Some San Mateo County high school students will dive into exploring the potential effects of sea level rise on waterfront communities, under a program being considered by the county Board of Supervisors.
County supervisors will discuss a proposal to spend $12,000 of Measure A tax money to develop the Youth Exploring Sea Level Rise Science program during their meeting Tuesday, Oct. 20.
Students from a high school on the coast and Bayside would be able to take classes investigating the danger of sea level rise, and what can be done to mitigate that threat, under approval of the program by the board, said Supervisor Don Horsley.
Horsley, a former science teacher, said he believes the program is valuable to help breed passion and interest in an issue which will shape the future of communities throughout San Mateo County.
“The challenge of our time is climate change,” he said. “We are living in a different kind of world and we are going to need to adapt.”
As Horsley said climate change continues to be a growing cause for concern in future generations, he hopes the program will be effective in spreading awareness for environmental issues.
“We have to be better stewards of the land and do everything we can to reduce greenhouse gasses,” he said. “We will have to adapt, it’s not a joke. This is something we have to think about.”
Students and teachers selected for the program would have the opportunity to participate in field learning sessions, where they would collect data on flooding, identify properties which are threatened and meet with members of the community living in affected regions, among other opportunities, according to a county report.
Students would also meet with policy makers, perform at public speaking engagements and conduct interviews with experts to inform their research on the effects of sea level rise in San Mateo County, according to the report.
Under approval of the funds, education company Coravai would be hired to run the program and collaborate with the county’s Office of Sustainability on initiative.
The funds would be made available through the county’s Measure A, the half-cent sales tax approved by voters in 2012.
Horsley said the students stand to get a glimpse of the difficulties associated with balancing environmental policy concerns against social and economic issues.
“We have to make decisions that take into consideration economic viability, as well as where people live,” he said. “There is so much infrastructure on the Bayside. How are we going to protect that, or move it? Those are the decisions that these younger people are going to be faced with, so we may as well get them started.”
Granting students an opportunity to get out of the classroom and learn in the field is an effective means of delivering lessons to those who learn in a variety of ways, said Horsley.
“You do not forget something when you are physically involved with it,” said Horsley.
He said members of the local education community have not expressed interest in developing such a program, but believed many local teachers and students would find it interesting.
“I don’t think it is going to be tough to get any teachers,” he said. “This is a great lab for learning.”
The program also aims to hire a local artist to work with students in the program to create a public promotion raising awareness about the vulnerability of areas in San Mateo County to the threat of sea level rise, according to the report.
Horsley said he believed involving students from communities which stand to be most affected by climate change and sea level rise is a way to engage them in an issue which could threaten their home.
“Our coastside residents are probably the most concerned about knowledge and really anxious to be involved in discussions about sea level rise,” he said. “So I thought that would be a great place for us to start.”
Horsley said he hoped the program would help affect change in the community as well, which is necessary to help slow the creep of climate change on the environment.
A program which breeds passion and interest in a topic that threatens the future of communities in San Mateo County, and teaches students how to interact with policy makers and publicly address important issues can have an positive effect on the future, said Horsley.
“I think this next generation, they are the future and they are going to have to be the ones that ... make sure we have policies that are the best for the future of our country,” he said.
The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors meets Tuesday, Oct. 20, in the Board Chambers, 400 County Center, Redwood City. The meeting begins at 9 a.m.
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