Teacher Toolkit

Hello from the California Environmental Literacy Initiative (CAELI)!

We believe that we have a unique opportunity to empower and support the next generation of leaders.

As educators, you have answered a powerful calling—to prepare the people who will inherit the leadership and care of our world.

All across school districts in California, CAELI is collaborating with teachers like you. We see teachers as the passionate professionals you are, entrusted with society’s most valuable resource: our young people.

We know you are committed to the growth and development of our young thinkers, scientists, artists, and leaders. We understand you have a lot on your plate, and we want to support you in ways that work for you AND contribute to the success of your students.

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.

By encouraging students to explore their local environments, teachers can embrace strategies that encourage hands-on investigation and discovery and can be applied to any subject area. Integrating environmental learning with core subjects helps meet standards-specific educational goals, and creates opportunities for all students to have impactful, meaningful learning experiences—without adding more work for you.

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 affect their lives. We collaborate with teachers like you who work day in and day out to give students the skills they need to deal with critical issues and prepare them for success in school, life, and career.

Together we can support a new generation of academically successful, environmentally conscious leaders who are excited about learning, innovating, and working together to co-create solutions for our future.

CAELI Support Tools for Schools and Teachers:

  • Connection to resources and local experts in the community to engage students in environmental learning opportunities
  • Resources for infusing environmental literacy into existing coursework in engaging ways
  • Professional learning support from educators, curriculum experts, scientists, and environmental experts

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 enables 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 and support English language learners. We support professional development opportunities and outdoor education resources, so teachers can provide students with engaging environment-based educational experiences inside and outside the classroom.

Why is K–12 environmental literacy important for your 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 cultivates environmental literacy.

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.

How does CAELI help teachers implement environmental literacy in classrooms?

We know that as educators you have a lot on your plate, and we want to make things easier for you. Environmental literacy integrates the environment with core subjects—supporting you and your students to meet learning goals and create opportunities for equitable student learning without adding an additional burden.

By encouraging students to explore their local environments, teachers can embrace strategies that best support student learning. We work with partners throughout California to help teachers accomplish this by providing access to high-quality professional learning experiences—sharing tools and resources that empower teachers and engage students to build key skills while mastering state standards.

How does CAELI improve the learning environment?

We see the system of public education as capable of serving students, communities, and our society. We focus work at the district level to support administrators, subject matter experts, teachers, and students because that’s where change happens. We believe the school district holds space at the heart of community and is entrusted with our most valuable resource: our young people. We celebrate the victories of our partners and recognize the strength of a network working together.

We provide the tools to do things differently. We listen to the needs of the people and districts we serve to co-create environmental learning partnerships and experiences that are based in the communities and places where students live. We work with a generosity of spirit to support academic success and environmental literacy for all students, and prioritize equity by focusing resources on communities who have experienced historic, systemic, and continued barriers to accessing environmental literacy.

Who does CAELI work with?

CAELI partners with state government, local education agencies, environmental education providers, community members, and funders to make environmental literacy a reality for all California’s K–12 students.

How can teachers, parents and school administrators get involved?
  1. Visit ca-eli.org for information and helpful tools and resources.
  2. Discuss environmental literacy with your fellow educators, parents, and school administrators using the talking points in this toolkit.
  3. Connect with local community organizations to work with your school.
  4. Contact CAELI: info@ca-eli.org

Email Outreach

Reach out to stakeholders in your area to express the importance of K–12 environmental literacy. We’ve created some sample email language here, but feel free to change it or tell your own story!

To Community Organizations
  • As an educator, I know how important it is for my students to explore and understand their local environment. Incorporating environmental literacy into K–12 education is a key step toward raising tomorrow’s empowered leaders. I want to work with local organizations like yours to educate and inspire my students.
  • 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 working as partners, we can work collaboratively and inclusively to support students by highlighting the interconnectedness of people and place. Educators, students, and community partners working together are already creating positive change, and continuing to identify powerful new ways of working together.
  • 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. Let’s work together to help create these experiences for my students.
To Administrators
  • As an educator, I know how important it is for my students to explore and appreciate their local environments. Incorporating environmental literacy into K–12 education is a key step toward raising tomorrow’s empowered leaders. As a leader in education, you understand that we are nurturing our most valuable resource: our young people. I know that your leadership results in meaningful, measurable outcomes for our students and communities.
  • CAELI collaborates with state agencies, county offices of education, community partners, and K–12 district leaders to prioritize real-world learning for students that is relevant to the places they live. I want to work with you to incorporate environmental literacy initiatives into our students’ educational experience.
  • Environmental literacy is an effective strategy to support the health of people and the planet. By focusing on environmental literacy, we strengthen core curricula by infusing it with an understanding of the interrelatedness of human and natural systems, preparing our youth to address critical environmental challenges so that they, and future generations, can thrive.
  • Environmental literacy prioritizes including and engaging students of color in meaningful, culturally relevant ways, empowering them to achieve academic success and advocate for themselves, their communities, and the planet. CAELI works with districts to ensure that resources, partnerships, and support systems are focused on equity, and explicitly prioritize communities that have historically been excluded from participation in environmental learning.
  • Let’s work together to give our students high quality environmental education. CAELI will help build connections between schools and local community partners to expand access to innovative educational resources, making environmental literacy a supportive and integral part of every student’s education.

Social Media Messages

Use the following language and graphics to spread the word about the importance of K–12 environmental literacy.