Creating an Environmental Identity with Amity Sandage

Amity Sandage is the Environmental Literacy Coordinator for the Santa Cruz County Office of Education (Santa Cruz COE) where she leads a countywide effort to promote environmental literacy for K–12 students. Amity has been a leader in environmental education in Santa Cruz and the Greater Bay Area for over a decade in both the formal and non-formal sectors.

“Environmental identity relates to how much a person feels they are part of the natural environment, not separate from it, and the strength of someone’s environmental identity is correlated to how likely they are to take care of the environment.”

Amity Sandage

Amity Sandage is the Environmental Literacy Coordinator for the Santa Cruz County Office of Education (Santa Cruz COE) where she leads a countywide effort to promote environmental literacy for K–12 students. Amity has been a leader in environmental education in Santa Cruz and the Greater Bay Area for over a decade in both the formal and non-formal sectors.

Green Guardians had the opportunity to speak with Amity last week about the work she’s doing to build capacity among educators to integrate environmental literacy into learning experiences for students. A key first-step of becoming environmentally literate and taking solution-oriented action is developing an “environmental identity.” Amity believes that before educators can successfully cultivate environmentally literate students they must go through this process themselves.

Read more about the capacity-building work Amity has spearheaded here. Listen to Amity give an example of collaboration and capacity building between the formal and non-formal sectors here.

Relevant Links 

Coastal Watershed Council 

The Coastal Watershed Council is a dynamic and growing non-profit based in Santa Cruz, CA, working to transform the lower San Lorenzo River into a community destination by inspiring people to explore, enhance and protect this critical natural resource. 

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary 

Designated in 1992, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS) is a federally protected marine area offshore of California’s central coast. Stretching from Marin to Cambria, the sanctuary encompasses a shoreline length of 276 miles and 6,094 square statute miles (4,601 nmi2) of the ocean, extending an average distance of 30 miles from shore. The sanctuary contains extensive kelp forests and one of North America’s largest underwater canyons and closest-to-shore deep ocean environments. 

Santa Cruz Climate Action Network 

Santa Cruz Climate Action Network (SCCAN) seeks to address the current Climate Change Emergency, recognizing that failure to act quickly will have devastating effects on future generations of humans and other life forms. SCCAN’s Santa Cruz Climate Speakers specialize in Climate Change education curriculum tailored to fit the needs of a specific class, with the goal to provide information, inspire dialogue, and motivate solutions. Their aim is to have all local students graduate with literacy in Climate Change.   

Santa Cruz County Outdoor Science School 

At the Santa Cruz County Outdoor Science School, fifth and sixth-grade students experience a four- or five-day residential, hands-on science program. Students focus on investigating the rich coastal redwood forest ecosystem. Residential Outdoor Science School promotes care for self, others, and the natural world upon which our survival depends. We are committed to a safe and stimulating educational environment that nurtures an inquisitive mind. 

Santa Cruz County Teacher Leadership Institute 

The Teacher Leadership Institute for Science and Environmental Literacy is an innovative year-long program designed to support emerging teacher leaders by deepening knowledge, increasing confidence, and enhancing abilities to support the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards using the environment as a source of phenomena and connecting to the California Environmental Principles and Concepts. 

Santa Cruz COE TLI K-12 Lesson Sequences 

In 2020-21, Santa Cruz COE TLI launched the Relevant Environmental Action & Learning (REAL) Science Institute: Phase 2 of the Teacher Leadership Institute for Science and Environmental Literacy. They focused on reviewing and strengthening the lessons for teachers and students across 10 counties. 

Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History 

The Museum features educational, hands-on exhibits for children, families, and adults who are curious about the world they live in and the natural history of one of the most scenic locations on the California coast. Many locals know the Museum by the life-size gray whale statue, created in 1982, that rests near its entrance, between Tyrrell Park and Seabright State Beach. 

The Bird School Project 

The Bird School Project uses outdoor experiential learning to inspire and equip students and teachers to love, study, and steward their local environment. Limited school resources, transportation constraints, and a lack of time and support often prevent students from connecting directly with the environment. Bird School works to meet the need of utilizing outdoor locations such as schoolyards and backyards for learning and exploration opportunities. 

Tierra Pacifica Charter School 

Tierra Pacifica Charter School, formed in 1998, is a collaborative effort among parents, teachers, and community members committed to the development of the whole child. Through the establishment of a charter school, we believe we can work within the school system to create an innovative alternative model to traditional public elementary schools. Tierra Pacifica educates children from Kindergarten through 8th grade. The school is designed for families who want to take an active role in the education of their children, both in and out of the classroom. 

News and Events

Outdoor Learning Panel
Mar. 30, 2021 AEOE
Join for a 2-hour workshop exploring outdoor instruction. Geared towards classroom teachers, but applicable for folks in other settings as well. This panel discussion will include practical advice, equipment recommendations, and teaching tips.

Inside-Out Leadership Series
Mar. 30, 2021 The Children & Nature Network
The Inside-Out Leadership Series brings children and nature leaders together for virtual networking and workshops, plus special events and world-class conferences.

Youth Stewards
Apr. 07, 2021 Grassroot Ecology

The Youth Stewards program for high school and middle schoolers gives students the opportunity to safely connect with one another, learn about nature, and make a positive impact in their community.

6 Child Development Benefits Of Outdoor Learning
Feb. 14, 2021 moms
Outdoor learning helps children in their development by making children healthier, improved sensory skills, and so much more!

Faces of Environmental Justice
Mar. 01, 2021 San Francisco Bay View
The Black History Month 2021 Senate advancement of Biden appointee Michael S. Regan as EPA administrator sends a clear signal of commitment to environmental justice.

What Can Organic Solar Cells Bring To The Table?
Mar. 03, 2021 Ensia
OSCs expand the potential applications of solar technology, but there are still challenges to be overcome before large-scale deployment.

Climate Champions: Collaborative Learning for Climate Action
Mar. 08, 2021 Ten Strands
Tackling the climate crisis requires creating climate champions of all ages—people who are educated on climate science, passionate about addressing the climate crisis, and engaged in concrete efforts to “bend the curve” of global warming…

California school meals fall short on health and climate goals with meat-heavy menus
Mar. 10, 2021 Friends of the Earth
Pandemic spotlights school food as essential to health and climate resilience as new state and federal bills tackle racial, economic, and nutrition disparities.

Growing support for valuing ecosystems will help conserve the planet
Mar. 10, 2021 Nature
The idea that ecosystems have monetary value now has global support — and creates a route to protecting Earth’s endangered regions.

First-ever study of all Amazon greenhouse gases suggest the forest is worsening climate change
Mar. 12, 2021 National Geographic
The first broad look at all of the gases that affect how the Amazon works—not just CO2—reveals a system on the brink.

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