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S2 Ep4: Environmental Literacy - Building Our Understanding of Interdependence with Karen Cowe

Updated: Mar 11, 2021

Karen Cowe is currently the Chief Executive Officer of Ten Strands and the Project Director of the California Environmental Literacy Initiative. She has dedicated her experience and efforts to create and promote environmental literacy throughout California by building partnerships and strategies to provide access to high-quality education with an environmental component. She is an education-industry executive with over 30 years of experience in sales & fund development, marketing, program design, professional learning, business development, and operations.

Karen discusses how her personal interest in the environment and education led her to start Ten Strands with founder and president, Will Parish. Ten Strands is a non-profit organization designed to build partnerships, raise money, and help bring environmental literacy to all California’s K-12 students. Karen talks about the different partnerships Ten Strands has forged, her work with schools and districts, and how this network of contacts and experience is able to build environmental literacy in a way that integrates environmental learning with the work teachers are already doing.

Karen shares stories and examples of a systems-thinking approach to learning in history, math, and other subjects, and invites us to look at how the subjects we are already teaching can be seen through a local and environmental framework. What are the benefits of this approach, in both social and natural systems? Karen highlights the forgotten interdependency these systems have on one another and where these frameworks are set and enacted.

Culturally responsive teaching is a big part of the discussion, and Karen shares a story of how teaching and using the culture/community students are able to find themselves in the lesson, engage with the content, and understand they can impact what happens in the classroom and outside of it in the community.

We discuss Ten Strands' new partnerships that focus on combining equity and culturally responsive teaching with environmental literacy. This includes environmental justice, modeling and data science, and a focus on communities impacted by environmental issues. We explore standards, climate change, politics, and how different forces impact the support for environmental literacy.

Prior to hosting this podcast, Karen (Greenhaus) and Tim, have had the privilege to work alongside Karen when she was the President and CEO of Key Curriculum Press. They know firsthand how dedicated she is to education and supporting education leaders and students. We are thrilled she is on the show.

Below are links to resources and people that were mentioned during the interview:

Karen Cowe - Linked In - Twitter - Ten Strands

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