On February 7, more than 90 educators and community members from across the state gathered for the third annual Schools for a Sustainable Future Summit. This year’s theme was “Climate Ready Schools” to build attendees’ knowledge, skills, and tools for moving environmental literacy and sustainability across a school’s Campus and Operations, Curriculum and Instruction, and Community and Culture. 

County Superintendent Nancy Magee kicked off the day by encouraging educators to let the real world into the classroom and allow students to grapple with and develop solutions to environmental issues. Attendees heard from several schools and districts that are already integrating environmental literacy into their curriculum and upgrading their facilities to be more sustainable. Keynote speaker Dr. Timothy Baird, former superintendent of the Encinitas Union School District, shared stories of increased student learning and engagement as environmental literacy became integrated into their schools. Sacramento Unified School District’s Green Facilities Specialist Rachel Chard shared a wealth of examples on how they are transforming school facilities, and Alameda Unified School District’s Curriculum Coordinator Terri Elkin shared examples of how environmental justice and outdoor learning are being weaved throughout their students’ learning experiences. The keynote presentations were followed by three breakout sessions, where presenters shared their experiences integrating sustainable food systems, developing green transportation infrastructure, and strategically planning for environmental literacy. 

Highlights from the afternoon included County Supervisor David Pine and Marcus Griswold from the San Mateo County Office of Sustainability, who both brought a sense of urgency as they reminded attendees of how the county is affected by climate change and shared about city projects currently underway to protect communities. 

Building on this urgency, participants then engaged in a collective experience with a brand new resource developed by SMCOE’s Environmental Literacy and Sustainability Initiative (ELSI): Climate Ready Schools Adaptation Simulation (find resources under the “Climate Adaptation Resources” section). In this simulation, participants acted as stakeholders in a school community who traveled forward through the next three decades to experience how climate change (including sea-level rise, high heat, and wildfires) will affect their school communities. After the exercise, one participant shared, “the simulation really brought the importance of being climate aware to life and it inspired me to start thinking of ways our district can start to mitigate the coming changes.” 

The summit came to a close with a final round of breakout sessions where attendees considered how to get started on Climate Adaptation. Participants engaged in hands-on design and engineering activities, learned strategies to include environmental- and climate-related issues in trauma-informed practices, and discussed strategic planning ideas for district- and site-level administrators. 

Participants walked away from this summit with skills and tools for their classroom, inspiration for the future of their district, and new relationships with educators and community-based partners across the county.

Subscribe to the ELSI Bulletin to learn more about the Environmental Literacy and Sustainability Initiative at the San Mateo County Office of Education.