With over 100,000 schools in the U.S. occupying a total of 2 million acres of land, the education sector represents one of the largest public infrastructures in the U.S. However, for the young people who stand to inherit the mantle of the future, schools are under-equipped to protect and prepare them for our climate reality. In fact, in the 2018-2019 school year alone, over 1.25 million students in California missed school due to wildfires or other extreme weather. With students spending most of their youth in school facilities, districts stand as an underutilized resource in the fight against climate change.
This month, we spoke with California Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools program manager George Garcia about the California Green Ribbon Schools Award Program. The award recognizes schools statewide that are making sustainability improvements and paving the way toward climate action in their districts. We also heard from CAELI members about how the CAELI network helped drive important connections and provide key resources for applicants in their sustainability journey.
California Green Ribbon Schools Award, an Attainable and Worthy Endeavor
The California Green Ribbon Schools Award Program (CA-GRS) recognizes schools and districts making sustainability improvements and acts as a guide to drive meaningful climate actions. In this article, California Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools program lead George Garcia, along with educators—and CAELI members—from CA-GRS schools and districts, celebrate the 2023 Green Ribbon Award honorees and share why the program is so meaningful.
Climate Generation Summer Institute & Cohort Day
Join Ten Strands at the Teach Climate Network’s three-day climate change education conference from July 17–19. The Climate Generation Summer Institute will feature meaningful discussions about the intersection of social justice and climate change and collaborative conversations among national climate change education leaders. Ten Strands is hosting the California Cohort Day on July 19, focused on strategies to help support Climate Resilient California Schools.
A Superintendent’s Perspective: Leading for Lasting Change
Promoting environmental sustainability in a school district is a collective action project, and its ongoing success depends on both bottom-up and top-down approaches to leadership. When embraced and done well, good work continues even with district office leadership turnover. Join us on June 15 for a presentation that will feature a superintendent’s perspective on how this work came to pass in two districts and what can happen when the leadership of these efforts transitions from board and superintendent to students, staff, and community partners.
CAELI COE Fellowship
The CAELI County Office of Education (COE) Fellowship is a nine-month fellowship that supports COE employees to launch or further develop a robust environmental literacy and sustainability initiative that drives change across a school or district’s campuses, curriculum, community, and culture. Through a series of workshops and learning activities, fellows are provided with the tools for understanding how to provide county or regional-level “backbone support” to key constituents (administrators, teachers, staff, students, community-based partners, etc.) in their school communities. The outcome of this fellowship is a drafted 3-5 year vision, plan, and budget for their initiative and identified actionable next steps.
COE Environmental Literacy Community of Practice
Now in its third year and growing, the CAELI COE Environmental Literacy Community of Practice brings together staff from COEs across the state. The Community of Practice aims to build capacity for COEs to support environmental literacy and sustainability efforts across campus, curriculum, community, and culture subsystems in schools and districts in their region. Members will have the opportunity to share best practices and resources that address common issues related to expanding access to environmental literacy and sustainability education. Join the community for their monthly meetings featuring networking opportunities, professional learning, and focused discussions on self-selected topics.
In Recognition of Juneteenth
Juneteenth reminds us of how far we’ve come and the long way to go to undo systemic and institutional racism. In the United States, the unjust policies faced by Black communities are found at the core of many environmental justice issues today. Juneteenth serves as a day to reflect upon and renew our efforts to address inequities in our public education system and recognize the work of Black climate action leaders paving the way for greener campuses that provide opportunities for educators to graduate environmentally literate and climate-ready students.
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!
Opportunities, Events, and News
- SEI’s Climate Corps is a fellowship program that provides professional development opportunities for emerging leaders through the implementation of sustainability and resiliency projects with local governments, nonprofits, and for-profit businesses. Host organizations receive the support of qualified, passionate, dedicated fellows who gain real-world expertise in sustainability project implementation. Ten Strands and SEI are partnering to support efforts to bring climate corps fellows to California COEs. In order to support these efforts, Ten Strands and SEI have developed a training program that both COE Coordinators and their Climate Corps Fellow would attend together. Learn more about how to get involved here.
- Join the monthly Community of Practice for Schoolyard Forests discussion forum and connect with school districts, public agencies, and organizations across California to share information about establishing schoolyard forests to 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.
- The CAELI Partner Portal is a central directory for community-based organizations offering environmental education programs for California schools. The portal aims to increase equitable access to impactful environmental literacy programs for all of California’s TK–12 students, foster collaboration, build capacity for educators and establish consistency in program alignment. Visit the CAELI Partner Portal.
- A recent report found that hiring administrators focusing on energy savings and sustainability initiatives could collectively save millions of dollars for school districts. As an emerging K–12 profession, sustainability directors can help schools tackle the escalating effects of climate change on districts and the already-difficult work of overseeing complex public buildings. Read more here.