Anthony DeCicco started working for the Golden Gate Audubon Society in September 2006, helping children and adults in underserved communities in San Francisco and the East Bay get involved in environmental stewardship. Before that, he worked at KIDS for the BAY, directing a program that introduced urban youth to their local watersheds and worked with them on ways to reduce pollution in their communities. Anthony holds a degree in language and education from the University of California at Santa Cruz, and he has a Master’s in Environmental Education from California State University-East Bay.
BN: Are you a Bay Area native?
AD: Yes. I was born in San Francisco, and I have lived in or near the Bay Area for most of my life – I can’t seem to stay away!
BN: What is your favorite place in the Bay Area?
AD: Definitely Point Isabel, in Richmond. We have three dogs, and Point Isabel is their favorite place, too! Where else can you walk with your pooches off-leash, find stunning views of the Bay, and buy a cup of tea and a pastry, all in the same place?!
BN: And what attracted you to environmental education?
- Photo courtesy Anthony DeCicco.
AD: Ten years ago I attended a Bioneers Conference, where I had the pleasure of witnessing a very moving performance by a group of young environmental activists. I was inspired to research all existing Bay Area environmental education programs. Coincidentally, at the time my friend (and future wife!) worked for KIDS for the BAY. She helped me secure a contract for teaching their programs. Environmental education was my new calling! I joined the Golden Gate Audubon Society in 2006, and I took over management of the Eco-Education Program, which provides field trips and restoration opportunities for local elementary school students and their families.
BN: Do you face any special challenges in your position?
AD: Yes: acquiring consent from school administrators to simply allow environmental education within their school’s curriculum, especially if the program is year-long, such as ours.
There is a trickle-down stress effect in California public schools: Teachers are pressured by their administrators, who are driven by the Department of Education’s requirement that students reach certain benchmarks within a mandatory testing process. So to make the program as attractive as possible, I have to explicitly illustrate how our curriculum covers a wide variety of content standards listed by the Department. It’s not an easy road.
Although the Department has recently created the Education and the Environment Initiative Curriculum, school districts aren’t obligated to implement it. One time, a teacher was fired for voicing her opinions after her principal refused to allow her to participate in our program.
BN: Have you or your students made any particularly interesting discoveries during one of your programs?
AD: I discovered patience one day, during a field trip at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Regional Shoreline. I was leading an activity to collect and observe plankton. After emptying our catch into the observation tray, I saw the most precious, magical creature I had ever seen — a larval pipefish! It used its tiny seahorse fins to swim through the waters of our tray so gracefully that I cried out with excitement. But then, the older brother of one of my kids pressed on its body with an eye dropper, causing a crook in its spine. I had to muster every ounce of patience I possessed in order not to explode.
BN: What do you like most about living in the Bay Area?
AD: Biodiversity amidst cultural diversity.