more volunteers (contact us if this is you!), and foster community through fun and empowering events.  Keep tabs on what we are up to through our facebook fan page, e-newsletter, or this blog!...

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How Does Your Garden Grow?

This year, Next Generation is excited that we have really stepped up our work with students in the outdoors, especially in school gardens. This is in complete alignment with our strategic plan priorities, and with many our funder’s interests as well! Students at St. Marks, Edna Maguire, Laurel Dell, and soon Davidson Middle School have been having a blast and getting dirty while learning about organic gardening and growing their own food. This has been tied into bigger sustainability concepts including global warming, food and agriculture, pollution, and transportation. This week, second graders at Edna Maguire worked with Rebecca, our program director, to begin building a giant snake with cob, a natural building material made out of clay, sand, straw, and water.  The clay was even from their own schoolyard… talk about sustainable – not to mention fun!...

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When It Rains It Pours – an Abundance of Lessons!

For months now, I (Nora) have been going back and forth with several busy teachers from 4 different schools — Davidson, Miller Creek, Redwood, and San Marin — to try to schedule lessons. For whatever reason, it was taking a lot of effort to get these particular lessons scheduled. Well, yesterday I did three hour-and-a-half lessons at Redwood about civic engagement and activism, and was even more excited to get these other lessons scheduled when I walked into the office today. The interesting thing is that while I didn’t actually take any action today as a result of that excitement to schedule more lessons, requests for lessons from all these teachers started rolling in out of nowhere! A teacher I hadn’t heard from since November emailed me requesting lessons on alternative energy. Another teacher I hadn’t heard back from since early December emailed me requesting our Food for Thought, Deconstructing Advertising, and Economics of Sustainability lessons. A teacher who I’d been emailing back and forth with since October called, and we set up 16 lessons on alternative energy and food issues. And a teacher I had never heard of but who had gotten our flyer contacted me about doing civic engagement lessons for her class! All in the last 24 hours! It can sometimes be frustrating to be taking the actions you know to take, following up, and not seeing the immediate results — in this case, scheduling these lessons. But perhaps something shifted in the world! Maybe it’s the inauguration of our new president, who is highlighting the need for service and environmental sustainability. Either way, as the adage goes, it seems that when it rains, it pours....

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Neil Cummins Elementary School Science Fair

Students, parents, and teachers from the Neil Cummins Elementary School in Corte Madera enjoyed an evening of wacky science experiments including larger than life bubbles, a bike powered smoothie machine, telescopes to observe the night’s sky, toothpick marshmallow structures, static electricity balloons, worm bin compost, and cow eye dissections at the science fair on January 14th. At the fair, Next Generation presented a water conservation and pollution demonstration to empahsize the value of the Earth’s fresh water resources. After adding to the “water pollution soup” and signing a water conservation pledge, the students created the following list of actions to green their lives. “Garden. Don’t litter. Bring a plate for hot lunch. Turn off the lights. Drive cars that suck up carbon dioxide and run on oxygen. Don’t waste water. Turn the heater off when you are not at home. Walk to school. Recycle. Don’t waste paper. Put solar panels on your roof. Take my shower shorter.” Please enjoy their words of wisdom as an inspiration to take action for a more sustainable world in your own daily lifestyle....

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Sustainability and Schools, from Center for Ecoliteracy

Sustainability and Schools The Center for Ecoliteracy has based most of its work in schools. The values, habits, and worldviews of individuals are often set, and hard to change, by the time that people become adults. Society gives schools the responsibility for passing on cultural values. The “hidden curricula” of schools convey the values that are really important to the school, even when they contradict the lessons of the classroom (for instance, a soda machine in the hallway can speak louder than any number of lectures about nutrition). Schools are systems, and they are communities. Schools are themselves important nodes in the web of institutions that constitutes society. Whatever happens in schools will have profound effects on the rest of society. CEL has also identified a number of qualities and practices that characterize schools that are most effective in educating for ecological literacy: Schools as communities The most effective schools are often communities that model the traits of sustainable societies: – They know that children’s ability to learn, and what they learn, are greatly affected by the vibrancy and health of the culture of the school and the quality of the relationships within it – They function as “apprenticeship communities” in which leadership is shared and members of the community see themselves and others as both teachers and learners – They recognize that “the curriculum is anywhere that learning occurs” (whether or not it is intended or directed by educators) Practices of effective schools These effective schools often incorporate one or several of the following practices: – They connect children with the natural world through programs and projects outside the classroom, such as school gardens, habitat restoration, and communicating their experience in nature through painting and poetry – They practice place-based education that teaches students about the people, history, culture, and natural features of their local community and region – They practice environmental project-based learning, involving students in local projects that are meaningful and make real contributions to their communities – They integrate in-class learning with hands-on experiences and with all of the activities (including, e.g., lunch) of the school – They address whole children, recognizing that children’s ability to learn is affected by their health and well-being, and that these are in turn affected by such factors as nutrition, exercise, and the health of the natural environment – They employ the best current understandings of how brains and minds develop and how children learn. They attend to children in all their dimensions, including cognitive, emotional, and aesthetic Transforming education Implementing this kind of education often requires changing educational institutions, relationships, and practices. Because schools are expected to pass on cultural values, they are among the more conservative of...

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Beware of the Litter Lion!

We did another Reduce, Reuse, Recycle assembly today — this time at Dixie School in beautiful Lucas Valley. (The picture to the right is from the same assembly we did at Edna Maguire in case you’re familiar with Dixie!) It was Marijanna’s first time as Ms. Stuff! Nora (having mastered the role of goofball litterbug Ms. Stuff at Olive School last time) had the Environmental Action Club at Davidson at the same time, so it was also our first time doing the RRR Assembly with just three people, but by all reports it went great. That’s really good for us to know so that we can reduce the staff time needed for each assembly — which makes it easier for us to schedule too! — though the assemblies are a fun thing we all enjoy. Yes, that is our handsome (and willing to do anything for the cause) executive director in the Litter Lion costume. You should hear him ROAR if you don’t recycle!!...

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