In the news: Project Zero Waste honored, kindergarten vaccination rates rise and more

We’ve made it to another Friday, and that means it’s time for our weekly recap of recent education stories.

OCDE’s Inside the Outdoors program leads clean-up event in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

IMG_1634While many commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with parades and ceremonies, students from OCDE’s Inside the Outdoors program annually celebrate the legacy of Dr. King by hosting their own MLK Day of Service event.

IMG_1674They did so again on Saturday, Jan. 16, with more than 100 local volunteers donating 300 service hours to collect 2,000 pounds of trash from the Upper Newport Bay estuary. The latest MLK Day of Service was organized by Inside the Outdoors – led by Development Manager Dawn Curtis – in partnership with the City of Newport Beach and OC Parks.

Volunteers included Orange County students across all grade levels, as well as Inside the Outdoors Foundation board members, community members and representatives from companies such as INK Agency, State Farm, Wells Fargo and US Bank. All were needed for a clean-up that yielded plenty of discarded food wrappers, cigarette butts and even an old, busted guitar.

“Each year, Inside the Outdoors hosts an MLK Day of Service at one of our field trip sites in local parks,” says Lori Kiesser, development director for Inside the Outdoors. “After teaching students and community members about the importance of Orange County’s natural areas, the days of service represent the opportunity for all of us to honor Dr. King by applying what we have learned to real life experiences.”

Check out the Inside the Outdoors website for more info.

Partnership between OCDE, OC Waste & Recycling wins top environmental award

GEELA2A waste-reduction partnership between the Orange County Department of Education’s Inside the Outdoors program and OC Waste & Recycling has received the state’s highest environmental honor.

On the heels of netting a major accolade from the California School Boards Association, Project Zero Waste, a service-learning program that empowers students with hands-on environmental science instruction, has earned its collaborators the prestigious Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award, or GEELA.

OCDE and OC Waste & Recycling were jointly recognized — along with just 11 other organizations — Tuesday night at the California Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in Sacramento.

In the photo above, CalEPA Secretary Matt Rodriquez, left, is joined on stage by Dr. Al Mijares, Orange County’s superintendent of schools; Isabel Rios, recycling and environmental programs manager with OC Waste & Recycling; Lori Kiesser, development director for Inside the Outdoors; and state Assemblyman Matthew Harper, R-Huntington Beach.

“This is a tremendous honor for our program,” Kiesser said. “The GEELA represents the top environmental award in the state, and it’s a testament to the collaborative efforts of Inside the Outdoors and OC Waste & Recycling, which are promoting sustainability and changing lives.”

Project Zero Waste teaches students the science of solid waste through Inside the Outdoors field trips as well as in-class lessons taught by Traveling Scientists. Program participants get to apply what they’ve learned to the design and implementation of solid waste reduction campaigns, which include campuswide recycling efforts, school gardens, community clean-up activities and other student-led activities.

The program, which in December earned the California School Boards Association’s Golden Bell Award, has offered science instruction to more than 325,000 students since it began in 2009. Follow-up assessments show these lessons increase STEM knowledge by an average of 14 percent, and schools engaging in Project Zero Waste have reduced their trash by up to 20,000 pounds annually.

Geelaseal“The lessons learned by students participating in Project Zero Waste extend beyond academics,” Orange County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Al Mijares said recently. “In applying science lessons to develop solutions to real-world problems, students gain team-building, creativity and leadership skills.”

Established in 1993, the Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award is presented annually to individuals, companies and organizations that use sustainable business practices to conserve energy, reduce waste or prevent pollution while contributing to their local economy.

Finalists are selected by a panel of judges that includes the Governor’s Office and the secretaries of the California Environmental Protection Agency; the Natural Resources Agency; the Department of Food and Agriculture; the State Transportation Agency; the Business, Consumer Services, and Housing Agency; the Labor and Workforce Development Agency; and the Health and Human Services Agency.

Each year, the panel evaluates and announces winners in the following categories: Environmental Education; Ecosystem and Land Use Stewardship; Climate Change; Zero Emission Vehicle Dealers; Sustainable Practices, Communities or Facilities; and Waste Reduction.

For more information on the GEELA program and this year’s recipients, click here. To learn more about Project Zero Waste, check out the video below, and be sure to visit the Inside the Outdoors website to get involved. 

Project Zero Waste wins CSBA’s distinguished Golden Bell award (video)

IMG_1302A waste-reduction partnership between OCDE’s Inside the Outdoors program and OC Waste & Recycling has earned the California School Boards Association’s highly regarded Golden Bell Award.

Project Zero Waste is a service-learning program that has provided hands-on environmental science instruction to more than 325,000 students since its launch in 2009. 

Participants first learn the science of solid waste through Inside the Outdoors field trips and in-class lessons taught by Traveling Scientists. Then they apply what they’ve learned to the design and implementation of solid waste reduction campaigns, which have included campuswide recycling efforts, school gardens, community clean-up events and other student-led activities.

