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India Currents gave me a voice in days I was very lost. Having my articles selected for publishing was very validating – Shailaja Dixit, Executive Director, Narika, Fremont

Youth are the least responsible for climate change, however, they suffer its consequences for the longest time. Just like adults they experience trauma during extreme weather, develop anxiety and fear about the effects of climate change, and develop health-related issues.

The more we understand our connection to the environment, the more possibilities to influence how those connections impact our health and planet. As young people become engaged in learning about their role to nurture the environment, they develop a strong sense of urgency to decrease the effects of climate change. That is why the Santa Clara County Office of Education (SCCOE) takes great strides to create environmental stewards beginning at a young age through environmental education.

According to the United State Environmental Protection Agency, environmental education is a process that allows individuals to explore environmental issues, engage in problem-solving, and take action to improve the environment. In turn, these individuals develop a deeper understanding of environmental issues and have the skills to make informed decisions. Environmental education does not advocate one viewpoint or another.

Environmental education offers countless opportunities to improve lives, protect the environment, and prepare everyone to address critical environmental challenges. The SCCOE’s Environmental Literacy and Facilities teams support schools throughout the county to prioritize environmental literacy and incorporate sustainable practices across school campuses, curriculum, community and culture.

A number of the SCCOE’s current initiatives are firmly connected to the expansion of outdoor education, environmental literacy, and climate science. This past year, the SCCOE opened a fully equipped outdoor classroom at the Magical Bridges Playground in Morgan Hill, expanded our school-based garden support with our growing gardens projects, and partnered with Our City Forest to green our school campuses and plant over 1000 trees.

This year, schools in south county will be exploring project-based learning and the Next Generation Science Standards while focusing on meaningful watershed educational experiences. Last month the second annual Environmental Literacy Summit brought together educators, community partners, and students to expand and enhance environmental education.

While collective efforts are needed to make large and lasting impacts, there are things that people can do as an individual that are meaningful – beginning with the commitment to teach our youngest residents how they can make an impact in their communities and the world.

As adults, we should also model lifelong learning. If environmental education is as new for you as it is for young people, you are encouraged to learn alongside them and collaborate on solutions and actions to care for our environment.