Estuary Action Challenge

Estuary Action Challenge
Founded: 1992

Estuary Action Challenge (EAC) collaborates with teachers to inspire environmental consciousness in children and cultivate a love of learning. EAC is committed to education through action and to a healthy environment for all communities.

Estuary Action Challenge was founded by teacher and biologist Mandi Billinge to give teachers and K-6 students in the San Francisco Bay Area the opportunity to address pollution and environmental justice issues through hands-on estuary education and restoration projects. The San Francisco Bay Area houses a rich diversity of natural resources that adds to the quality of life of its residents. However, multiple threats to those resources are ever present. Located in communities of the East Bay are numerous oil refineries, chemical companies and toxic waste facilities. The tens of thousands of people living there are not immune to the environmental health impacts of these industries that are polluting the Bay, land and air. Nor are they unaffected by the dredging, drying up, and poisoning of the many urban creeks that run through inner urban communities. Ms. Billinge and EAC have created unique solutions to these environmental problems through uniting science education and environmental activism into powerful opportunities for low-income students and students of color. They are her constituency. EAC gives children the tools and skills needed to become the problem solvers of the future.

Current Programs:
EAC's programs focus on urban creek restoration, sources of pollution affecting the Bay and teaching safe Bay food consumption practices. Two of EAC's six programs, Urban Creek Restoration and Safe Bay Food Consumption, are year-long programs. The EAC staff work in the classroom and in the field with students while simultaneously training teachers in the program's curriculum. The goal is to give students this combination of indoor education and dynamic, hands-on experiences in the outdoor environment where they apply those lessons. Long after EAC leaves the classroom, the teacher is able to continue teaching the lessons, in the classroom and in the field. Thus, EAC's vision of a sustained environmental education movement in East Bay schools is able to thrive.

In the Urban Creek Restoration program, students, equipped with solid principles of biology and aquatic ecosystems, spend the year cleaning and restoring urban creeks. This includes removing garbage, planting hundreds of trees and riparian plants and introducing native aquatic life back into the creeks. The student's efforts always include bringing in various community members, including parents and residents, to help with the work. The Safe Bay Food Consumption program centers on students interviewing and educating the many people, including the children's families, that rely on Bay fish for subsistence. All of EAC's programs culminate with EAC staff and school teachers leading open and challenging conversations with students about lessons learned, feelings of empowerment and students' aspirations and responsibility for future activism in their communities.

Recent Successes:
As of this year, EAC reaches 120 schools and 3,000 students in six programs at schools and in communities across the East Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area. The organization has implemented programs in seven cities and three counties. Through a diversity of activities, EAC has spurred the restoration of urban creeks, watersheds, and natural areas bordering the San Francisco Bay. Students taking part in EAC programs regularly meet with city and county politicians to discuss urban and environmental issues, and most recently, met with the Mayors of Berkeley, Richmond, and Oakland, to encourage them to enact stronger environmental regulations. As there are currently teachers and schools on the EAC waiting list, Ms. Billinge and EAC are designing new strategies to achieve school-wide impact.

Web Site:
The EAC Web site provides background information, more detail on each program, and staff profiles.

Funding Needs:
EAC is funded largely by foundation grants and program fees. Donations from individuals are helping to diversify our income and build a more sustainable organization.

Contact: Mandi Billinge, Executive Director
Phone: 510.985.1602

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