What’s Next For YouthBuild?

As we look towards the future, we are focused on deepening our partnerships with community organizations, and expanding our outreach and education.

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Thorns & Roses

Over the course of this year there were certainly prickly moments, challenges to overcome, but also opportunities for both staff and students learn and bloom. The goal of this reflection is to share what I viewed as one of the greatest “thorns” and “roses” that YouthBuild experienced in continuing to build what will hopefully be a sustainable focus on sustainability with the support of EFS this year. Read more

Earthseed @ Saul: Extended Reflection

Earthseed Outdoor Learning Lab Proposals are featured on the left.

Some of the challenges in building out the Outdoor Learning Lab project included limited cross-curricular planning time. Because my planning time as an educator in the English department did not align with my teacher collaborator in the agricultural department, we were not able to engage with one another as much as we’d like to in regards to the project timeline & opportunity for cross-curricular student collaboration throughout the project.

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7 people stand in front of a small green wind turbine painted green. In the background there is a greenhouse in front of trees and a blue sky.

Earth Day @ Urban Creators!

Earth Day was a milestone moment in our ongoing collaboration with Urban Creators’ Life Do Grow Farm. We brought together students, staff, alumni, community partners, & funders. The day opened with introductions and a ceremonial circle. Everyone linked arms, giving tribute to the Earth and loved ones who have passed. From there we worked in teams on myriad projects: building benches for the outdoor classroom, moving and filling garden boxes with mulch and soil, building cucumber trellises, completing a cornhole set MakerSpace students are donating to the farm. Read more

Humble Beginnings of the Bodine EfS Project: Part II

Part II: Engaging classes

I had my biotechnology class research community assets around bodine. Here is what they found:

Problem/IssueCommunity AssetsProject/Activity(Bodine, School Community, Your Community)
RecyclingStudents at bodinets
Reduce Energy UsageBioEnergy Consult
Clean Air Council-Suite 300135 S. 19th StreetPhiladelphia, PA, 19103215-567-4004 215-567-5791
Universities and Colleges

Green SpacesDepartment of Environmental Protection- Green Roofs 
South East District- 484-250-2900 
Green roofs reduce temperature, purifies the air
Urban FarmingPhiladelphia Food Advisory Councilhttps://phillyfpac.org/urban-agriculture/
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Adding Sustainability Standards & All School Sustainability Initiative to Curriculum

The U School is based on a competency model.

We have subject specific competencies, and more global ones, with performance indicators like 

“I can monitor my progress, set and track my goals, and create a post-secondary plan to ensure that I am college and career ready.”

There are a set of relevant, but inadequate Next Generation Essentials competencies, that we are currently working to make more robust, in the interest of Target 4.7 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) education for sustainable development and global citizenship. Read more

What are we Breathing?

This academic year studentsscience practices to investigate the quality of the air they were breathing in 3 locations: In the School Building, at Home, around their immediate Neighborhood. The tools used were cell phones and Air Quality Sensors from the University of Pennsylvania’s Bioinformatics Team. Students learned to use Googlesheets to collate, clean, analyze and graph the data. Read more

Humble Beginnings of the Bodine EfS Project: Part I

Part I: And so it begins….

We began with a community asset walk around the Bodine neighborhood (4th and Girard). We discovered several organizations that would be ideal partners for our project. Friends of Orkney Park and City Planter Fit nicely with our food security initiative.

Friends of Orkney Park
Orkney Park, near Bodine HS

Although we were energized to start this project, we were met with strong resistance from our administration.

Moving forward/next steps at William Bodine HS

teacher reflections

Moving forward, we hope to have our student interns return to school in the fall energized from their experiences and collaborate with other interested students to create an afterschool forum.  The focus would enable students to share their experiences as well as motivate others to continue improving the community both at Bodine and in students’ own neighborhoods.   Read more

Toolkit for Teachers- how/why do I teach outside of my content area and comfort zone?

