Mark Day School
39 Trellis Drive
San Rafael, CA 94903

Ecological Literacy

Responsible world citizenship is a core value of Mark Day School. Good citizens need to be knowledgable stewards of local, national, and global resources and ecosystems. For our students to become effective stewards of the planet, they need to be able to apply informed decision-making to supporting a sustainable lifestyle. Our goal is to develop environmentally literate students who understand the environment in total—both its natural and human-made aspects.

Our environmental education addresses the Earth as an interconnected set of systems, natural and social. Students engage in an exploration of the relationships between these complex systems, an interdisciplinary process of inquiry, problem solving, decision-making, and action.

Numerous units and activities support the development of ecological literacy. Lower Division students not only develop a love of nature in our gardens: They learn about the life cycle of plants by growing and harvesting, gain basic knowledge about different ecosystems and weather patterns, and see interdependence in action with our vermiculture program. The lunch-composting project is handled by the Middle Division students, who collect food waste after lunch each day for our garden composter. Upper Division's Green Team builds awareness about environmental issues by completing power and trash audits, making announcements at assembly, PSAs, and posters. They also organize the Eco-Fest, which is an annual event held on Earth Day, with workshops on different topics (such as chemicals in makeup and body products), environmental art, and activities like making smoothies in a bike-powered blender.

Our outdoor education program begins in 3rd grade with an overnight trip to West Marin and concludes in 8th grade with a whitewater river rafting trip down the Deschutes River. Naturalists accompany the students on all trips and educate them on their location. This program reinforces students' understanding of the resources of our state and our interconnectedness with nature.

Featured Project: Wiggly Redworms at Work

First graders engage in a project-based learning approach that encompasses a 5-6 week intensive study of redworms and vermicomposting. They first address the project's driving question: How can we, as stewards of the worm bin, help others understand the importance of vermicomposting? This driving question helps motivate students in researching information to create non-fiction books that are published for our local partners at Head Start Preschool.

Along the way, students learn how to collect relevant facts using a concept map and diagrams, as well learn how to do research to find information about redworms (physical characteristics, food, habitat, life cycle, interesting facts) and vermicomposting (including worm bins).

The First Graders also spend time interacting with redworms. They worked in pairs to measure their wiggly worm, write words to describe their worm, as well as record observations of their worm.

Students will independently use their learning to:

  • Make decisions and nurture habits that reflect an understanding that we are stewards of an interconnected set of systems and communities, natural and social.
  • Pursue opportunities to address environmental degradation and the human behaviors contributing to it.
  • Participate in designing environmentally sustainable systems and solutions to local and global challenges.