Q&A with Emily, ILACSD Environmental Educator

Emily Melear, Environmental EducatorWe’re switching things up for today’s blog! Emily originally joined the ILACSD team in September as one of our part-time educators. You may remember her from recent blogs about food waste reduction as well as eco-friendly holiday tips! Within the last month, however, she moved up the ranks to become a full-time Environmental Educator! Read on to learn more about Emily and why we’re excited to have her as a part of our team!

Q: What brought you to I Love A Clean San Diego? 

Emily poses proudly with her Girls Scout patch she received from ILACSD!
Emily proudly points to a patch she received from ILACSD when she volunteered at a beach cleanup with her Girl Scout Troop all those years ago!

A: I Love A Clean San Diego stands out because of its genuine, word-and-deed methods to improving the environment. I am impressed by the extensive reach of our programs, and how we offer something for everyone. After years of teaching kids in an outdoor setting, I was looking for some way to teach about the environment while in the city. ILACSD was the place for me! I have a substantial collection of early memories where I was taught environmental stewardship (including ILACSD beach cleanups with my Girl Scout troop!) while still very young. Learning that mindset at an early age leads to a lifetime of positive actions. In today’s world, it is essential to have our youth be environmentally minded.

Q: What environmental topic are you most passionate about?

A: I love teaching about food waste because it’s a simple way to get started. Students can easily grasp the concept of “giving back” as they watch food decompose in the compost bin, and as plants thrive in the composted soil. In my previous camp experience, we would graph our food waste at each meal. During just 5 days at camp, our students regularly reduced their food waste, often achieving a waste-free meal by the end of the week. As I travel to various sites to deliver presentations, it’s exciting to see so many schools with gardens and compost bins.

"I love teaching about food waste because it’s a simple way to get started."
“I love teaching about food waste because it’s a simple way to get started.”


Q: Do you have a green New Year’s resolution?

A: Shorter showers! Despite my efforts to live an environmentally-conscious lifestyle, that’s one guilty pleasure that has avoided the chopping block. I have decided that 2015 will be the year!

Q: What do you enjoy most about being an environmental educator?

A: The most rewarding moments are when you see the information click for a student. Whether it’s when they see a picture of a seal tangled in plastic, or they get fired up and declare war on pollution, that moment of impact reassures me they will be more conscious about their future choices.

These microplastics are harmful to our environment and our local wildlife.


Q: Do you have a favorite presentation?

By helping students experience the nature in their own neighborhood, they can better understand and value the nature surrounding them every day.
By helping students experience the nature in their own neighborhood, they can better understand and value the nature surrounding them every day.

A: That’s easy – Nearby Nature. The most effective way to teach people to care about the environment is to have them develop a personal relationship with nature. Spending time outdoors will more effectively teach a person to respect their environment than any fact or figure. A close second would be our SDG&E presentation/cleanup combination. Immediately taking action after learning the harms of litter will leave a longer-lasting impression on the students’ behavior.


Q: What do you look forward to most as you settle into your new position?

A: I’m excited to be able to speak to the environmental issues in our local community, find new ways to encourage sustained engagement, and encouraging kids across the county to work toward a clean San Diego.


Do you have a passion for environmental education like Emily? ILACSD is looking for an experienced educator to join our team as a part-time educator. For more information about the position please click here!

To apply, please send cover letter, resume, and availability to Samantha Russo, srusso@cleansd.org. No calls, please. Applications will be accepted until position is filled.






Squirrels, Snakes, and Majestic Birds

Today’s blog comes from our Education Coordinator, Erika Bjorkquist.Erika-team

The morning started out fantastic. “What do you expect to see when we get in the canyon?”  “Squirrels.” “Snakes.” “Majestic birds.” We split into 4 groups of 7 students and a leader and headed down. Half by way of Genessee, half descending  behind the school. Four educators, 2 volunteers, 2 teachers, 52 students, one canyon.

Giving kids a chance to learn about and appreciate nature (even if it's prickly)!
Giving kids a chance to learn about and appreciate nature (even if it’s prickly)!

The first group I led down the steep slope into the canyon questioned the quick change in temperature and smell. One student connected the smell to a weekly vocabulary word, musty. Another hypothesizes that there is more shade in the canyon, resulting in colder temperatures. That and the sinking of cold air creates a drainage flow. Once in the canyon and layered up, we followed the creek and made discoveries. One student found tracks and after close examination, decided they belonged to raccoons. Others enjoyed identifying plants through comparison of their naturalist guide. Some looked in every oak tree for galls, like they were hidden treasure. They all liked touching sagebrush and fennel, even if they didn’t enjoy the smelly aftermath.


While some students liked plants the most and others enjoyed looking for animals, they all seemed to appreciate the opportunity to learn outdoors. Most of the students we brought to the Tecolote Canyon had never been there before, even though it is mere feet from their school. This is a fantastic program that opens kids eyes to the nature around them. I am so glad I was able to be a part of it.

Nearby Nature: Connecting Underserved Kids with the Environment

Today’s post comes from our Education Coordinator, Erika Bjorkquist Erika-team

One great thing about San Diego is the access to nature. Scattered throughout its urban areas are canyons, preserves, and open space, so no matter where you live, nature is at your fingertips. While the natural world is within our reach, many people are not aware of the benefits of spending time in nature or even its proximity to their communities. Through our Nearby Nature program, ILACSD hopes that students become more familiar with their surroundings and enjoy their local environment.

Literally reaching new heights in environmental education!
Getting a closer look at the natural world

Research is showing that children need connections with nature as part of their healthy growth and development. Though nature is beneficial, children are spending less time outdoors. This disconnection can add to health problems like obesity or event result in a fear of the outdoors.  ILACSD hopes to reconnect students in under-served schools to the natural environment. This two-step program first introduces students to what they can find in nature and the importance of protecting these natural places, and then leads students on an educational hike through a nearby natural area. By helping students experience the nature in their own neighborhood, this program allows them to better understand and value the nature surrounding them every day.

This program is a favorite of ILACSD staff, as shown through our education staff:

My favorite thing about NN is spending time outside, enjoying and appreciating San Diego’s canyons with San Diego’s kids.” Monica Rosquillas, ILACSD Environment Educator

I learn as much as the students we lead, they have a curiosity that is contagious!” Erika Bjorkquist, ILACSD Education Coordinator

If you are interested in learning more about our Nearby Nature Program, please contact Erika Bjorkquist at ebjorkquist@cleansd.org.

Students today, future environmentalists tomorrow!
Students today, future environmentalists tomorrow!