May 11, 2023 Newsletter

This winter and spring, California experienced record snowpack and rains, alleviating the most severe signs of drought in many parts of the state. However, even as California’s famed flower blooms return, the state’s reservoirs remain depleted, and water shortages are expected to continue. As California looks for better water management solutions, we see an opportunity to educate California students about their local watersheds and sustainable water management practices. We are proud to highlight the 2023 Environmental Education Organization of the Year, Friends of the Los Angeles River (FoLAR), an organization that aims to do just that.

This month, we spoke with CAELI Equity Innovation Hub co-chair Candice Dickens-Russell, president and CEO of FoLAR, to learn more about how the L.A. River is intricately linked to California’s water management practices and how FoLAR is helping the state move toward more holistic watershed management practices by restoring the natural and historic heritage of the river. Read on to learn more about how FoLAR is building capacity for communities, students, and future leaders to advocate for nature, climate, and equity on the L.A. River by being part of networks such as CAELI.

Photo by Peter Bennett, taken at Glendale Narrows

Friends of the Los Angeles River: Building Capacity for Nature, Climate, and Equity

With over twenty years of experience in sustainability, education, and environmental literacy, Candice Dickens-Russell joined FoLAR as president and CEO in 2022. Since then, Candice has helped the organization expand its mission, create more equitable programming, and earn the title of 2023 Environmental Education Organization of the Year. In this article, Candice shares how FoLAR partners with the Los Angeles Unified School District to provide free resources that foster critical thinking while encouraging students to learn about the L.A. River’s past, present, and possible future.

Read more here.

AEOE, Ten Strands, and CAELI Announce Friends of the Los Angeles River (FoLAR) as the 2023 Organization of the Year

FoLAR’s innovative and culturally responsive approach to river restoration and community engagement has made it a national leader in supporting urban river revitalization and a powerful force for positive change in the Los Angeles region and beyond. This is why the Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education (AEOE), CAELI, and Ten Strands are pleased to name Friends of the Los Angeles River (FoLAR) the 2023 Environmental Education Organization of the Year.

Read more here.

Connecting Student Learning to Campus Sustainability: Energy Projects for Career Readiness

Schools play an often overlooked role in addressing environmental sustainability and climate change. Join us on May 18 for our next District Innovation Hub webinar to learn about an exciting partnership between Porterville Unified School District and the nonprofit Climate Action Pathways for Schools, through which paid student interns are developing projects that have reduced the district’s energy costs by $850,000 and greenhouse gas emissions by twenty-four percent in the first two years. Together, the partners have raised over $9 million for related facility upgrades through state and federal grants. Learn how your district can save money, seek facility funding, and provide students with high-quality college and career programs.

Register here.

Watch previous webinars here.

CAELI Partner Portal

Did you know that CAELI houses a central directory for community-based organizations offering environmental education programs (in-classroom, field trip, overnight, etc.) throughout the state? The CAELI Partner 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. The benefits of the CAELI Partner Portal include finding curricular and programmatic resources that connect to instructional standards; visiting a single portal to locate experiences that support student learning, advance environmental literacy, and promote equity; and locating County Office of Education microsites to find locally established partnerships. Email us at if you have any questions.

Join us Wednesday, May 17 for an orientation to the CAELI Partner Portal.

Visit the CAELI Partner Portal.

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!

  • The California Youth Climate Policy (CYCP) Leadership Program empowers high school students to take climate action into their own hands by initiating a climate policy campaign in their school or district. With mentorship from adult coaches, including CAELI project director Andra Yeghoian, students will participate in a summer retreat and monthly workshops focusing on foundational knowledge and skill-building activities related to environmental and climate action. Students will develop a personal leadership plan to apply their knowledge and skills to lead a campaign that passes climate policies (or builds on existing policies) in their school or district. Applications are due by May 29! Learn more here.

  • The Climate Generation Summer Institute is coming up on July 17 to 19—a virtual conference full of powerful and engaging keynote speakers, meaningful discussion 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 to showcase locally-focused, teacher-friendly resources and statewide network opportunities. Presenters include: CAELI, CREEC, CASE, AEOEECCLPsENCEACAL FIRE, the CA Department of Water Resources, and the Climate Change and Environmental Justice Program. Register and apply for scholarships here.

  • The Community of Practice for Schoolyard Forests monthly discussion forum provides a space 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.

  • Join ITZA’s One Planet Challenge—a free, ten-day virtual learning event from May 10 to 19 that takes students to Yellowstone National Park to discover the healing power of forests and learn about rewilding efforts worldwide. Engage your students with short videos, quizzes, and articles on sustainability. Take a sneak peek at what students will cover on ITZA here. Learn more about ITZA, get more information on the One Planet Challenges, and register your school. By participating in the Rewilding Challenge and submitting a project entry, one of your students might win a scholarship to attend the Villars Symposium in Switzerland in June 2023! Learn more about the One Planet Challenges here.

  • ICYMI: On April 21, the Climate-Resilient Schools webinar welcomed nearly 200 participants! The forum brought together leaders in climate change and education, including CAELI project director Andra Yeghoian, to discuss the policy landscape and the path ahead to achieve climate-resilient schools in California. Watch the webinar recording here and check out the presentation deck here.

  • UndauntedK12 has released a new toolkit that offers students, schools, and advocates twenty-three levers for school climate action in 2023. Over the last year, new financial resources have become available, making it easier for schools to take action on climate. With the right tools, mindsets, and partners, districts and schools across the nation will continue to make headway this year and for years to come. These levers can help students, school leaders, and advocates set ambitious school climate goals and make a plan to achieve them. Learn more here.