“Receiving the Golden Bell Award for Project Zero Waste is an honor,” Lori Kiesser, development director for Inside the Outdoors, told the OCDE Newsroom. “For Inside the Outdoors and OC Waste & Recycling, it validates a successful partnership that continues to change the lives of Orange County students.”

Indeed, the Golden Bell Award is a leading educational honor in California. Now in its 36th year, the accolade goes to programs that highlight best practices in support of effective governance, teaching and student learning.

Project Zero Waste would appear to be a worthy recipient. Assessments of Project Zero Waste students show an average increase in STEM knowledge of 14 percent, and the benefits go even further. Schools engaging in the program have reduced their trash output up to 20,000 pounds annually.

“The lessons learned by students participating in Project Zero Waste extend beyond academics,” said Orange County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Al Mijares. “In applying science lessons to develop solutions to real-world problems, students gain team-building, creativity and leadership skills.”

OCDE also received the Governor’s Award for Environmental and Economic Leadership for the Project Zero Waste program in 2011.

To learn more about Project Zero Waste, check out the video below, and visit the Inside the Outdoors website to get involved.

OCDE’s Inside the Outdoors science education program is in the spotlight again

OCDE’s popular Inside the Outdoors program is the subject of a new feature story from the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association.

You can check it out here.

CCSESA supports students, schools, districts and communities by enhancing the service and leadership capabilities of California’s 58 county superintendents. The organization began spotlighting successful educational programs back in September.

10.2.08 245Inside the Outdoors dates back to 1974 and continues to expand student knowledge of natural environments through hands-on lessons. Administered by OCDE, the program currently has 14 field trip locations in Orange County and one in Los Angeles County, and it regularly dispatches Traveling Scientists — often accompanied by an assortment of critters — to local schools.

Earlier this year, we reported that the Anaheim City School District was making Inside the Outdoors science lessons available to all of its approximately 20,000 students, marking a first for Orange County.

Anaheim district is first to make OCDE’s Inside the Outdoors program available to all students (video)


Marking a first for Orange County, the Anaheim City School District is giving every one of its students the opportunity to receive quality outdoor science education through OCDE’s long-running Inside the Outdoors program.

You read that right — every student at every grade level. For Anaheim City, that means approximately 20,000 kids in transitional kindergarten through grade six will receive hands-on lessons covering science and nature.

Superintendent Linda Wagner said the investment was made as the district developed its Local Control and Accountability Plan, which annually seeks feedback from key stakeholders and allocates resources accordingly.

“Our parents have always told us how important the field trip is to their child’s full experience,” Wagner said. “Inside the Outdoors continues to set the bar by providing remarkable memories and real-life lessons for our students, and we are proud of our continued partnership.”

cc_homepageAdministered by the Orange County Department of Education, Inside the Outdoors was established in 1974 to expand students’ knowledge and stewardship of the natural environment. The program, which aligns with the state’s standards, offers 14 field trip locations in Orange County — and one in Los Angeles County — and it dispatches Traveling Scientists to schools to promote the awareness and appreciation of science. Much to the delight of students, the scientists are often accompanied by exotic and native animals, and hands-on science labs. (For more, check out the video above.)

The partnership between Inside the Outdoors and the Anaheim City School District spans four decades and has provided science instruction to an estimated 250,000 students. But this year marks the first time that every student in the district will participate.

Kelly Barrett, a curriculum specialist in Anaheim City, said all grade levels can benefit from the program’s high quality field trips, which enable students of all ages to connect with nature and engage in meaningful science lessons.

Meanwhile, it’s worth noting that improving environmental instruction is among the initiatives supported by State Superintendent Tom Torlakson in his recently released Blueprint for Environmental Literacy.

“Climate change, wildfires, and the drought are clear reminders of how important environmental issues are to our own lives and the health of planet Earth,” Torlakson says. “Students need to learn about the environment so they can make informed choices and help to maintain our clean water and air, and preserve our scenic resources.”

The blueprint recommends making environmental education available to all students, finding a funding source to sustain and improve instruction, working with outside organizations to ensure quality instruction and providing students with a variety of learning experiences.

Inside the Outdoors would appear to check all of the above boxes, plus one more: Students think it’s pretty cool.

“Most of us remember a field trip experience from when we were young, and it is very exciting that Anaheim students will have similar experiences and memories,” said Inside the Outdoors Operations Manager Stephanie Smith. “This is a great opportunity for students to get rich, hands-on science field trips to help them connect with what they are being taught in their classroom.”

Inside the Outdoors living history field trips move learning out of the classroom (video)


We recently caught up with one of our Inside the Outdoor programs leading a field trip for third- and fourth-grade students at the historic Helena Modjeska House. This living history field trip is an example of the offerings from Inside the Outdoors that moves learning out of the classroom and into a hands-on environment through programs designed to support the curriculum for each grade level.

At the Helena Modjeska House, students have the opportunity to not only tour the historic home but also to use the tools and machines of the time, play parlor games, engage in common chores that children in the 1900s were expected to do, learn about beekeeping and explore the garden. Take a look at the video above, which shows students experiencing life in 1900 rural Orange County.

For more information and to register for hands-on living history and science programs, visit the Inside the outdoors website here.