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Academics & Arts
Upper School (Grades 9-12)

Environmental Justice Semester

Are you a student who wants to make a positive impact on society and the environment?
What if you could make your impact while learning at school?
A change-making experience is coming Fall 2023 and Spring 2024!
Now accepting applications!
Imagine spending a semester alongside passionate changemakers, learning from experts in the field, and contributing to meaningful positive change in the greater Cleveland area and beyond.

The Environmental Justice Semester at Laurel is a 15-week immersive, academic semester program open to Tenth and Eleventh Grade girls on Laurel’s 150-acre Butler Campus in Russell Township, Ohio. The campus offers a natural space with terrestrial, aquatic, and agricultural ecosystems for student changemakers to devise solutions for the ecological and social challenges facing urban Cleveland, a rustbelt city grappling with many environmental and social justice issues.

Attend an Information Session

December 10, 2022 • 10:00 - 11:30 AM
Laurel's Butler Campus • 7420 Fairmount Road, Russell Township, OH 44072

December 13, 2022 • 6:00 - 7:30 PM
Laurel's Lyman Campus • One Lyman Circle, Shaker Heights, OH 44122

Join us for an informational session to learn how to be a part of a transformational, academically rigorous, and one-of-kind student-centered semester program. Laurel School’s Environmental Justice Semester is for 10th and 11th Grade girls and is open to students from Laurel and all Northeast Ohio schools. This information session will include a short presentation about curriculum, student-led project work, volunteer partnerships and the admissions process. Come learn more about this change-making semester!

About the Semester

List of 4 items.

  • Environmental Justice Defined*

    Environmental Justice (EJ) positions us at the intersection of environmental studies and social justice. EJ issues include such challenges as:
    Climate change
    Inadequate access to healthy food and transportation
    Air and water pollution, and
    Toxicity in homes and communities
    *Environmental Justice Platform adopted at The First People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit, 1991
  • A Semester “Away” in Northeast Ohio

    Current Laurel students and girls from the Greater Cleveland area can pause their studies at their current school and earn a semester of credits through an immersive Fall or Spring semester learning about issues in Environmental Justice and partnering with solution-focused organizations throughout greater Cleveland to take action. At the end of this highly-engaged academic “semester away”, students return to their regular academic program at their high school inspired and hopeful about solutions in the environmental justice movement.
    Read More
  • Growing the Next Generation of Female Changemakers

    The Environmental Justice Semester is committed to fostering ethical leadership - students make a positive impact in the greater Cleveland area and beyond. As part of their coursework, girls volunteer weekly with EJ-focused partner organizations, matched to student interest, to learn from and support the work already being done in the field of EJ.
    Read More
  • Environmental Justice Semester Curriculum

    The semester is centered around place-based learning and deep interdisciplinary scholarship while working to build student capacity for compelling storytelling and to foster ethical leadership. English, history, and environmental science courses are taught in interdisciplinary ways, while more discrete subjects such as mathematics and World Languages will be offered online through our longstanding partnership with online educational organization One Schoolhouse (OSH). Our collaboration with OSH provides asynchronous learning that is flexible and complements the EJ semester seamlessly.
    Read More

Frequently Asked Questions

List of 12 frequently asked questions.

  • Q. Who is a good fit for the EJ Semester and do I have to be a Laurel School student to attend?

    Who's a good fit?
    • High school girls entering 10th or 11th grade who are passionate about climate and environmental justice, are excited to work with peers, partners, and experts from diverse backgrounds, and are ready to take action and spur change in the greater Cleveland community.
    • Students who are concerned about the current climate crisis but aren’t sure how to make an impact are a great fit for this program and will benefit from volunteer work and exposure to a variety of organizations and approaches to climate/environmental justice work
    And, no, you do not need to be a current student of Laurel School, nor are you required to attend Laurel School after the semester ends. Current Laurel School students are welcome to apply and attend. While we encourage multiple students to apply from the same sending school, it is not required.
     
  • Q. What does the student-volunteer experience look like?

    As part of their coursework, girls volunteer weekly with EJ-focused partner organizations, matched to student interest, to learn from and support the work already being done in the field of EJ. A sampling of partner organizations include the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, the Ohio Environmental Council, Action for Climate Emergency, and the Swetland Center for Environmental Health.

    Students become changemakers with the tools, inspiration, and agency to advocate for environmental justice and to use their voices for the greater good. They engage in hands-on research, action for change, and project development in local communities

    These projects can include:
    • Climate change policy research
    • Environmental education
    • Lead poisoning policy and education
    • Tackling food deserts
    • Ecological restoration (tree planting, urban gardens, invasive removal)
    • Community organizing
    • Attending local council meetings
    • Journalism
  • Q. Where is the EJ Semester located?

    The EJ Semester is located on the 150-acre Laurel School Butler Campus in Russell Township, Ohio. The campus includes forested areas, ponds, wetlands, agricultural areas, yurts, athletic fields, and a fitness center. Russell Township is a suburb of the city of Cleveland, a rustbelt city facing many environmental and social justice issues, making it an ideal location to study the natural environment and city solutions and challenges. 

    The home base for the program is centered at “The Fairmount House,” a cozy, repurposed home situated on the south end of the Butler Campus. The house features a learning lab, resource room, indoor and outdoor community space, kitchen, bathrooms, and study rooms.
  • Q. What is the time commitment?

    The schedule follows a typical extended school day schedule, typically from 8am to 4pm.  However, occasional evening events (community gatherings, council meetings, evening lectures) may be required. Students may also find they have to spend additional time on math and language courses outside of the typical school hours. Students must be able to commit to one weekend overnight trip. Students have one required reading prior to the start of the semester.
  • Q. What classes are offered and how do the academic credits match up with my school?

