BY CHRIS BORRIS
Science teacher Tashanda Giles-Jones infuses her lessons with down-to-earth environmental projects.
A river runs through Tashanda Giles-Jones’s school. “I teach students that we sit in an intricate part of the watershed. The debris that enters our storm drains has a short journey to the ocean.” She also takes her kids on “trash walks” around their neighborhood, Inglewood, in South Los Angeles, and she hosted Jane Goodall after winning an eco-grant. “When kids understand the impact they have on the environment, they become the best advocates for eliminating the causes of pollution.”
School: Green Ambassadors science teacher, grades 6–8, Environmental Charter Middle School–Inglewood, California
Career Path: After working in the health care field for 18 years, Giles-Jones went back to college to study political science and environmentalism; before finding her way to ECMS–I, she interned at Food and Water Watch and the Garden School Foundation. She is completing her master’s this fall and will apply for a doctorate in education with a focus on environmental literacy.
Teaching Philosophy: “I use nature to focus the objective for every lesson, and I hardly ever teach the same assignment the same way.”
Quote: “My students write, act, and engineer, becoming presenters and policy writers.”
California’s watersheds: “I teach sixth graders about the water cycle and California’s watersheds along with a history lesson on the Nile River. Students carve out channels and build lakes and riverways in raised garden beds to create tributaries to the Nile, directing the flow so it doesn’t flood homes and farmland. To construct their farms, houses, animals, and people, they forage materials from our gardens. I simulate various weather patterns to test their engineering skills. Students must complete an infographic that explains how Earth’s natural water system operates and present it to the class.”
Google Classroom: “Each student has a laptop, which lets us use Google Classroom to do lessons digitally. This helps us limit printing.”
Quizlet: “It has great tracking and assessment capabilities. And Quizlet Live, where students compete in teams to define vocabulary words, is fun and competitive!”
California Education and the Environment Initiative (EEI): “A great source for workbooks and teaching standards.”
What does it mean to be a Green Ambassadors teacher?
“I take on broad environmental concepts and grind them down to digestible, relevant, and interactive lessons.”