Graphic collage of various scenes from the 2003 San Diego Wildfires
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A fundamental goal of the San Diego Wildfires Education Project is to promote responsible environmental citizenship by (1) increasing knowledge and awareness about environmental fire damage and recovery processes, and by (2) developing the skills, expertise, and commitment that young people need to make informed decisions and participate in the democratic resolution of environmental problems (Jamason, McCrea, and Spence, 1997).  From this goal the following project objectives have been established:

Objective 1: To assure that school teachers in the both urban and rural school districts in San Diego County have ready access to a high quality, value fair, and developmentally appropriate educational resource that promote environmental literacy in grades K-8;

Objective 2:  To assure that ethnically diverse children targeted by this initiative experience personally and culturally relevant, regionally developed, high quality environmental education;

Objective 3: To provide an environmental experience in targeted schools—interactive education, music, graphic imagery, for lower grades and informative text, images, and field experiences for middle school students--that is engaging and developmental, emphatic but value fair, and personal while group empowering;


Objective 4:  To promote collaboration and cooperation among educators, public utilities, nongovernmental organizations, and government agencies regarding the value and importance of responsive environmental education for young children in the public school systems in San Diego County whose quality of life has been impacted by the 2007 and 2003 San Diego wildfires.              


The project also addresses the following priorities.

Community Environmental Issues:  The proposed project will educate district school personnel, teachers, and potentially 275,000 students in grades K-8 concerning critical environmental damage resulting from the fires and the expected recovery processes for watersheds, habitat, and plants and animals in the San Diego’s chaparral, backcountry and forested areas.

Public Health: A major concern for San Diego communities in the vicinity of the fires remains the health impacts from ash, run-off, unhealthful air, and water pollution.  The project will clarify these issues, as appropriate, for each grade level, reinforce science-based knowledge pertaining to human-health threats from fire-based environmental damage, and identify simple, replicable behaviors that will assure healthy living in the burn areas.

Teaching Skills: One important goal of the proposed project is to empower teachers through focused training (workshops), curricula prompting, and availability of no-cost environmental education resources that can be readily adapted to the classroom. The latter have already been developed by government and educational agencies in San Diego County, and the project will help targeted teachers “rediscover” these valuable education aids. 

Environmental Justice:  Many of the students targeted by this project are from low-income, ethnically diverse backgrounds.  Analysis of census data for affected zip codes suggest low-income status in the 35 percent range.  For some, English is not the language spoke at home. The developed project curricula will utilize both verbal and visual learning cues, assuring access by all ethnic groups to critical environmental recovery information and healthy lifestyle advice.

Photo by Pamela McDaniel/Yahoo News

Thick black smoke hangs off the coast at Carlsbad (October 27, 2007)

Photo Credit:

McDaniel, P. (2007). Select 2007 San Diego fire photo. Yahoo News. Retrieved December 6, 2007 from

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Copyright 2004 San Diego State University Foundation