On November 7, 2015, Environmental Charter Schools hosted the Green Ambassadors Institute’s (GAI) BIO+DIVERSITY summit, which united more than eighty K-16 educators, community organizations and businesses to explore the intersections of environmental justice and service learning. Participants attended the first of three day-long events, networking in workshops, connecting with other educators and gaining community-based and curriculum-based approaches to engaging students in service learning.
They keynote speaker for the BIO+DIVERSITY Summit was Dr. Laura Pulido, Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity at USC and the author of A People’s Guide to Los Angeles. Speaking to a packed room, Dr. Pulido’s keynote remarks offered GAI participants a common framework for environmental justice work to encourage attending educators and organizations to engage youth in environmental activism in their own communities.
“We really have to push the boundaries about what is politically acceptable in the classroom and in our schools if we are going to address this problem of global climate change.”
-Dr. Laura Pulido
[Video] Listen to Dr. Pulido’s inspiring keynote.
To watch the rest of Dr. Pulido’s keynote, click here. Melissa Morlok of Marlborough School said of the keynote, “It was simultaneously fascinating and disturbing to see how social injustice and environmental racism impacts the communities in which I grew up and live.” Dr. Pulido’s words served to both inspire and compel many attendees to think critically about the value and necessity of engaging their students around issues of environmental justice in their own communities.
“This day helped to inform me of specific cases that I can now share with my students.”
— Melissa Morlok, Educator, Marlborough School
BIO+DIVERSITY also highlighted the important work of local environmental organizations such as Communities for A Better Environment, From Lot to Spot, LA Rooted, Kiss the Ground, TreePeople, City Plants and Enviroscape LA. Community partners joined students and teachers from Environmental Charter Schools in holding breakout workshop sessions, including Youth Organizing for Environmental Justice (Communities for a Better Environment), The People’s Food: A Green Ambassadors Student-Led Sustainable Food Event (ECHS Green Ambassadors Teacher + Students), The Soil Story as a Teaching Tool (Kiss the Ground), and Speaking Out: Engaging English Learners of All Levels to Take a Stand on Biodiversity, presented by Environmental Charter Middle School-Gardena teachers Katie Souther and Ginnia Hargins. This workshop in particular explored the use of biodiversity as a lens to improve English Language Learning by incorporating reading, writing, listening and speaking as an everyday science practice.
[Photo] Ashley Hernandez of Communities for a Better Environment leads a workshop about drilling in Los Angeles.
[Photo] ECHS Green Ambassadors student interns shared about their projects around Waste, Energy, Food and Water
A team of educators who attended from San Diego were so excited by GAI that they were inspired to propose a new “Urban Ambassadors” elective class to their administration upon their return to their home campus. As a team member shared, “Some of the things we would love to work with students on include: climate change, human impact, gardening, environmental racism, social injustices and local needs, homelessness, and most of all we would love for our kids to personally invest in the communities around them.” Cathy Procopio, a teacher and Green Team Advisor at Hughes Middle School in Long Beach, had a very positive experience.
“As a result of Laura Pulido’s keynote address I am inspired to make my kids aware that environmental issues are also issues of justice. I met great people at GAI, too – they were as great as the presentations! And I absolutely loved the ECHS kids — I can’t wait until February!”
–Cathy Procopio, Educator, Hughes Middle School
[Photo] Loyda Ramos shared Generation Earth offerings for K-12 teachers at BIO+DIVERSITY
On February 20, 2016, Green Ambassadors Institute will host hands-on field trips that explore environmental justice work throughout Los Angeles County. With new content and ideas as a resource, attendees are encouraged to apply for mini-grants now offered by GAI to support the implementation of their ideas and plans, which they will showcase with students on April 16, 2016. Attendees are invited to participate on an LA River bike ride with East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, a toxic tour with Communities for a Better Environment, or a watershed work day with LA Rooted.
As the final culmination of this year’s three part event, attendees will gather together to see what educators, students and activists have implemented in communities across Los Angeles as well as participate in a collaborative curriculum “hack-a-thon” that brings schools and community partners together to co-create lessons and field trips that they can implement in their own schools and communities. Ashoka, Sequoyah School and Educators Consortium for Service Learning are collaborating with ECS to host this event.
More information and event sign-ups can be found at www.greenambassadors.org/biodiversity.
For more photos from the BIO+DIVERSITY summit, see our album below.
Check out photos from Saturday's Green Ambassadors Institute! Over 80 educators + community partners from LA + SoCal…
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