Educación sobre medio ambiente para jóvenes es clave para tener éxito en el siglo XXI—Environmental Literacy for All Kids is Key to 21st Century Learning

The article below was featured as an op-ed in La Opinión. La Opinión is a Spanish-language daily newspaper published in Los Angeles, California, USA and distributed throughout the six counties of Southern California. It is the largest Spanish-language newspaper in the United States and second most-read newspaper in Los Angeles.

HERE is a link to the original article.

Nosotros, José Flores, educador veterano con 25 años de experiencia y Cindy Montañez, Directora Ejecutiva de TreePeople (organización ambiental con sede en Los Ángeles) respectivamente, hemos visto que educar a nuestros jóvenes al aire libre es una de las herramientas educativas más poderosas. El haber vivido la injusticia ambiental, puesto que crecimos en Brawley (cruzando la frontera con México) y en la zona noreste del Valle de San Fernando Valley (una de las zonas de mayor pobreza en el estado), nos sirve de motivación para educar y fortalecer a los jóvenes.

Hemos demostrado que el contacto con el medio ambiente local y el mundo natural expande la curiosidad de nuestros estudiantes y los motiva a aprender como mejorar sus comunidades. Este enfoque tiene excelentes resultados con la educación de Ciencias, Tecnología, Ingeniería, y Matemáticas (STEM, por sus siglas en inglés), prepara a los jóvenes para empleos relacionados con la sostenibilidad del medio ambiente y los motiva ser involucrados en mejorar sus comunidades.

Desafortunadamente en California no hay suficientes escuelas publicas con los recursos necesarios para hacer de la educación ambiental un componente central en su plan de estudios. Este problema es mas prominente en escuelas localizadas en comunidades de bajos ingresos y comunidades predominantemente latinas. Como consecuencia, esto pone a desventaja a miles de estudiantes en empleos de tecnología verde que crecen con la máxima rapidez, y no consigue habilitarlos para desarrollar soluciones en mejor planificación urbana, salud pública y desafíos ambientales en sus comunidades.

 

 

California ha prometido fortalecer su liderazgo mediante al cambio climático y el planteamiento de la adaptación climática y su mitigación. Este compromiso debe incluir una mayor inversion para educar a nuestros estudiantes en las ciencias de vanguardia y la educación ambiental con un enfoque constructivo. Miles de estudiantes viven en las comunidades que son la primera línea frente a la injusticia climática. Ademas, se encuentran en mayor riesgo de sufrir los efectos nocivos de las aguas contaminadas, el calor extremo, la sequía, la falta de arboles y follaje, la exposición a toxinas y la peor calidad del aire en toda la nación. La incapacidad para invertir en la capacitación de la generación futura de científicos, innovadores y líderes de nuestras comunidades coloca a California en una trayectoria que costara al estado millones de dólares en costos de salud y días de ausencias escolares y laborales.

Día con día observamos las oportunidades transformadoras de aprendizaje y empoderamiento que pueden lograrse cuando un grupo de estudiantes se reúne con negociantes e innovadores de la tecnología verde y, juntos, realizan proyectos de investigación,plantan árboles en sus comunidades, instalan monitores de calidad del aire y participan en reuniones del ayuntamiento local influyendo el proceso de toma de decisiones para reducir su exposición a la contaminación.

Como la quinta economía mas fuerte del mundo, California tiene que ser líder nacional al garantizar que sus estudiantes tengan conocimiento sobre el cambio climático. California cuenta con un Comité Directivo de Educación Ambiental (financiado por el sector privado) que implementa una filosofía que el Superintendente de Enseñanza Pública, Tom Torlakson, ha expresado en su obra Proyecto para la Educación Ambiental (Blueprint for Environmental Literacy).

 

 

Ahora hacemos un llamado el gobernador y la asamblea estatal que apoyen el proyecto de ley SB 424 por el senador Ben Allen, que garantiza los recursos necesarios para lograr la educación sobre el medio ambiente. El proyecto de ley SB 424 impulsaría la inversión privada en apoyo a la educación STEM y las carreras técnicas, así como las metas estatales de acción respecto al clima. La SB 424 da prioridad a la equidad, la inclusión y la relevancia cultural. Ademas, enlaza a los empleadores interesados en el medio ambiente con los esfuerzos en educación técnica; facilita la inclusión de la educación ambiental en los planes y presupuestos distritales; promueve el aprendizaje professional y el uso de materiales didácticos de alta calidad, orientados con los estándares y las experiencias de aprendizaje al aire libre.

