A New Generation of Inspired Environmentalists

By Laurel Sebastian, Lead Program Manager

Schools are unfortunately closed across the world, but many students in the San Francisco Bay Area are ending the school year with a much stronger environmental ethic! KIDS for the BAY partnered with local elementary schools in September to deliver environmental science education programs. The young scientists built estuary models, conducted experiments on how saltwater and freshwater mix, investigated bay fish and crab species, and took action to make their watersheds healthier through trash clean-ups and Schoolwide Assemblies. Although schools closed in mid-March, due to covid-19 and Shelter-in-Place orders, learning and environmental stewardship has continued for KIDS for the BAY partner teachers and school students. 

KftB staff has continued to work hard to provide special programming for all students. We designed and shared At Home Activities, and provided specialized Distance Learning lessons to complete our programs. KftB Instructors even met with students and teachers online for virtual, interactive Field Trips and Environmental Action Projects. As programs wrap up for the school year, we have heard from partner teachers that the positive impact of our programs on their students has clearly continued. 

Students from Greenleaf Elementary School in Oakland tested the density of salt and fresh water to understand various habitats within the San Francisco Bay estuary.

Students were excited to keep continue to have a positive impact in their local community and watershed. When students at Maya Lin Elementary School in Alameda couldn’t finish their final Watershed Rangers lesson in person, their third grade teachers sent them KIDS for the BAY activities to do at home. Third grade teacher Cynthia Mills proudly shared: 

“Maya Lin teachers all posted your Everyone is an Environmentalist! activities this week for Earth Day. Some students completed (and are continuing to do) the neighborhood trash clean-up activity because they have been out walking more. Several students also made environmental Earth Day posters that they hung in their windows.”

Students Kibwe and Wendy were thrilled to investigate striped bass fish in the classroom, and they better understood the importance of keeping our watershed clean after meeting the animals that live in the bay. 

Fourth grade teacher Caitlin Monson at Greenleaf Elementary School in Oakland noticed a deep shift in environmental literacy in her students throughout the year. After the KftB lessons in our Watershed Action Program, Ms. Monson shared that her students understood the Five Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot and Refuse) and why they are important. She explained:

“Students were able to understand the context for a lot of things they hear daily. For example, when people say to pick up your trash or to bring reusable water bottles, they now have the framework for why these things are being asked of them. They got excited when they brought something reusable to class and used the vocabulary they were introduced to.”

RJ and Megumi of Maya Lin Elementary School were proud to pick up trash around their campus, where their classes found 1,402 pieces of trash!

Fifth grade teacher Ms. Sally at Lorin Eden Elementary School in Hayward was similarly impressed at the change she saw in her students after their first few lessons with KftB Instructor, Laurel Sebastian:

“I have seen a change in awareness. The students can define a watershed and articulate why it is important to keep it healthy. After the lesson about pollution and the SF Bay and picking up trash, they understand and can connect that the trash we see on the ground really goes to the bay.”

At KIDS for the BAY we believe that Everyone is an Environmentalist! We are so inspired by our students who continue to help the environment while they are staying at home, and in their local neighborhoods.