The recent convergence of multiple societal crises has highlighted stark inequities in our institutions. Social impact and equity are no longer on the sidelines of public discourse. This October, the CAELI District Innovation Hub saw the culmination and success of months of efforts from one of their working groups at the Green California Schools and Community Colleges Summit and Exposition. As demonstrated in the work we highlight from this conference below, although the outcome is deeply uncertain, there is cause for hope.
At the conference, members of this working group came together to celebrate their accomplishments, build community among CAELI Leadership Council members, recruit members for the District Innovation Hub, and learn best practices from leading-edge exemplars in environmental education from across the state.
The working group organized 12 workshop sessions at the conference featuring CAELI Leadership Council members. Each session focused on different aspects of how to cultivate equity in public schools by transforming school infrastructure to support greener facilities that lend themselves to environmental literacy and racial equity.
“The Green California Schools and Community Colleges Summit was a great success in bringing together district leaders from across the state to share best environmental literacy practices in a collaborative forum,” says District Innovation Hub Co-Chair Tim Baird. “This was the CAELI District Innovation Hub’s first opportunity to meet in person since the pandemic started. This networking opportunity served to share CAELI’s work on a broader scale and to bring new members into our CAELI community.”
As many districts serve low-income communities and students of color, session speakers shared how greening campuses help create more equitable access to food and education while improving students’ and faculty physical and mental health.
Watch this year’s keynote and education sessions, and visit the CAELI Innovation Hubs webpage to learn more about how you can get involved with our innovation hubs! From deploying electric school bus fleets to saving $850,000 in energy costs, below are just a few of the examples of CAELI-member impacts realized through equity-driven approaches:
Sustainability is Within Reach: Shifting School Transportation Toward a Green Future
Modesto City Schools partnered with Zum Services, Inc. to bring electric buses into their transit system to improve the health of students and their communities. Less noise and air pollution from school buses mean increased well-being for students and faculty. This partnership brings cutting-edge initiatives to students who frequently don’t have access and more equitable solutions to schools that need them. Featuring Gilbert Blue Feather Rosas, director II, sustainability and adaptation, Modesto City Schools, and Pallav Prakash, EV program manager, Zum Services, Inc.
Reconstructing Schools For Environmental Learning Equity
Collaborations between districts and schools have brought more sustainable ways to repurpose K–12 campus grounds to divert organic waste, increase recycling, and reduce electricity and water usage. Education services and businesses are working together to build student learning experiences and teach students and faculty how to support campus initiatives. Featuring Juanita Chan-Roden, agent: science and career programs, education services, Rialto USD; Brian Montez, supervisor, grounds and maintenance, business services, Rialto USD; Fausat Rahman-Davies, agent: Nutrition Services, Business Services, Rialto USD.
Leading Sustainability Initiatives For School And District Improvement
Cabrillo Unified School District worked with schools, the county office of education, and community–based organizations over the last three years to strengthen environmental education and achieve district sustainability goals, including building gardens on campuses, bringing field trips in agricultural science to students, creating green career awareness, and developing a sustainability dashboard. Featuring Sean McPhetridge, superintendent, Cabrillo Unified School District; Doron Markus, career technical education and science coordinator, San Mateo COE; Andra Yeghoian, chief innovation officer, Ten Strands.
Advancing State Policy to Support Climate-Ready School Infrastructure
This fall, Ten Strands will be working with Stanford University, UC Berkeley, and others to release a new report, Advancing Climate Resilience and Sustainability in California’s Schools: A policy roadmap to improve health and reduce environmental impacts in K–12 public education. Federal and state policies significantly impact the contexts in which county and district leaders pursue equitable access to healthy, sustainable, decarbonized, resilient school infrastructure. The presenters spoke about current federal and state policy on environmental and climate education and opportunities to access support and participate in advocacy to shape policy. Featuring Dr. Lisa Patel, clinical assistant professor of pediatrics, Stanford School of Medicine; Jeff Vincent, Ph.D., director at the Center for Cities + Schools, University of California, Berkeley; Jonathan Klein, co-founder, UndauntedK12.
Saving Money While Integrating Climate Action And Work-Based Learning
Schools play an often-overlooked role in addressing climate change. In an innovative partnership between Porterville Unified School District and the nonprofit Climate Action Pathway for Schools, paid student interns are developing projects that have reduced the district’s energy costs by $850,000 and greenhouse gas emissions by 24%. Together the partners have raised over $6.8 million for related facility upgrades through state and federal grants. This session taught districts how to save money, seek facility funding, and provide students with high-quality college and career programs. Featuring Jenn Garvin, energy and sustainability program manager, Porterville Unified/Climate Action Pathways for Schools; Kirk Anne Taylor, executive director, Climate Action Pathways for Schools.
As CAELI continues to grow, we hope to increase our capacity to empower educators and administrators with the tools and knowledge needed to cultivate green campuses and support environmental education. Don’t miss out on opportunities and resources for your community by watching this year’s keynote and education sessions and visiting the CAELI Innovation Hubs webpage to learn more about how you can get involved!
Other CAELI Sessions to Check Out:
- Leading Green Achiever District
- How Chief Business Officers, Students Leaders, and Community Based Partners Are Key to Advancing Sustainable and Climate Ready Schools Practices
- Accelerated Infrastructure Deployment & Student Involvement
- Leadership for Green Schools
- Green Schoolyards and the California Schoolyard System (launch webinar)
- The Fourth Pillar: A Whole Systems Approach to Implementing Lasting Environmental Stewardship in Schools and School Districts