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YIA at the ATLAS STEAM Institute

Youth in Arts joined the Marin County Office of Education and a team of STEM educators and experts to conduct a week-long professional development workshop on STEAM learning for more than 60 teachers in Novato, CA. The program was dedicated to considering how the environment impacts people and how people impact the environment, asking K-12 teachers from across Marin County to rethink how they might teach the California Environmental Principles and Concepts to their students in innovative and interdisciplinary ways.

Utilizing a culturally responsive framework to consider the diverse ways in which our students learn, we considered how to address global issues such as climate change through a local lens using place-based inquiry and problem solving. The week-long training event began with participants experiencing STEAM as learners, taking part in a Phenomena Walk that involved finding and drawing an intersection between nature and something human-made and employing discussion-based reflection frameworks like Visual Thinking Strategies to break down the meaning of the Environmental Principles and Concepts.

We then examined sea level rise and ways to make meaningful change through a case study of the Canal in San Rafael, and used the Engineering Design Cycle to plan out how to take this case study and apply it. Building on this process, we used resources from the Davidson Middle School’s Makerspace to think creatively and prototype solutions to issues such as reducing plastic consumption and designing structures for desalinization. Throughout the institute, participants learned ways to use art collaboratively in the classroom, from techniques such as theatre-based presentations to a Making Learning Visible wall that showed how to document the process of learning through photographs, words and art.

Participants were encouraged to create a cross-disciplinary framework meant to empower students to ask questions and become advocates in their communities. If teachers support students in becoming leaders, they in turn can design solutions to care for the environment. “The impact of humans on the environment is something we can’t ignore, and young people are already leading the way toward finding solutions,” said Executive Director Miko Lee. “This was an important collaboration to help teachers reach all learners through multiple methods.”

Lee was one of the keynote speakers of day one focused on Cultural Responsive Teaching.   On the second day students from the Sunrise Movement spoke about getting the Green New Deal passed in Marin. On day three, artist and activist Favianna Rodriguez, who talked about the importance of looking for stories that allow students to create a future of possibility. She also showed a map of the Bay Area and noted how poorer areas bear the brunt of pollution. Encourage students to examine their own community, she said, and document what is represented – and what is not. On day four former Youth in Arts Director Nydia Algazzali Gonzalez spoke about the importance of interdisciplinary learning. To watch the keynote speeches, please visit the Marin County Office of Education.

The final two days included time for curriculum planning. A cohort of 18 teachers returned on Sunday to gear up for Summer School. Those summer school teachers, will receive mentoring from Agency By Design whose Executive Director is Brooke Toczylowski, former YIA staff artist.

To find out how you can implement STEAM at your school site, email: kelsey@youthinarts.org
In addition to the YIA staff (Miko Lee, Suzanne Joyal, Kelsey Rieger and Cathy Bowman), STEAM institute leaders included Marin County Office of Education’s Eileen Smith and Michelle Drake, Ben Ford of Sonoma State Math Department, Rod Septka from Mill Valley School District, Ray McClintock of Marin SEL, Jerry Lieberman from Ten Strands, Adam Singer of Davidson MakerSpace, and Nick Williams of San Marin High School.

Youth Leaders for the Environment

(alphabetical order)

Mishka Banuri is a 17-year-old from Utah who helped craft and pass the Utah Climate Resolution, the first of its kind in a traditionally conservative state. Here is a video made by the Brower Awards.

Mari Copeny, also known as Little Miss Flint, has been the 11-year-old activist about the Flint Michigan water crisis. Here is an article/video of her in Teen Vogue.
Jamie Margolin is a 16-year-old Seattle teen who founded Zero Hour, a youth led climate change movement. Here is Jamie’s TEDX talk. Each of the teens in Zero Hour represent a different perspective and part of the United States. More about the team in the NYTimes here and also here in the New Yorker.

Jade Sweeney is an 18-year-old from North Carolina who is combatting Colony Collapse Disorder and addressing bee conservation by introducing apiaries and pollinator parks in her local schools. Here is a video made by the Brower Awards.

Xiuhtezcatl Tonatiuh is a teen Indigenous environmental activist who sued the U.S. government over the issue of climate change. He is also a spoken word artist. Here is a vice video (FYI swearing involved). Here is his talk to the United Nations.
Greta Thunberg is a teen Swedish climate change activist who lead the international student strike. Here is Greta’s TED talk. Here is the Brave video about her leading the movement.

Aslan Tudor wrote his book on Standing Rock when he was 11 years old: “Young Water Protectors: A Story about Standing Rock.”
Canadian 12th graders Miranda Wang and Jeanny Yao found a bacteria to biodegrade plastic. Here is their TED talk. Great example of engineering process in action and how accidents can create inventions.
Sisters Melati and Isabel Wijsen are on a mission to ban plastic bags in Bali. Here is their TED Talk.

Rose Whipple is a 17-year-old from Minnesota who is fighting the Pipeline, which is proposed to go through Minnesota and indigenous territories and will threaten the way of life of the Anishinaabe and Dakota people. Here is a video made by the Brower Awards.Kaiya Yonamine, an Okinawan-American 17-year-old created “Our Islands Treasure” video about the building of another U.S. military base that is polluting the ocean. Watch the 3-minute trailer here. There’s also a 20-minute documentary with some subtitles.

More information

Brower AwardsGo here for video profiles from Earth Island Institute’s Brower Youth Award for Environmental Leadership. Many, many excellent youth activists from across North America and covering a variety of environmental issues.

Climate Woke!/CultureStrike Project discussed by artist Favianna Rodriguez links climate change to racial injustice. Climate Woke video.

Water Protectors – Here is a teacher’s guide (with lessons, videos, stakeholders) on Dakota Access Pipeline protesters -– the Standing Rock Water Protectors (many of the leaders are youth).

Thank you to the California Department of Education and the Marin Community Foundation for helping to make this event happen.

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