Smart Schools: Green Practices in Baja California is a new program carried out in the Baja California border region during the 2010-2011 school year. The program encourages conservation of the region’s natural resources by integrating the components of PROBEA’s already successful environmental education program with a Green Schools model. It is estimated to be a 3-5 year program and we are seeking further funding to continue the program in Baja California and expand to Baja California Sur.
Smart Schools: Green-Practices in Baja California is an environmental education program that seeks to create and encourage sustainable practices that go beyond the school walls. Its holistic and participatory character allows the entire school community, and other members of the community at large to get involved, and combines learning and hands-on activities that affect the well-being of our environment in a positive way.
Smart Schools is a model that enables teachers and students to construct their own knowledge, become environmentally literate citizens who, in turn, steward their environment, learn new environmentally sustainable practices, and then introduce, organize and disseminate these newly acquired practices within the school and in the community at large.
By setting an example for other schools, Smart Schools becomes a strategic action model of sustainability, guided by the students and other stakeholders, that encourages caring for their communities, the Earth and its resources.
The tools that lead this program to success include innovative teaching and training techniques (workshops), dissemination of information (community events), and action (projects). The effect of Smart Schools goes beyond the school walls because it involves the entire school community—from students and teachers to parents, administrators and support staff—and engages members of the community and governmental authorities. By doing all this, and working strategically and cooperatively, the school becomes a model for new environmental practices and a catalyst for social change.
Smart Schools program achievements for the first phase (school year 2010-2011)
CECYTE Plantel Río: Smart School
Other CECYTE schools
Combined CECYTE and COBACH schools
The goals of the Teacher Certification Course are to strengthen and build capacity among educators to present environmental education relevant to their region, and to use the knowledge and skills they acquire to lead their students to a permanent positive change of attitude that will guide them to become environmentally literate citizens.
The course is made up of nine modules, two of which were designed especially for this training (Introduction to Environmental Education and Fundamentals of the Ecosystem), four modules that include our curricula (Watershed, Hazardous Household Substances, Ocean Oasis, and School Yard Habitats), and two special modules (Field Trips and Quantum Learning).
An important component of all our trainings is that participants, mainly educators and community volunteers (Promotores), commit to designing and implementing a school or community project to benefit the environment, ranging from native plant gardens to battery recycling, water monitoring, and disseminating hazardous substances information.
In response to a request by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2006, PROBEA created Baja California’s first ever environmental education diplomado—an extensive teacher-certification course authorized by the Baja California Secretary of Education.
During the 2007–2008 school year, participants completed nine modules that included four of our most popular curricula: Watershed, Hazardous Household Substances, Ocean Oasis, and Schoolyard Habitats. We added five modules: Introduction to Environmental Education, Fundamentals of the Ecosystem, Field-trips, Quantum Learning and School/Community Projects. Our goal was to provide awareness and knowledge about our ecosystems, skills needed to address environmental challenges, and to motivate participants to action.
And that they did! Participants included teachers, journalists, and government and non-profit employees, thus widening the spectrum of trained individuals beyond our usual teacher and promotora audience. At our completion celebration, we were stunned by the scope of projects carried out and the results obtained. The 18 participants worked in teams to carry out 40 projects that involved 3,950 participants.
Using the teaching techniques and knowledge and skills gained in workshops, participants communicated their message to audiences large and small. They took groups on field-trips, produced TV and radio spots, conducted trash cleanups, planted native plant gardens and more. And we continue to receive enthusiastic messages from them about how they are continuing their work, becoming their community’s leaders in environmental stewardship.
They are living proof of the often-quoted phrase by Margaret Meade,
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
PROBEA’s goals for this special educational project are to know, understand, and apply accelerated teaching-learning techniques from Quantum Learning, a methodology used in the design, presentation, and facilitation of our workshops conceived by Quantum Learning Network, Oceanside, CA. This is a proven methodology that optimizes teachers’ teaching efficiency and students’ retention. Quantum Learning is based on Lozanov’s accelerated learning theories; Gardner’s multiple intelligences theories; Grinder and Bandler’s neuro-linguistic theories; Hahn’s hands-on approach to learning; Johnson and Johnson cooperative learning approach and Hunter’s elements of an effective instruction.
Quantum Learning© trains educators how to provide a positive, safe and supportive learning environment as a prerequisite for effective learning. Strategies for effective classroom management, accelerating learning and making content more meaningful are also taught.
Quantum Learning© is a powerful research-based educational system that orchestrates strategies within the core components to achieve desired outcomes. Components include: Foundation, Atmosphere, Design, Environment, Presentation, Facilitation and Learning and Life Skills. When effectively orchestrated, these strategies build positive school and classroom cultures, increase learning and support classroom management.