One of the things that the AFNR program offers is an abundance of “real world” problems that are not contrived. Teachers need look no further than the schoolyard (or even their own classroom) to see all the different ways that students can be engaging in their particular content area as it relates to food access and the relationship between nature and the built environment.  Read more

Guerilla Gardening

Students became interested in the concept of guerrilla gardening after doing a different unit involving guerrilla style sticker campaigning around issues that they cared about. Something about doing something that you’re technically not really supposed to do speaks to a certain part of the teenage soul. 10th grade students worked with Anna Herman and the AFNR seniors to learn how to make pollinator seed balls. Read more

Reflections on the Year at Dobbins

Our project at Dobbins this year was addressing the gun violence in Philadelphia. This is a topic our students chose as something that is important to them and impacts their lives daily. The students decided to create a documentary to highlight the roots of this problem. They began by creating an outline for the documentary, conducting some preliminary interviews, and reaching out to other community members and leaders for their input. Read more

Trip to Iglesias Gardens and Phone Zap

10th grade students went on a trip to Iglesias Gardens to learn more about how gentrification and development is impacting the community land reclamation movement in Philadelphia. Mr. Anthony from the gardens talked to students about the complex legal nightmare that entraps a lot of land stewards and the systems that contribute to their land being taken away. Read more

Community is the Key…

Throughout the process of the EFS program, the largest takeaway I took as a teacher and a person is that creating a sustainable community begins with building a community. There are many issues that our students face in their school and home lives that can be addressed by creating sustainable solutions, but if those communities do not hold shared understanding of the need and value of these solutions there is unlikely to be enough momentum to keep these solutions ongoing. Read more

Complex Relationships with Land Explorations

We had discussions about how, while growing things and connecting with nature should be a happy and positive experience, because of this country’s violence against people and the earth, those relationships can actually be very traumatic.

We looked at different groups of people’s historically traumatic relationships with land. We included US mainland indigenous people, native Hawaiians, descendants of enslaved Africans, Puerto Rican people, poor white mine/extraction workers, and Black Philadelphians. Read more

Introducing the U School’s ideas, Competencies, and Chaos

The U School was founded with a mission to break down the “top down” approach of education, and instead center students, granting them autonomy and agency that is not what one would find at a “traditional high school.” This of course presents challenges for staff and students! The educators that come to the U School typically know what they’re getting themselves into, though, while students have frequently expressed feelings of being “duped” by the older students who came and spoke to them about what they liked about the school.  Read more

Dobbins @ EfS Showcase

Dobbins student leaders are creating a short documentary video examining the prevalence of violence in Philadelphia, investigating the root causes and potential solutions.

Students will visit, interview, and record select community partners to deepen their understanding of the connections between violence and the environment — natural, built, and social. They will share the video and submit to multiple platforms, including local youth film festivals such as WHYY Youth Media Awards, and other channels such as PSTV. Read more

Earthseed Outdoor Lab @ Saul

The Earthseed Outdoor Learning Lab project, one of Saul’s initiatives in the EFS program, is inspired by Octavia E. Butler’s novel, Parable of the Sower specifically, the text’s concept of “Earthseed.” This spiritual belief system that centers on truth, knowledge, adaptatbiltiy, growth, nature, & community was used as the core value system to imagine the lab. Read more

Spring Has Sprung at Saul

Things at Saul have changed quite a bit, with the warming temperature they are now working outside! This is an exciting time for the students because it gives them an opportunity to be hands-on, which is vital to Saul. Saul has partnered up with the Eat.Right.Philly program in an effort to get fresh veggies in the hands of students and community members. Read more

WWSD? (What would Shaq do?)

Question Posed: When you think about what you’ve been doing or learning this past year, what stands out to you?

Student Response: I’m focused on the educational part, learning about solar power, learning about wind power and how we can use that for energy instead of what we’ve been doing. Read more

Workshop Cont.