    The EJ Semester is centered around place-based learning and deep interdisciplinary scholarship while working to build student capacity for compelling storytelling and to foster ethical leadership.
     
    Students earn semester credits in:
    • Honors English (The Power of Words)
    • Honors Science (Equitable Solutions for a Changing World)
    • Honors History (Environmental Ethics and Policy)
    • Mathematics (placement is tailored specifically for each student; classes conducted online through One Schoolhouse)
    • World Languages (placement is tailored specifically for each student; classes conducted online through One Schoolhouse)
    • Environmental Justice Action Project
    • Physical Education/Personal Wellness
     
    For-credit mathematics and World Languages courses will be offered through our longstanding partnership with online educational organization One Schoolhouse (OSH). Our collaboration with OSH provides asynchronous learning that is flexible and complements the EJ semester seamlessly.

    For non-Laurel students, EJ Semester academic advisors work with the student’s high school academic counselor to coordinate course equivalency and transcripts, and work through any questions around course sequencing and credit, given your personal circumstances and requirements.
  • Q. Do you offer transportation to the EJ Semester?

    For current Laurel students: A bus runs daily from the Lyman Campus to the Butler Campus at the start and end of the school day. Participants are also welcome to drive to or be dropped off at the Butler Campus. Transportation is provided from the Butler Campus to volunteer sites. Students who would prefer to drive themselves to their volunteer sites are permitted to do so, provided the family signs a transportation waiver.

    For students from other schools: If families are unable to provide transportation to either Laurel School’s Lyman Campus in Shaker Heights or the Butler Campus in Russell Township, our transportation department will arrange transportation for the student. Arranged transportation may utilize school buses, private transportation services, or public transportation. Each student’s transportation arrangements may be unique and depends on the location of the sending school.
     
  • Q. Can I participate in sports or extracurriculars while attending the EJ Semester?

    The EJ Semester provides an opportunity for students to become immersed in developing expertise and taking meaningful action in EJ. We encourage participants to pause their extracurriculars to allow time to fully immerse in the content and volunteer work.
    As such, we recommend that students apply for the semester (Fall or Spring) that conflicts the least with their extracurricular activities.

    While are currently seeking answers from OSHAA about how eligibility might be affected at a participant’s sending school and will update this FAQ as soon as more information is available.
  • Q. What is the Butler Campus like?

    Butler is a 150-acre nature campus that houses an apiary, gardens, greenhouses, research plots, sports fields, and ponds. Hiking and outdoor lessons and activities are a significant part of our program. The environmental science course occurs primarily outdoors, where students utilize our campus as a living laboratory, contributing to long-term monitoring projects and forest restoration efforts. 
  • Q. How will attending this EJ semester impact the college application process?

    Students graduating from the Environmental Justice Semester will have many advantages when applying to college. These include:
    • A letter of recommendation for college upon completion of the program
    • Over 50 apprenticeship/service hours 
    • A digital portfolio of their Individual Environmental Justice Project
    • Advising from Laurel’s team of College Guidance Advisors
    • Evidence of the student's character and commitment to creating a more just, inclusive, and ecologically healthy world
    Students seeking to enter careers in law, engineering, medicine, policy, natural and social sciences, art, sustainability, and writing will all benefit from an immersive semester that focuses on how one's work can impact marginalized groups and our natural world. 

    We recognize the importance of junior year in the college search and application process. As such, all juniors attending the EJ Semester have access to the college application resources at Laurel School. In particular, juniors attending the EJ Spring Semester will attend a course (Junior College Workshop) that covers all of the college search processes. Laurel’s team of College Guidance Advisors is committed to working with and supporting EJ semester participants throughout their college search.
  • Q. What is the tuition and what's included?

    Tuition for the EJ Semester is based on a family’s ability to pay.
    Laurel is committed to enrolling academically qualified students with a wide range of financial circumstances and is proud to offer Variable Tuition, whereby tuition rates are customized according to each family’s ability to contribute to their educational expenses. Full scholarships are also available for students who qualify. Current Laurel students will not pay an additional fee for the EJ Semester.

    Included with tuition and fees:

    • A letter of recommendation for college upon completion of the program
    • Lunch. Breakfast is also available at the Lyman Campus for those who take the shuttle.
    • Technology fees and school laptop
    • Books, instructional materials, and school supplies
    • Field trips
    • Butler Campus fitness facility access
    • College counseling services for Juniors 
    • Student Accident Insurance
  • Q. How can students apply for Financial Aid?

    Applicants will apply for Financial Aid when applying for the EJ Semester.
    Laurel offers Variable Tuition for all students, whereby tuition rates are customized according to each family’s ability to contribute to their educational expenses The application for admission and the application for Variable Tuition through Clarity, a third-party tuition service, are separate but simultaneous. The Variable Tuition application window runs from October 2022 through January 27, 2023. Applications may be submitted on a rolling basis after January 27, 2023, but space and Variable Tuition may be limited. The steps to apply are outlined on the Laurel School website Tuition and Affordability page.
  • Q. What is the application deadline and when will you notify applicants about decisions?

    We are now accepting applications for Fall 2023 and Spring 2024.

    • January 27, 2023 - Application and Financial Assistance deadline
    • February 10, 2023 - Notification of Admission and Financial Assistance
    • February 24, 2023 - Response due to the School
    • After February 24, 2023 - Rolling admissions as space allows
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