Quantum Learning© is designed to initiate change, enhance teacher capacity, and increase student achievement. A primary goal of the model is to create school environments that are engaging and dynamic. Components of the model focus on leadership, researched-based teaching methods, cognitive psychology, learning and life skills, parent and community involvement, and school improvement through evaluation. The model seeks to make content more meaningful and relevant to student's lives.
Quantum Learning© is based on three core beliefs: (1) all people can learn; (2) people learn differently; and (3) learning is effective when it is engaging and challenging. Foundational to Quantum Learning are the 8 Keys of Excellence (character principles) and the Quantum Learning© Tenets. The Tenets include: Everything Speaks, Everything is On Purpose, Experience Before Label, Acknowledge Every Effort, and If It's Worth Learning, It's Worth Celebrating. A set of policies, agreements, procedures, and rules guide school governance and support QL practice.
A Quantum Learning 4-day Workshop was facilitated in Tijuana, B.C. in 2007 with 54 teachers in attendance, and in La Paz, B.C.S. in 2012, with 82 teachers in attendance.
Imagine a nursery that can provide native plants for schools, community members, and organizations in Tijuana, Tecate and Ensenada. This has been PROBEA’s dream, and it has become a reality thanks to a lot of hard work and a gift from Mother Nature.
Our “dream site” is Fundación Esperanza de México’s (FEM) Posada where over 5,000 square feet of campus space is dedicated to present and future gardens filled with plants naturally occurring in—and therefore uniquely adapted to—our region. Since 2007, FEM and PROBEA have designed and installed gardens in four separate areas, as well as constructed a shade house to provide shelter and irrigation for seedlings and young plants. This is where Mother Nature comes in. Our garden prospered. Our plants not only beautified the entrance to the Posada, they also produced millions of seeds. And—you guessed it—those seeds germinated and became baby salvias and fuchsias and buckwheat and others, thanks to the rains of January 2008. FEM promotoras and volunteers harvested seedlings, and now we have hundreds of tiny plants in our nursery. Between these plants and those raised from seed, we will be able to provide those wishing to create native plant gardens with seven species of plants—our second generation.
In 2007, we also began developing an area to serve as an “outdoor classroom,” and in 2008 we substantially completed the planting, thanks to a generous donation of plants. This area is now available as a field-trip site where educators can bring their groups for outdoor learning experiences. Our garden promotoras maintain the garden, propagate plants, manage the nursery and lead tours of this model garden.
Lomas de San Antonio is one of many colonias in Tijuana suffering from a lack of wastewater infrastructure. Residents use privies, but remain challenged with disagreeable odors, water-table pollution, and health problems. To meet this challenge, PROBEA and Fundación Esperanza de México (FEM) (www.esperanzademexico.org/) collaborated on a pilot project to construct composting toilets for seven families.
Composting toilets, sometimes called “dry toilets,” work in harmony with nature, allowing decomposers—bacteria, fungus, and other organisms—to convert human waste into compost, nutrients plants can use. When properly used and maintained there is no odor, and all disease-causing organisms are killed. And there is a huge savings in water use, especially important in our dry region.
In 2007, PROBEA trained promotoras in the function and maintenance of composting toilets. The promotoras then recruited families for the program. Each family contributed $100 toward the purchase of materials. FEM construction technicians aided by volunteers from Seattle, Washington, constructed the units. Promotoras visited families on a weekly basis once they began to use their composting toilets to provide support. FEM technicians made minor adjustments and repairs as they became necessary. At the end of the six-month follow-up period all composting toilets were functioning properly. Our families were thrilled with the improvement in their quality of life, and residents of Lomas de San Antonio are lining up to be selected for the next round of construction, pending funding.
In 2005, the Wyland Foundation contacted PROBEA, asking us to provide a link to the La Paz, Baja California Sur, community that would facilitate painting a mural on the Malecón. Wyland is an internationally recognized painter, sculptor and muralist who focuses his artistic talent on a wide variety of marine life. The event in La Paz was one of his last stops on the “Wyland Ocean Challenge” Pacific Coast tour with the goal of raising awareness regarding ocean conservation, clean water and the protection of endangered marine species.
With support from the International Community Foundation, PROBEA provided the leadership necessary to coordinate the myriad of public and private institutions that came together to produce the cultural and artistic event on the Malecón from August 4th through 6th. In addition to the 7 x 12 meter mural that Wyland painted with local artists, festivities included an art fair, a community mural painted by students, water quality testing and environmental education activities.