CFI Education’s 9th Annual Environmental Youth Forum

9th Annual Environmental Youth Forum. Photo credit: Tommy Lau Photography


“Three percent of water on the planet is fresh water, and only about one percent is readily available for human use.”
– World Wildlife Federation

This is one of the shocking statistics students learned at CFI Education’s 9th annual Environmental Youth Forum that took place March 6 – 8, 2017 at the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center.

EYF is free for all Bay Area schools, grades 1 – 12. The program exemplifies STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) in action and is an opportunity to immerse students in a fully interactive and unique learning experience that fosters creative thinking and conversation on how to solve real world challenges by:

  • offering the most current and solution-oriented thinking about environmental challenges
  • inspiring conversations focused on new, better and greener ideas
  • presenting opportunities to initiate environmental reform and activism

We know that we are in a critical moment to engage the next generation to be responsible global citizens. We believe that it is more important than ever for young people to find their personal connection with the causes they believe in and to learn that their contributions will make an impact on the world. EYF was created to address this through a dynamic, absorbing, and challenging approach to teaching environmental awareness and activism to a diverse youth population. The program is designed to take the learning back into the classroom through detailed curriculum notes and learning materials.

9th Annual Environmental Youth Forum Active Cinema Room. Photo credit: Tommy Lau

More than 3,000 elementary, middle and high school students from the San Francisco Bay Area filled the three-screen theater to learn about the importance of oceans and fresh water, indigenous land rights, climate change and chemical contamination of food, water and consumer products through a collection of challenging and engaging films, discussions with environmentalists, scientists and filmmakers, and the opportunity to take action in their local communities by discovering volunteer opportunities with local environmental groups.

On Day 1, Disney Nature’s new film Born in China (to be released on Earth Day 2017), was screened to a packed house in Theater One. Elementary students learned about endangered species including the golden snub-nosed monkey and snow leopard, whose habitats are being threatened by global warming.

With recent news events including the Oroville Dam crisis and the Dakota Access Pipeline Protest, the Oceans and Fresh Water focus of Day 2 could not have been more timely. Middle and high school students attended films A Plastic Ocean and Of The Sea, a presentation by the Fish Eye Project. This innovative project streams live underwater broadcasts to learn about marine environments. Day 2 also included an in-depth panel with marine ecologist Maeva Gauthier (Fish Eye Project) and water advocates Tanya Streeter (A Plastic Ocean), David Gordon (International Rivers) and Miranda Fox (The Story of Stuff). This panel focused on local, national and international water issues that are threatening communities and marine life, as well as the grassroots mobilization that is occurring to ban the privatization of water sources in small communities, i.e. Keep Nestle Out of the Gorge, a grassroots campaign that succeeded in banning commercial water bottling in Hood River County, Oregon through a successful ballot measure in November 2016.

Day 3’s Environmental Issues in the New Media Age panel focused on where students can turn to find reliable sources of information to help save this planet in an engaging discussion with Joaquin Alvarado of Center for Investigating Reporting and Monica Lam of KQED News.

The 9th annual EYF proved to be another educational and entertaining event for Bay Area students, but don’t just take our word for it:

“My students love the three short films by Jonathan Bird! The films shared a really unique perspective on sharks, octopi and sponges, three marine animals that most children are slightly afraid of or don’t know anything about. They learned new things about these animals that stimulated their curiosity and built a greater understanding of these animals. They all want a pet sponge!”
-Teacher, Willow Creek Academy

To learn more visit:


Nancy and Rich Robbins
Sheri Sobrato Fund
Pacific Gas & Electric Company
Bellam Self Storage & Boxes
Marin Charitable