Coast 2 Coast

Teaching middle school students about the environment, on both coasts


Background Information

Judinelly Gonzalez grew up in San Rafael, California, while Kareem Troncoso Guerrero grew up in Boston, Massachusetts. Both girls met each other at the Alzar School in the Fall of 2019 and developed a close connection regardless of living on opposite sides of the country. Throughout the semester, they became aware of similar things. Judy noticed that it was important to allow younger kids to explore outside as her parents had given her. Kareem became aware that it was important to connect city kids to outdoor adventures and how they affect the environment. Because they had similar ideas, Judy and Kareem decided to work together to create an experience that would connect younger students, as Alzar School had for them. Together, Judy and Kareem created a CLP that would join middle school students from the two coasts together, known as Coast 2 Coast.

“I wanted to connect kids to the outdoors in some way during COVID-19 since restrictions for going outside became stricter. I think this pandemic has opened everyone’s eyes to how we take the outdoors for granted. It is important to teach young students about our environment so that they become aware of how fortunate they are to explore outside when there are no restrictions. ” – Judy Gonzalez

Implementation of Project

Initially, Judy and Kareem had separate projects, but they decided to work together after COVID-19 disrupted the normal flow of things. As the time in quarantine increased, schools, parks, beaches, and trails were shut down. Judy and Kareem were unsure when conditions would normalize again, and they knew that changes in their projects were inevitable. These changes resulted in a combined CLP that kept the essence of their original projects, the importance of the environment. They knew that because of the quarantine, it would be difficult for students to go outside. Through weekly video calls, Judy and Kareem created a Sparkpage with all of the necessary information for their project, decided what topics they would teach, and sent out emails to their partners. Kareem reached out to the Boys & Girls Club at her old middle school, and Judy reached out to the Crossroads program at her high school to seek out student participation. Their finalized project, Coast 2 Coast, would teach middle school students four lessons based on the four elements through Zoom calls. Two of those Zoom calls happened at the same time so that students from the east and west coast could have the opportunity to interact.

“This is a great opportunity for you to take advantage of.” – Abby French, One of the directors of Crossroads


Results of Project

Kareem and Judy spent five hours a week planning what lessons they would teach and when they would teach them. The lessons are unique to the location a student is participating from. For example, their earth lesson is based on native and invasive species, but because California and Massachusetts are two different states, the plants vary. All lessons are designed to fit within 30 minutes.  Their lessons have been successfully approved by students and parents.

“Coast 2 Coast taught me to take care of my planet because global warming makes forest fires worse and can cause people who live in dryer climates to lose their homes.” -Isabella, Spring 2020 participant

What’s Next

Through the project, Kareem and Judy have realized how impactful a short project can be for middle school students. By incorporating online games and thought-provoking questions, they have learned that a balance in lessons is the key to maintaining student engagement. Lessons do not need to be excessively detailed to share an idea. The simple takeaways are the ones that will easily be remembered and considered in the future. Kareem and Judy hope to influence a higher number of students in the remaining lessons. There has been communication with a summer program of continuing this project, and both girls have started to consider adding a few more lessons to broaden the material being taught. Kareem and Judy hope to inspire other high school students to continue the project next year from their schools.

“As we start senior year things will definitely start to become more hectic, so we want to take advantage of the summer time to implement our program among more students. Around spring time next year I am hopeful that I’ll be able to interact with students in person so I can take them outdoors and gauge more student’s interest.” – Kareem Troncoso Guerrero