MarinSEL: Beyond the Textbook

May 31, 2017

By: Jessica Brown

When I used to think about school, I would imagine sitting in a desk, reading textbooks, and filling out worksheets all day long. Now, the thought of school paints a whole new picture, filled with so much more. The MarinSEL program allows its students to go out into the world and have experiences, rather than imagining what they would be like from the inside of a classroom. I have grown so much as a student in MarinSEL due to the real-life applications of what we learn.

As students in an environmental program, we need to understand how the rest of the world views the climate and Earth. MarinSEL teachers had accomplished just that by arranging a meeting with students from Japan and organizing a skype call with high schoolers living in Greenland. In March this year, we were all excitedly awaiting the arrival of students from Japan that would be visiting our classrooms. Sitting in biology, all eyes looked to the door as a sea of friendly faces flowed into the room. We organized ourselves into small groups and invited the Japanese students to join us. We spent around twenty minutes exchanging ideas, talking about daily activities, and discussing views on politics and global warming. I learned that although our cultural differences may be vast, we still shared a lot of similar views on politics and global issues with the students. The students stayed for a few more days, the goodbyes were lighthearted, and none of us will ever forget that experience.

Later in April, our second encounter with international students occurred in the form of a Skype call. Two days earlier, we had prepared questions about climate change and global warming to ask the students over the Skype call. When the time to talk came, we all sat in our seats, one by one exchanging questions and answers with the foreign high schoolers. We discovered that Greenland also found benefits to climate change because they will have more agricultural land and oil. Fortunately, they also saw the negatives for the rest of the world and the environment, but we never would have thoughts that one of the countries affected most by climate change viewed it somewhat positively. We have to remember that people have differing opinions than us under different circumstances.

These opportunities were unlike anything I have ever experienced before and I never would have been able to participate
 in them without the MarinSEL program. Although, talking with international students hasn’t been the only amazing thing we’ve done.
In both Geography, English, and Health class, we have been studying a food unit for weeks, learning about GMOs, organics, and
 local produce. Recently, we were able to apply our learnings to our everyday lives. We were told about a project where we would be going to the farmers’ market, interviewing farmers, and cooking a dish made completely from food we bought from the market. Excited, we did not know where to begin. We all brainstormed recipe ideas and thought about what foods would have the lowest carbon footprint. Finally, the day of the trip arrived and we were ecstatic. The class piled into cars and off we drove to the market. We were taught about how the farmers produced their food sustainably and asked them questions about their farming techniques. After we finished our shopping, we got back into our cars and put our ingredients in the refrigerator at school, but the project wasn't over. We also were required to calculate the carbon footprint of our dishes. I never realized the amount of emissions that food produces and the importance of buying local produce to reduce the carbon dioxide. The next day, we had a cook off during Seminar and lunch. We used the four Cs in order to work cooperatively to make a creative and delicious dish. It was an amazing project with many aspects that we could apply to our lives.

MarinSEL has a different approach to learning than conventional schools. The program goes above and beyond by allowing students
 to apply our learning to real life situations. School is no longer just sitting and reading textbooks because the MarinSEL program has turned it into an unforgettable learning adventure.