Restore Default

Stand and Deliver: ESPM 190 Students Reach Out to Local High Schools

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The opportunity to get out of the classroom and into the field is a hallmark of undergraduate education at CNR. But participants of ESPM 190 — who are charged with teaching Oakland high school students about the environment — learn about far more than science.

The class is a key component of the College’s Environmental Leadership Outreach Program, which is designed to address the severe underrepresentation of urban, underserved youth of color in the environmental sciences. In the class, energetic undergraduates spend the first half of the semester being coached as environmental educators and developing field-based curricula of their choosing. In the second half of the semester, the Berkeley students deliver lessons to the Oakland teens, tackling restoration projects and dissecting topics including biodiversity, water issues, and air pollution.

Which is not to say that it’s easy. “We all have this whole idealistic view of how great teaching is, with those images of Stand and Deliver in our heads,” says sophomore Simone Cifuentes, who took the course last spring. “Then you get there and it’s not like that. It can be enchanting and disenchanting, all at the same time.”

According to Mark Spencer, the academic coordinator of the program, the experience is not just valuable to the teens, but also to Cal students who have a unique opportunity “to learn real things about life from the Oakland kids.” And by the end of the experience, says Spencer, “The high schoolers begin to see that the UC campus is a place where they, too, belong.”

-Sara Bernard

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