In 2018, Berkeley Unified School District adopted the Sustainability Program and Plan. The plan covers green buildings & materials, transportation, water, energy, waste, food, schoolyards, and eco-literacy and nature-based education. Then, in 2021, the Climate Literacy resolution was unanimously passed by BUSD. The Climate Literacy resolution aims to teach all ages of students about climate change related science, issues, and solutions.
Ellen McClure, who has taken on the new position as the BUSD Climate Literacy teacher, is focused on “working with K–12 staff to advance project-based climate change and environmental justice learning opportunities for students in the district, based on BUSD’s Climate Literacy Resolution,” according to the California Environmental Literacy Initiative.
“This is the first semester this position has existed … Because this is a really new program, developing a plan that works for everyone and supports teachers while also taking into account all the other things that teachers have to do (has been difficult). How do we include this education into what’s already happening?” said McClure.
Sofia Peltz is the Sustainability Program Coordinator for the Berkeley Unified School District. She takes on the role of managing BUSD’s carbon footprint. She said, “The BUSD Sustainability Program is leading the way in implementing the goals of the Sustainability Plan from benchmarking energy and waste consumption to youth engagement and environmental justice projects.” BUSD not only has staff members working hard to increase sustainability, but also students.
“We’re part of the Sunrise Club, so through that, we’re working to be the student voice, the student representatives to the adults who are implementing the sustainability plan. (We’re) trying to make sure it happens and follow through on the plan that was passed in 2018 and 2022,” said Amelia Monagle-Olson, a Berkeley High School senior. Monagle-Olson and Amaya Dorman Mackenzie, aldo a BHS senior, serve as the vice president and president of the Sunrise Club, respectively.
The Sunrise Club is a “Climate change activism group run by and for Berkeley High School students.” according to their Instagram,
@sunriseberkeleyhigh. The Sunrise Club strives to combine the sustainability and climate literacy plan with its five demands: Clean and safe buildings, free and healthy lunches, climate disaster plans, climate curriculum, and pathways to green jobs.
“We’re trying to make sure all of those are covered in that plan because it’s not just about our city. It’s part of a wider movement: the sunrise movement and the Green New Deal for schools,” said Monagle-Olson.
“In Berkeley, we’re very privileged to not be affected by every kind of disaster. Because it’s not immediate, it’s not necessarily at the top of everyone’s mind. Except when you can see the smoke, then it’s something really dystopian, and people lose a lot of hope,” said Dorman Mackenzie. “Even while not everyone is contributing to trying to fix the climate crisis, those who are can make a huge impact.”
Rudy Hernandez is a UC Berkeley Fellow who works for BUSD to aid in the fulfillment of BUSD’s sustainability goals. He is studying Conservation and Resource Studies with a Chicanx/Latinx Studies minor. “I am a big advocate for educational justice, mostly through green curriculums with younger students and fostering that at a young age,” said Hernandez.
Currently, Hernandez is working on a waste management presentation on how to sort waste as well as its impact on climate change. “Because it’s really important to learn at a young age so that it’s inherent knowledge as you grow up. You can keep passing that down, especially with the diverging action of prioritizing waste sorting management,” said Hernandez.
Hernandez has worked at Malcolm X and Thousand Oaks Elementary. “What’s unfortunate is that a lot of green education is not in curriculums, so if there’s an added-on project that a teacher wants to do, that’s what I help with.” He focuses on waste management and sorting, and he was able to make a visualization on waste sorting for the students at Malcolm X Elementary.
“The importance of the sustainability plan is to make sure students have access to green buildings and campuses that are the principles of sustainability, and that they also have that in their education. What we’re implementing in the school building and school campuses, we’re also learning about in our education in classrooms,” said McClure.