Features ~ Sonoma Valley Sun


Environmental science program added to Soloquest curriculum

Posted on November 15, 2007 by Sonoma Valley Sun

Starting in January, SoloQuest will be adding an environmental science program to its curriculum. Director Deborah Stewart seen here in the room used as the programs lab. Ryan lely/Sonoma Valley Sun

College-bound high school juniors and seniors have a unique opportunity for individual growth while learning about environmental issues, said Deborah Stewart, director of the SoloQuest Learning Center in Sonoma.
A new program starting in January at SoloQuest is designed to educate students about such environmental issues as global warming, population growth and sustainability.
The Environmental Science Program, which gives students credit toward high school graduation and college lab science requirements, combines three educational elements, two days a week in a 15-week semester while they attend regular school.
Students take two courses in environmental science, an inter-disciplinary field that includes the natural sciences and ecology, as well economics, history and sociology, because decisions about the environment reflect society’s values, explained instructor Dora Noton, who has degrees in botany and psychology and has worked for the U.S. Forest Service.. The courses will help students develop their critical thinking skills, Stewart adds.
As part of their field work, students will test local river water for biological pathogens, and explore plant and animal diversity at the Bouverie Preserve.
An internship at an organization or company that deals with the environment is the second element, which gives students the opportunity to learn how both non-profits and businesses accomplish their goals and finance their operations. The Sonoma Ecology Center, for example, will offer internships working on the Nathanson Creek restoration project.
Solarcraft Services in Novato, owned by Bill Stewart, the director’s husband, is one business that will offer internships, giving students the chance to learn about solar energy and conduct energy audits.
The third element is teaching students financial literacy so they can become independent adults. This segment helps students determine basic living expenses, such as housing and health care, and to investigate careers that will allow them to earn enough to support the life they hope to lead as adults. The focus, however, isn’t only on dollars and cents, says Stewart, but also considers “where students’ hearts are.”
In 1990, Stewart worked with the Tamalpais Union High School District to create Tamiscal High School, where the curriculum is based on independent study and internships. She started SoloQuest in 1997 at its current location on West Napa Street, to provide independent study instruction as an alternative to traditional classroom learning. The school typically enrolls 10 full-time students per academic year, and 30 to 50 part-time, mostly from the Sonoma area, in courses ranging from English and math to the visual and performing arts.

SoloQuest will celebrate its 10th anniversary with a public reception at the school Tuesday, Nov. 28, from 5 to 7 p.m. at 414 W. Napa St., 707.939.1133; www.soloquest.com.

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