To continue the conversation on gun violence, the class is preparing to learn about CPR. The first part of the worksheet dealt with different parts of the body and what vital organs may be a part of it. Students were paired with one another and was assigned a body part. Together, they found out which organs are a part of that body part and how it can be affected if injured. Read more

Workshop School

The topic the 9th, 11th and 12th graders are focusing on is gun violence, and the 10th graders are focusing on homelessness. Because this is the first week of this topic, the educator designed her lesson planned as building blocks. While I am only there on Thursdays, it’s interesting to see how far they have come along during the week. Read more

Closing Remarks

During this program we have reached a lot of bumps and and curves but with the help from the amazing staff I worked with, we did amazing. There are some things about the program I wish were a little better but overall it was a pleasure. This is where we started “My work fits into the EFS Process by keeping everyone on track and making sure the students have a say in the upcoming project such as any idea they think will contribute to the project. Read more

Youthbuild Visit to Drexel University

On Monday, April 4th I was so excited to host a number of students from the Youthbuild Charter School at Drexel for a demonstration of renewable energy technology such as solar panels and wind turbines and a tour of the Drexel Innovation Studio and machine shop.

In the first part of their visit, we went to the Drexel Engineering Technology Department’s Renewable Energy Laboratory where Professor Finley Shapiro our local expert in renewable energy taught the students how to characterize solar panels and wind turbines. Read more

My Experience at the U School

As I concluded my time at the U School, we were setting students up for summer internships in sustainability fields and to sign up for Anna’s summer program where students would be learning about sustainability and fulfilling different tasks in community gardens and around the school. I was also helping students to finish their senior projects where they chose a proposal or a research topic to present to their classmates. Read more


We’ve been focusing on a plethora of topics and questions since the beginning of the project. The students have been the major stars throughout the entire project. Our most famous question has been “How can we create a better understanding of sustainable energy and actually do something about it?” The hardship that we have taking on besides covid is timing. Read more

Continuing Support for Mastbaum

Recently, work has continued to focus on researching community organizations.  One of the most prominent organizations I’ve found that aligns with student interest is the Charles Foundation.  Founded in 2011, the Charles Foundation is community organization aimed at advocating for community safety, common-sense gun legislation, curbing the school-to-prison pipeline, and creating a supportive atmosphere for youth.  Read more

Fostering a Sustainable Future at School of the Future

At School of the Future, students are most passionate about building school community through field trips to local places of interest. My teaching team is committed to finding valuable connections between this goal and sustainability issues. As of right now, the students have become interested in trips to the Discovery Center, local nursing homes, community gardens, and more through research. Read more

Updates from Dobbins: We did camera training?

Hey! So last time we caught up, we talked about how Dobbins has identified their area of interest and has begun working on their project. If you missed that post, I’ll catch you up. The students at Dobbins are working towards creating a video that combines interviews, that represent various aspects of the community, on the effects and intersections of gun violence and environmental justice issues, such as food apartheid. Read more

Student Interest and Organizations at Mastbaum

I’ve been working with Jules E. Mastbaum Vocational School, a public school in the Kensington area. Students have expressed a deep interest and concern over several social issues, most notably gun violence and drug use, both of which affect safety around the school area. Students and teachers describe an environment around the school that isn’t conductive to learning or supporting students in pursuing their future, as they deal with larger social issues that affect them in adverse ways. Read more

Community Views, Survey Summaries, and Establishing Strategies for Increased Student Unity

Recent work on the EfS project has revolved around the distribution and analysis of a student survey. This survey looked to solicit Frankford students’ voices by defining how they view their respective communities in relation to their environments. Some examples of survey questions include:

  • How do you think the environment relates to your home and neighborhood?
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Focusing in at The U School

A challenge we have been facing at the U School is getting kids from all grade levels involved in sustainability action and awareness in their community. Because Anna teaches a senior level class, it has been easy to heavily involve the seniors with background building, community partners, and hearing their opinions on sustainability at the school. Read more

The Low Down on Saul

It’s week two and so far, I’ve worked with Greg and Rebecca to improve student driven projects. Greg’s class has a two-part project, with the students choosing a topic relating to environmentalism and their neighborhood. While the second part consist of a persuasive speech that is to be given to their peers. Read more

Lincoln Survey and Wellness

I am an alumnus of Abraham Lincoln High School from the class of 2017. My interest in the EFS/PHENND program is to see if I can be able to assist with creating a sustainability program at Abraham Lincoln High School and support the teacher & students. Our team consists of Paula Miller, Chandra Graham, and Maria Pishko as the teachers. Read more