Budding Bay Saver Anya Tucker is busy. From writing her first science fiction novel to persuasively advocating for a healthy environment, she is an impressive example of what’s possible when you invest in the next generation of creative problem solvers, scientists, and stewards.
An 8th grader from Oakland’s Julia Morgan School for Girls, Anya’s class spent a day doing tidal marsh restoration work and studying the science of the San Francisco Bay with us in April.
Her teacher Jess Dang connected with Save The Bay when she was looking for real-world science opportunities for the school’s Go Girl! Leadership program. “Quality, hands-on science is so important for youth, but girls especially. Even though the achievement gap is being closed in schools, women still lag behind men in engineering, math and science careers,” says Dang.
When Kay Kerr, Sylvia McLaughlin, and Esther Gulick founded Save The Bay in 1961, women made up just 7.3 percent of the United States’ Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) PhDs.
We’ve come a long way since then. Today, 41 percent of STEM PhDs are women. It’s a heartening statistic, but a PhD does not translate into a life in science and community leadership. When it comes to the actual STEM workforce, only 27 percent are women.
Empowering women in science means showing girls they belong in the field. For Ms. Dang, working with Save The Bay is a no-brainer. “The girls can really see the change they are making in the Bay.”
Anya has always hated cigarettes and smoking, but her field program with Save The Bay gave her an environment-wide view of the problem. “I never realized how many of those cigarette butts dropped on the ground actually end up in the Bay… We get one planet to live on and it’s our choice how we treat it.”
At Save The Bay, we are grateful for the strong, passionate scientists on our team who foster an educational experience that emphasizes creativity, inquiry and getting your hands dirty to restore tidal marsh one seedling at a time. Every year, 2,000 youth join us on the shorelines and tidal marshes, and through our work we hope to inspire the next generation of Bay scientists and stewards.
Save The Bay is always looking for new ways to share the stories of our restoration programs, so we were excited to use Adobe Voice to transform Jess and Anya’s experience into the video above.
As the 2012-2013 school year comes to a close, and we welcome summer, Save The Bay’s habitat restoration team temporarily says goodbye to many of the school groups that worked with us this year.
As I reflect on the students’ huge contribution to restoring the Bay shoreline, and all the hard work, I am incredibly proud to have the opportunity to work with such a committed group of students and teachers.
The numbers speak for themselves:
This school year we worked with 1,516 students and 308 teachers and chaperones
Students contributed 7,281 hours of restoration effort
Students planted an impressive 3,842 native plants and removed 14,457 pounds of invasive species along the Bay shoreline at a number of sites
Students helped us transplant 704 plants in our nursery
While engaging in direct, hands-on restoration of the Bay shoreline, students discover different aspects of the San Francisco Bay through soil sampling, species identification, and a variety of other fun activities.
Students and teachers reflect on their experiences during the 2012-2013 school year:
“It is a fun, productive way to make a connection to your watershed while improving it for the future. Students are stewards!”
5th grade teacher
“One of my favorite trips- excellent science in action!”
6th grade teacher
“Students are engaged and having fun, and they enjoy doing work that is beneficial to the environment.”
10th grade teacher
“This is a must do! Wonderful hands on experience”
9th grade teacher
“Thank you for being an amazing instructor! I learned so much with you!”
6th grade student
“The field trip was really fun and informative. I loved the weeding and the trash pickup. ”
6th grade student
“I learned never to litter or else the stream would end up nasty!!!”
6th grade student
Even though the school year is over, there are still plenty of opportunities for Bay Area youth to get out on the Bay. We welcome summer students from camps and enrichment programs throughout the Bay Area. If you’re interested in joining us for a marsh adventure this summer, contact restoration education specialist Jess Madding at jmadding@saveSFbay.org.
A couple of joggers and walkers are on the trail as birds flutter about in the bushes and gulls and geese fly overhead.
Soon enough I hear some voices in the distance, distinguishable to me in much the same way birders can tune in to specific bird calls. “It’s a class of 4th or 5th graders”, I thought to myself.
Led by their teacher, they come up the trail and are greeted by staff from Save The Bay, a regional organization committed to the protection of the San Francisco Bay.
The students are here to do some habitat restoration, but first it is time for introductions and some warm up activities.
Looking at the group of 5th graders, the majority of them are Latino—I can hear their various comments to each other in Spanish though they understand and readily respond to questions in English about marsh habitats, sharks, and food webs.
After some introductions and a “marsh march”, the students make their way to a section marked by flags. A Save The Bay staff member demonstrates the process for planting native plant species.
The kids are eager, still full of energy even after playing an active game to calm and focus them.
