SMCOE's Green Careers Awareness 

Middle School Program 

Program Overview

The "Green Careers Awareness" middle school program was designed by the San Mateo County Office of Education (SMCOE) in collaboration with numerous partners, and is funded by 2021-2023 and 2023-2025 California K12 Strong Workforce Program grants. The objectives of our program are to pique students’ interest in STEM-related content areas and high school Career Technical Education (CTE) pathways, and to promote careers, jobs, and trades that support a green economy. Our program consists of five introductory lessons and instructional modules. Each module is constructed using SMCOE’s Solutionary Project-Based Learning Framework for its organizational structure, and are composed of fifteen, forty-five minute lessons. Each module provides thematic context through the lens of a United Nations Sustainable Development Goal, include numerous real-world, hands-on activities that offer students an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and creativity by engaging with a design challenge, and support the integration of  environmentally-sustainable and socially-responsible practices and behaviors into students' daily lives, and, ultimately, into the workforce. 

Introductory Lessons

The five introductory lessons are designed to be implemented prior to the first module. The purpose of these lessons is to: (1) have students use San Mateo County’s CA Career Zone website to raise their awareness to their own interests and values, and align them with potential careers; (2) introduce students to CA industry sectors, CTE, and college and career pathways; (3) introduce students to climate change; (4) introduce students to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals; and (5) introduce students to this program's modules.

Middle School Modules

Individual Module Overview

Agriscience prepares students for a wide range of careers in agriculture and animal science. During this module, students will learn about soil through hands-on investigations, simulations and data analysis, learn current best practices from the agricultural industry to improve soil health in the local environment, and design solutions to improve soil health. Students will also learn how to minimize the impact of climate change through carbon sequestration. 

The supply of clean water and the efficient use of energy and water are essential to human health and well-being. During this module, students will work to answer the question: What is the best way to heat water? Throughout the module students will explore the connection between water heating and climate change, design insulation and conduction experiments, build their own solar water heater prototype, identify barriers and solutions to adopting solar water heating, and reflect on career opportunities in the energy, environment, and utilities industry. 

Students embark on a transformative journey to understand the significance of clean water and its critical role in sustaining all life on Earth. They learn about local watersheds, wetlands and marshes, explore water infrastructure systems and water distribution to the Bay Area, water quality and treatment, and how climate change is impacting the global and local water supplies. Throughout the module, students learn about careers in the water industry, exploring the roles they could potentially play in maintaining our freshwater supply and ensuring that all life thrives on a changing planet. 

It is important that students know that their voices matter. In this module, students learn how to design and promote a message with the tools used on many of today’s digital devices. Students learn the basics of computer programming using JavaScript, a programming language used for many of the graphics and animations found on the internet. They also engage with social and environmental justice messages, and how graphics are used to create impactful messages. Students work through a series of design challenges that culminate in a final project where they design a campaign to address an important issue affecting their community.

Engineers and architects envision the future and use the engineering design process to solve problems of today.  During this module students use a systems approach and design thinking to understand people and places affected by climate change. Students learn to program BBC micro:bit, a pocket sized computer and use its hardware and software capabilities to monitor or mitigate human impacts on the environment. The module culminates in a project where students bring together these skills to solve their own (or pre-selected) environmental problems. 

In this unit, students will learn about the engineering design process and how different types of engineers, such as environmental, structural, and coastal engineers, can use it to solve complex issues. Students begin the unit by viewing some of the impacts of sea-level rise before learning about the fundamentals of engineering. During the fundamentals section, students will learn about some of the different types of engineers, the steps in the engineering design process, and participate in a brief engineering design challenge. During the problem cycles, students will explore the causes and impacts of sea-level rise focusing on thermal expansion, storm surge, and erosion. In the solutions section of the unit, students will define the problems facing a fictitious island and use their engineering lens to develop, test, and present a solution for the island’s issues.   

Transportation plays a significant role in contributions to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Finding alternatives to greenhouse gas emitting transportation is critical to mitigating the impacts of climate change. Students design a new community and its clean energy transportation infrastructure.  

The use of methane gas in our homes and communities is risky, yet the fossil fuel industry portrays it as safe and clean, and markets its continued use through social media. Students learn how to detect propaganda and paid sponsored content, and then create a marketing campaign to counteract the fossil fuel industry's sponsored content by promoting a switch from gas to electric stoves and, more generally, total home electrification.

Tons of plastic end up in our oceans each year. To reduce their impacts on the environment, we must replace non-biodegradable, fossil fuel-based plastics with biodegradable and sustainable materials during the product design and manufacturing processes. During this module, students will help solve the “plastic problem” by creating durable, biologically-sourced, sustainable materials, and use them to design products that are normally made using fossil fuel-based plastics. 

Food is an essential component of the human existence, and the dietary choices that we make impact the planet. Switching to a plant-based diet is one solution to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Students explore and compare the impacts of growing beef and plants, and create a "Climate Impact" score and graphic to help consumers make informed choices.  

Over millions of years of evolution, nature has found ways to solve problems that are similar to those found in the manufacturing and product design industry sector. Biomimicry is a practice that learns from and mimics the strategies found in nature to solve human design challenges. During this module, students will learn how to use an online design tool (Tinkercad) to solve a problem using the principles of biomimicry and design thinking strategy.

The integration of green and resilient principles and practices in community planning and urban design enables designers and planners to address the complex challenges of rebuilding communities after climate-related disasters, and create sustainable, adaptive, and inclusive environments that have long-term benefits for individuals, communities, and the natural environment. 

In Development

Robotics for Environmental Justice