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A Great Success - 1st Annual Educators' Conference

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This has been an exciting year for environmental literacy education in San Francisco schools. On Saturday, May 4, over 100 educators gathered at James Lick Middle School to learn more about providing environmental literacy opportunities for students. This year’s event was the first annual conference devoted to supporting environmental literacy in the San Francisco schools. The conference was hosted by Sarah Delaney, the School Francisco Unified School District Eco-literacy Content Specialist. Delaney was hired in August 2012 to help facilitate environmental literacy education across all grade levels in San Francisco schools.

The conference kicked off with a keynote speech from Lisa Bennett of Berkeley’s Center for Ecoliteracy and co-author of a recent book entitled Ecoliterate: How Educators Are Cultivating Emotional, Social, and Ecological Intelligence. Then a performance of a nature-inspired opera written and performed at West Portal Elementary School was shown. The opera performance was a part of the San Francisco Opera’s ARIA Programs, in which a teaching artist works with educators to provide standards-based arts education in the schools.

Following the performances, conference participants were able to choose from a wide array of workshops hosted by many different agencies and organizations. Teachers of all grade levels were ensured interesting and applicable learning opportunities. For example, presenters from Tule Elk Park Early Education School taught participants about using bugs in their lessons: how to find the bugs, handle them, and provide a proper habitat. Presenters from Strategic Energy Innovations (SEI) taught participants how to conduct a school energy audit with middle and high school students. Elementary school educators learned about teaching watershed curriculum, both indoors and outdoors, in a workshop hosted by Aquarium of the Bay.

Participants were then treated to a delicious, healthy lunch served by Revolution Foods, an Oakland-based company who is the school district’s new lunch provider. During the lunch break, organizations hosted booths in which educators gleaned additional information about environmental literacy resources and field trip opportunities. The organizations represented included Bay Area Wilderness Training, Education Outside, Marine Science Institute, NatureBridge, San Francisco Department of the Environment, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, the California Academy of Sciences, and many others.

After the lunch break, participants selected an afternoon workshop to attend, again amidst a wide diversity of topics. For example, presenters from the Exploratorium gave participants ideas on teaching students about plastic. Conference participants learned about inquiry-based nature learning in a workshop hosted by Las Americas Early Education School.

Several hours after arriving at the conference, participants left the building equipped with fantastic resources, curriculum ideas, and new contacts. The informal educators who presented and the conference participants who attended on their day off from work all put forth a tremendous enthusiasm for the topics. The conference highlighted the strong commitment that many educators have in enhancing environmental literacy amongst school children in our city. SFUSD hopes to continue to inspire and support educators across the city to provide environmental literacy learning opportunities. If you missed the conference this year, we hope to see you next year!

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