OUR ORIGIN STORY
A FAMILY’S QUEST FOR REAL-WORLD EDUCATION
What started as one family’s search for more real-world, holistic education became a new approach to preparing all youth for a more just, equitable and sustainable future.
The Peebler family works to ensure that all children, especially those who are the most vulnerably situated and traditionally marginalized, have access to quality education that inspires them to become an empathetic world leader.
OUR ORIGIN STORY
HOW IT BEGAN
In the fall of 2010, when April Peebler was considering schools in which to enroll her two children, she found that every single one was lacking what she wanted most for her kids – empowerment and empathy.WATCH OUR BEGINNING
The tone often used with students, especially those traditionally marginalized, was condescending. The classrooms, concrete boxes with concrete slabs for playgrounds, lacked real-world connection to contextualize their education and allow them to thrive in their natural environment as a learning laboratory. The curriculum was rooted in colonialism, complete with images of pilgrims and “Indians” covering the first grade and kindergarten classrooms that their children might soon be sitting in.
April, a lawyer by training, but a mom first and ethical to all, decided to build what she wanted for her children – an authentic, real-life learning experience that would empower them and prepare them to work in a just community with open hearts, curious minds, and a deep respect for and support of others. She developed an interdisciplinary learning model where all subject matters – math, science, literature, art, etc. – tied into an annual theme of solving a real-world problem, and she engaged youth in a collaborative group-learning environment. At the end of each year, the youth would produce collaborative documentaries presenting an analysis of and solution for humanity’s challenges in that theme. Charley and Dakota Peebler, along with their peers, were taught through shared-learning, as kids inspire kids, and through project-based, hands-on, “in-the-field” lessons, often guided by specialists for various disciplines and experiences.
BECOMING A MOVEMENT
The “field” was often San Francisco’s coastline. During a year-long interdisciplinary study of the Americas in 2015, the youth were learning about the Indigenous Peoples of the coast. While studying on the shore, Charley found and picked up a scapula – seeing and touching the destruction of our ocean made an instant and profound impact on this then 10-year-old child. In that moment, Dakota said to April that the next year of learning needed to be about solving the ocean’s problems.
Having seen the profound solutions to great challenges offered by the youth participants, the family and learning group peers were inspired to move beyond a regular learning year and instead do something more about the problems they were studying.
The learning model developed in 2010, addressing real-world issues, is at H2OO’s core. The “something more” that the youth wanted has grown into exactly that – youth leadership summits, advisory councils, policy advocacy, and presentations addressing world leaders at the United Nations bringing voices into the room who otherwise would not be represented.
With a mission of empowering all youth to make positive change in this world through activist-oriented, interdisciplinary, socio- and eco-justice-themed learning projects, the nonprofit Via Senti and its first program, Heirs To Our Oceans, were born.
As H2OO Founding Members from California began outreach, they connected with youth around the world “on the front lines” in the climate and ocean crises, starting in Palau, as they recognized the importance of demonstrating that the ocean connects us! The youth leaders of H2OO realized that what was most important in their mission was equity and equality – youth situated most vulnerably were prioritized and their stories were amplified. H2OO grew to include and support youth ranging from 3rd grade to university level on every habitable continent, including youth from Brazil to Nigeria to Germany to Kentucky to Palau to New Zealand to Taiwan.
Middle school youth set out to start a youth movement connecting with other youth and experts.
First SEAL in Palau, 26 youth from across the Pacific receive full need-based scholarships.
Empathetic Leadership skill building becomes an intentional workshop priority. 6 coastal and island youth receive dive certification through full need-based scholarship.
Provided 14 global opportunities for youth from 9 countries with full need-based scholarships to attend deep-dive, skill-building opportunities, including coral restoration masterclass in Thailand and ocean science with researchers in Patagonia.
Pivoted in-person SEAL to virtual due to COVID serving 43 youth in 9 countries.
Provided 40 laptops and 52 cameras plus tech training to under-served youth to effectively attend 6-week SEAL at no cost.
First Cohort of U.S. Youth Advisory Council for UN Ocean Decade completes 8-month action projects including speaking to 48 U.S. lawmakers, 26 awareness-raising presentations, and organizing a virtual youth summit for World Ocean Day.
Two youth ages 18 and 19 join H2OO Board of Directors.
Seasoned development professional hired full-time.
12 females backpack Northern California mountains gaining life-changing empowerment and connection experiences.
TODAY AND BEYOND
Honoring their commitment to using their financial means to build a healthy and equitable world for all, the Peeblers have largely self-financed H2OO through the first six years. In that time H2OO has established the profound value to youth and built a reputation as a thought leader in the environmental justice education movement.
An urgent direct service need among the youth which H2OO works with has emerged. In seeing children’s and young adults’ rights to life and health becoming more and more violated, H2OO has reacted by providing direct services for physical safety and the development of essential life skills. As such, 2023 marks H2OO’s first philanthropic campaign to provide safe spaces for emerging youth leaders to thrive who otherwise would not be able to reach their full potential living in harm’s way.
OUR THEORY OF CHANGE
YOUTH ARE THE FUTURE OF CLIMATE ACTION
We envision a world where all youth are prepared to lead humanity into a more just, equitable, empathetic future and are connected to the natural world and each other.LEARN MORE