Los estudiantes de California pueden lograr una comprensión integral de su medio ambiente, aportar sus habilidades de pensamiento crítico y de resolución de problemas sobre los retos ambientales para tener la oportunidad de ejercer una carrera en las ciencias y en los ocupaciones que enfoque al medio ambiente, la cual está en aumento. Para que sea posible alcanzar estos resultados, tanto la asamblea legislativa como el gobernador deben dar el paso decisivo e invertir en nuestro recurso natural más preciado: nuestros jóvenes.

______________________________________________________________________

We, Jose Flores and Cindy and Montañez, are writing as a veteran 25-year educator and the CEO of TreePeople (an LA-based environmental nonprofit organization) to strongly express that we regularly use our local environment as context to help kids learn both inside and outside of the classroom. We believe that outdoor learning is one of the most powerful educational tools we have. Exposure to the local environment and the natural world expands kids’ curiosity and motivates them to learn. It has proven to be a successful approach to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education, prepares young people for the rapidly growing sector of green jobs, and motivates them to become engaged citizens who transform their communities.

Unfortunately, not enough California schools have the resources to make environmental literacy a core component of their curricula. Too many schools—especially those serving low-income and predominantly Latino communities—lack the funding to implement proven strategies that educate and engage students, placing them at a disadvantage for the fastest-growing job sector and failing to empower them to develop solutions that address land use, public health, and environmental challenges in their communities.

At a time when many other states are considering teaching climate denialism in public schools, California has vowed to strengthen its leadership by addressing climate adaptation and mitigation. That commitment must include an increased investment to educate our students in cutting-edge science and constructive environmental literacy. The communities we live and work in are on the frontlines of climate injustice. They are most at risk of experiencing the adverse effects of contaminated water, extreme heat, drought, lack of tree canopy, exposure to toxins, and the worst air quality in the nation.

Failure to invest in training the next generation of scientists, innovators, and community leaders puts California on a path that will waste tens of millions of dollars in healthcare costs and missed days of school and work. We can change this trend by investing in our students and giving them a clear understanding about the causes and impacts of environmental pollution, and help them begin to innovate solutions for these state, national, and global challenges.

We, having firsthand experience of environmental injustice while growing up in Brawley (just across the Mexican border) and in the Northeastern San Fernando Valley (one of the most impoverished regions in the state), are motivated to educate and empower young people. Like us, our students know that they are not powerless to change the circumstances around them. But they need California to invest in modernizing their education and training to enable them to set—and reach—their goals.

Every day, we witness the transformative learning and empowering opportunities that occur when a group of students meet with clean technology innovators, conduct environmental research projects, participate in city council meetings, plant trees in their communities, address the impacts of drought on their campuses, install air quality monitors, and influence the decision-making process to reduce their exposure to and address environmental contamination.

California can be a leader in this country for ensuring all of its students are environmentally literate. New California educational standards offer an unprecedented opportunity for integrating environmental literacy into mainstream classroom instruction. To supplement what students are learning, teachers can call on experts from the best universities, growing green jobs sector, and leading nonprofit communities. Teachers need these resources to help provide students with hands-on, experiential learning opportunities. Additionally, California has an Environmental Literacy Steering Committee (funded by the private sector) that is implementing the top priorities in State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson’s A Blueprint for Environmental Literacy.

We urge the Governor and State Legislature to support Senator Ben Allen’s Senate Bill 424, which will ensure California’s public schools have the resources they need to achieve environmental literacy. SB 424 prioritizes equity, inclusion, and cultural relevance; connects regional and community-based environmental education providers and schools; links green jobs employers with career technical education efforts; facilitates the inclusion of environmental literacy in district plans and budgets; catalyzes local and regional partnerships; promotes professional learning; and promotes the use of high-quality, standards-aligned instructional materials and outdoor learning experiences. SB 424 would leverage private investment that supports STEM and career technical education, as well as the state’s climate action goals.

California’s students can develop a comprehensive understanding of their environment, bring critical-thinking and problem-solving skills about environmental challenges into the workplace, and have the opportunity to pursue productive careers in science and the booming green jobs workforce. But to achieve these outcomes, both the legislature and the Governor must take decisive action to invest in our most precious natural resource—our young people.

This article was written by Jose Flores and Cindy Montanez

Jose Flores is a Civics and U.S. history teacher at Brawley Union High School located in Brawley, California. He was honored by the Environmental Protection Agency and the White House Council on Environmental Quality with a 2015–2016 Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators. Cindy Montañez is the CEO of TreePeople, an environmental nonprofit organization that has worked with over 1 million students over the past 40 years to provide environmental literacy training. She previously served as a member of the California Assembly and is currently a Board Member for the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, and a Legislator In-Residence at the USC Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics.

Comments: