Rodríguez: Addressing the climate crisis through education
Image courtesy of Pixabay.

    I recently had the distinct pleasure of visiting the Lab for Nature-Based Living—the flagship garden of the California Native Garden Foundation. Located at 76 Race Street near downtown San Jose, the foundation is a nonprofit whose mission is to create a new land-use model in order to “leverage urban spaces for education, workforce development and climate resiliency.”

    While this was my first visit to the Lab for Nature-Based Living, San Jose-Evergreen Community College District—through our Workforce Institute—has been partnering with the California Native Garden Foundation on the development of an array of ecologically focused job tracks designed to provide students, professionals and community leaders with the knowledge and tools needed to address the climate crisis.

    This partnership involves college faculty from our Environmental Science department collaborating with the foundation team to provide hands-on instruction in fields including ecological land management, nature immersion and food, STEAM education in the outdoor classroom, mindful gardening and nutrition, regenerative organic agriculture, culinary arts for a plant-based diet, regional ecology and ecological engineering. As the program grows, there will be opportunities for faculty and students from early childhood education, biology, family and consumer services, and more.

    Each of these career tracks is designed to offer advanced skills to professionals already working in the designated field or in adjacent careers. For example, the ecological land management track includes curriculum on soil, water and waste management; native plant communities; beneficial year-round land stewardship practices and other related subjects. Some of the curriculum is designed to teach participants to maintain native landscapes and protect local ecology through practices like converting lawns into ecological gardens.

    Among California Native Garden Foundation’s initiatives is Build 25, a plan to build 25 new urban eco villages, teaching gardens and regenerative urban farms throughout the region by 2030. This ambitious plan could serve as a global model for how communities can thrive in the 21st century even as temperatures rise and droughts persist.

    Other initiatives include the Environmental Laboratory for Sustainability and Ecological Education, community volunteer opportunities and workshops, a college internship program and training for K-12 educators to provide outdoor STEAM education.

    With multiple locations throughout Silicon Valley and programming designed to appeal to toddlers, senior citizens and everyone in between, California Native Garden Foundation is the embodiment of the phrase “think globally, act locally.” As the group states on its website, “We work and live in a hotbed for innovation. We are also living at a time with increased scarcity of water and loss of genetic biodiversity. Santa Clara Valley is set for change!”

    San José Spotlight columnist Raúl Rodríguez is Interim Chancellor of San Jose-Evergreen Community College District, which operates San Jose City College, Evergreen Valley College, the Milpitas College Extension and the Community College Center for Economic Mobility. His columns appear every first Wednesday of the month. He can be reached at [email protected]

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