But they take to the task with much enthusiasm. Most of the boys run off to several sections while many of the girls calmly and methodically replicate the process of planting: dig the hole, tap the plant out of its casing, line it with the ground, add dirt, add mulch, add water and yell “plant check” for validation of a job well done. Then it is on to planting the next sapling.
The work the students are doing is important for several reasons.
First of all, restoring marshes provides direct habitat to many species that rely on the bay wetlands as a home and migration stops. In restoring the marshes, it also helps bay communities with potential flooding, not to mention the enhanced recreational aspects of having access to beautiful parkland and functioning habitats for wildlife. All of this in the face of marshes at risk from climate change.
But the process also helps connect the students directly with the land and outdoors in proactive ways. And it is heartening to see a group of Latino students so actively engaged.
Earlier in the day I struck up a conversation in Spanish with a parent volunteer. “All but one of them knows Spanish” she said. “And the teachers, though not Latino, know Spanish as well.”
“It’s interesting because I think they thought they were going to pick up trash, but I like that they can come out here and learn about this place.”
I thought about that comment later on as the kids were antsy to start planting and one girl asked if she could just pick up trash—a helpful task, but it is good that kids get to engage with the environment hand- on beyond just litter cleanup, and to engage with it beyond as a lecture or presentation piece. I am reminded of how the writer Richard Louv put it: let them climb trees.
I introduced myself to several students. I noticed that in speaking Spanish to them, their demeanor would change at times—hard to exactly say but it seemed a bit more respectful—con respeto”. Throughout the morning I noticed some of the boys I checked in with would look around to see if I was watching. I would give them a nod, con respeto.
As I left I asked one student what was something that stuck with him about the activities. He responded “how we filled up part of the bay to make houses for people”.
“And what do you thing about that?” I asked.
“Well, people need houses, but animals too.”
The saplings the kids were planting are the future for a healthy marsh habitat—sorely needed homes for the animals. But so too are these kids the sorely needed future—a future that is here now taking care of the natural environment, engaging in its conservation—con respeto.
Jose Gonzalez is an educator with classroom and outdoor experience across all age levels, from elementary to college. Currently he is a Butler-Koshland Fellow with Radio Bilingue and serves as an adjunct faculty member with the National Hispanic University in their Teacher Education Department. He is interested in the intersection of Latinos and environmental conservation issues. Follow him on Twitter @green_chicano @JoseBilingue, see his postings at http://greenchicano.wordpress.com/ and www.greenchicano.com
Last month I attended one of our Restoration Education Programs, where our restoration team partnered with a local school to take 6th graders out to the Bay for a day of hands-on learning. After everyone had arrived and circled up a thought formed in my brain (and I know I wasn’t alone in this) – it was early and cold, didn’t everyone want to just go inside?
But, as the sun made its appearance and my coffee kicked in, the thought faded. The restoration staff had set up a scavenger hunt with facts about plants, the shoreline, and local wildlife. The kids were really excited about finding these nuggets of wisdom and they all wanted to read the facts out loud, but only a lucky few got the privilege. We wound our way down to the planting site and, after an early lunch, got to the event of the afternoon — planting! I was impressed to see the kids get straight to it without complaining and with gusto. Each student was asked to plant 10 seedlings, and most were determined to meet that goal — taking buckets of mulch and water, and prepared seedlings to the flagged spots.
I meandered about helping kids lay down the mulch and giving out compliments on their newly planted natives. I planted a few of my own baby plants in the ground and eventually the time came to clean up. Slowly everything was put back in its place and the students and restoration crew circled up to say goodbye. This particular class had been taught to do “appreciations” at the end of the school day and they were all eager to thank the crew.
At least once a week, our restoration crew takes kids out to the Bay to show them what it is we are trying to protect. And if all days go like this day did, hundreds of seedlings get planted and a number of happy students get to have a hand in restoring the Bay.
Throughout the school year, Save The Bay runs programs with high school students and I always greatly enjoy working with this age group. I am particularly impressed when young people choose to spend a portion of their weekend volunteering to help preserve our tidal marshes. Amid homework, sports games, SATs, college applications, and a number of other activities, these students have set aside time to give back to their community.
Check out these photos of high school students hard at work restoring our sites at Eden Landing in Hayward and Byxbee Park in the Palo Alto Baylands. We are so inspired by their enthusiasm for restoring San Francisco Bay!
Eden Landing, Hayward
Byxbee Park, Palo Alto Baylands
When asked why they volunteer with Save The Bay, students responded:
“It’s cool to learn about different plants.” -Amanda
“I like learning about the species and everyone is really nice.” -Divya
“I’ve been coming since September. I really like how the place feels…Last time I came, I saw a Jackrabbit!” – Jenet