April 13, 2023 Newsletter

Earth Month is a good time to consider and celebrate how schools can contribute to creating a more sustainable future. One tangible example is through school gardens, which offer countless benefits for students and the environment. This month, we had the opportunity to speak with Doug Henderson, director of STEAM at Val Verde Unified School District (VVUSD), about the success of his district’s school garden program.

Doug shared how VVUSD partnered with the City of Perris to build the garden infrastructure and collaborated with CAELI partners to develop a curriculum integrating the gardens and their produce into classroom learning and the school cafeteria. By offering this hands-on environment-based education, VVUSD creates a more engaging and inclusive learning experience for students. Not only do school gardens teach students about the environment and sustainability, they also help to cultivate a deeper connection to the natural world.

From Classroom to Garden: Environmental Literacy and School Gardens in Val Verde Unified School District

Schools in the Val Verde Unified School District (VVUSD) have created a unified and equity-based approach to implementing gardens to offer students hands-on environment-based education. Learn how Doug Henderson, STEAM director of the district, partnered with the City of Perris to build the infrastructure needed to build these gardens. Doug also shares insights into how he collaborated with CAELI network partners to create a curriculum to integrate the gardens into classroom learning and school cafeterias.

Read more here.

Taking Equity to Scale: Outdoor Learning & Climate Change Education Initiatives in California’s Largest District

Outdoor and environmental education programs have a long history within the Los Angeles Unified School District. Over the last twelve years, the perception of these programs has been transformed from a good experience for children to one of the district’s most expansive initiatives. Learn how Gerry Salazar built buy-in by connecting environmental literacy to families’ wishes and to the goals of multiple district departments and programs.

Register here.

Learn more about our webinar series and listen to past recordings.

Innovation Hub Spotlight

CAELI’s innovation hubs represent a growing community of people dedicated to environmental literacy and outdoor education for youth. Here, we introduce one of our innovation hub leaders!


  • Help Ten Strands secure a $10 million investment in curriculum-embedded professional learning to support California’s K–12 Climate Change and Environmental Justice Program. The one-time investment will help build the professional learning infrastructure necessary for statewide implementation of the program. Learn more here and submit a letter of support by April 21, 2023, using the template here. Send your letter of support to kcowe@tenstrands.org and linda@lbeamer.com
  • ICYMI: If you missed The Center for Green Schools’ webinar, “Climate Change Education in Schools Across the Nation: How State Policy is Delivering Impact,” check out the event recording, session slides, and all resource links for free. Learn more here.

  • The United States Global Change Research Program is seeking public input for the update of its “Climate Literacy: The Essential Principles of Climate Science” guide. The goal is to ensure the guide reflects current climate science, engagement, and education methods, and includes a focus on informed climate decisions. Submit your comments here before May 31.

  • ICYMI: If you missed Green Schoolyards America’s webinar on the groundbreaking Living Schoolyards Act (S-4993), watch the webinar recording featuring Ten Strands CEO Karen Cowe. Learn as expert panelists discuss the academic benefits of living schoolyards and how these initiatives can transform school grounds into richly layered outdoor environments for students of all ages. Watch the full recording here.

  • Join The Association for Environmental & Outdoor Education (AEOE) at the YMCA Camp Jones Gulch in La Honda, California, from May 5-7 for its annual statewide conference featuring José G. González, founder of Latino Outdoors and co-founder of the Outdoorist Oath. Learn more and register here.

  • Check out the Community of Practice for Schoolyard Forests monthly discussion forum. This event serves as an opportunity for school districts, public agencies, and organizations to connect and share information about establishing schoolyard forests at scale. Join us in building a supportive community and national network to strengthen these efforts. Catch up on what you missed and register for the next discussion here.

  • Apply now to be considered for the Health, Environmental Awareness, and Literacy (HEAL) Program, a year-long program cultivating social and emotional well-being for innovative educators promoting environmental education and literacy. The program offers a fully covered fall weekend kick-off retreat on October 21-23 at Gateway Mountain Center, as well as additional support, professional learning, and events throughout the year. Learn more and apply here.