Tools & Resources for Community Organizations

Hello from the California Environmental Literacy Initiative (CAELI)!

We believe people are connected to the places we live.

We believe California’s people value each other, our geographically and culturally diverse communities, and our environment, and act on that caring.

We know that throughout California, community leaders and community organizations have the knowledge, experience, and expertise that can translate into culturally-relevant hands-on education for our K–12 students.

As a community leader or organization, you’re actively involved in bettering your community. You have unique and valuable expertise and deep knowledge of the communities you work in partnership with.

By functioning as a network of partners, CAELI works collaboratively and inclusively to support California’s K–12 students by highlighting the interconnectedness of people and places through environmental literacy—educators, students, and community partners are identifying powerful new ways of working together, and creating positive change.

CAELI collaborates with community organizations and the K–12 public school system to incorporate environmental learning that is locally based and culturally relevant into the regular school day—both inside the classroom and out. By connecting schools with local organizations like yours who are actively involved in building thriving communities, we create opportunities that empower our young people and support them in fulfilling their potential to imagine—and realize—a better world.

Without your work, ours would not be possible. We’re grateful to have you join us.

CAELI Primer

Why Environmental Literacy?

Environmental literacy engages students in critical thinking and helps them learn in ways that are relevant to their lives, communities, and the world around them. As a community organization, you’re actively involved in improving your community every day. You’ve seen firsthand that leaders emerge from many settings—from local programs and grassroots movements to spiritual institutions—and you’ve cultivated many of these leaders. You have unique and valuable expertise and deep knowledge of the communities you serve. Without your work, we would not be able to do ours.

By helping students explore their local environments and sharing your expertise, community leaders and organizations encourage hands-on investigation and discovery that can be applied to any subject area. Integrating environmental learning with core subjects helps teachers meet standards-based educational goals, and creates opportunities for all students to have impactful, meaningful learning experiences rooted in their local places.

Engaging Lessons for Today’s Youth

CAELI collaborates with state agencies, county offices of education, K–12 districts, and community partners to prepare California’s students for the future while building their skills in highly engaging settings. When the environment is used as a context for teaching core subjects, learning is more exciting, effective, and culturally relevant; this cultivates students’ understanding of issues that directly impact their lives. Together we can support our young people to be academically successful, environmentally conscious leaders who are excited about learning, innovating, and working together to create solutions for our future.

Talking Points & FAQ

What is environmental literacy?

Environmental literacy is the capacity to act individually and with others to support ecologically sound, economically prosperous, and equitable communities for present and future generations. Through lived experiences and education programs that include classroom-based lessons, experiential education, and outdoor learning, students will become environmentally literate, developing the knowledge, skills, and understanding of environmental principles to analyze environmental issues and make informed decisions. (California Blueprint for Environmental Literacy)

What is the California Environmental Literacy Initiative (CAELI)?

The California Environmental Literacy Initiative creates a system of support in California that empowers all students to have local, standards- and environment-based experiences that enhance their learning in core subjects inside and outside of the classroom.

By bringing together existing resources, stakeholders, and expertise, CAELI creates collaborations, builds capacity, and transforms systems to increase their impact and sustainability. CAELI works to ensure that teachers have access to high-quality professional learning and instructional materials that address standards across core subjects and support English language learners. We support professional development opportunities and outdoor education resources so that teachers can provide students with engaging environment-based educational experiences inside and outside the classroom.

Why is K–12 environmental literacy important for California students?

Environmental literacy has the capacity to positively impact who students become and how they interact with their environment, their communities, and their world. It is a way to support all students in developing the knowledge, understanding, and opportunities that prepare them to meet challenges and fulfill their potential to imagine—and realize—a better world.

Environmental literacy is essential to the future of every student in California, and every student in California—inclusive of race, ethnicity, gender identity, ability, citizenship status, and socioeconomic status—deserves access to a high-quality K–12 education that includes learning through, about, and in their local environment.

Understanding our environment and human impact is crucial for our individual and collective wellbeing. Environmental literacy cultivates the skills students will need to deal with critical issues and supports their capacity for success in school, life, and career.

By focusing on environmental literacy, we prepare our youth to address environmental challenges like water and air pollution, increased fire risk, drought, and rising sea levels, so that they and future generations can thrive.

What do people say about the CAELI network?

“The people off-campus that make these opportunities possible are active, important partners who advocate within their own organizations to maintain and increase annual contributions and learning opportunities, helping our students achieve mastery of science standards and raising the environmental literacy of students and their families. Developing this network is crucial, as these people and organizations are true community environmental advocates with a stake in educating the community. They ask for nothing in return other than to improve the community, and when engaging with partners remember to say ‘thank you’—student notes go a long way!”
Juanita Chan
Educator, Science Lead at Rialto USD

“The result is win-win: science education is strengthened and made more relevant to students through meaningful, local, environment-based learning, and at the same time environmental literacy is nurtured as teachers and students develop a sense of place that paves the way toward stewardship.”
Joey Scott
Teacher Programs Supervisor, Monterey Bay Aquarium

How can community organizations and leaders get involved?
  1. Visit for information and helpful tools and resources.
  2. Discuss environmental literacy with your fellow community members using the talking points in this toolkit.
  3. Contact CAELI:

Email Outreach

Thank you for joining the CAELI network. Please feel free to use this email template to alert your list to your part in our collaborative work, or personalize it by sharing your own stories!

Email Template
  • As a leader of [ORGANIZATION NAME], I know how important it is for California students to explore and understand their local environments. Incorporating environmental literacy into K–12 education is a key step toward raising tomorrow’s empowered leaders. That is why we are proud to partner with the CAELI program to encourage and support environmental literacy for every California student.
  • CAELI collaborates with community organizations and the K–12 public school system to incorporate environmental learning that is locally based and culturally relevant into the regular school day—both inside the classroom and out.
  • By functioning as a network of partners, we can work collaboratively and inclusively to support California’s students, highlighting the interconnectedness of people and places through environmental literacy.
  • Educators, students, and community partners are already working together to create positive change, and continuing to identify powerful new ways of collaborating.
  • Part of what contributes to the strength and resilience of communities is the intergenerational health and wellbeing of its people. In every community, there are leaders—including young people. To increase their opportunities for success, it’s crucial that we provide them with relevant, engaging, real-world learning experiences that will guide them into the next chapters of their lives.
  • We are proud to join the CAELI network and contribute our expertise to this work. Please consider joining us!

Social Media Messages

Here are some ideas for sharing the importance of K–12 environmental literacy.