Guided by our Core Values, Ten Strands operates with a small, diverse, and nimble staff who work with strategic partners throughout California to advance environmental literacy. Our team serves as a catalyst for transformational change in the public education system and believes that all students have the potential to become future-ready, with the capability of discovering viable climate solutions for their communities.
Since launching Ten Strands in 2012, we have supported over thirty-three thousand teachers across the state in using a model curriculum developed to support environmental literacy in delivering thirteen million environment-based lessons. We work at the state level to meet the urgency of the climate crisis, empowering the next generation of youth leaders with the education to face and find solutions to challenges in their local communities. Our partnerships have secured a $6 million investment from the state to create curricular resources focused on climate change and environmental justice, making California the first state to publicly finance the creation of such units.
As a core priority, our advocacy work plays a critical part in scaling environmental and climate literacy. Along with building the capacity of districts and county offices of education to implement proven strategies, and strengthening the statewide network of dedicated partners, we are catalyzing change through an innovative whole school systems approach.
We value our partnerships with and the contributions made by community-based organizations to enrich the education experience of all students. As a field catalyst, Ten Strands embraces:
Beyond equity statements and verbal commitments to support marginalized communities, we take our responsibility to uplift impacted voices and share leadership seriously. As you continue reading our Annual Report, you will see how our team has intentionally placed these values into the creation and growth of our programmatic initiatives.
Together, we have accomplished many great things in these past ten years. The future of Ten Strands is a future that will continue to ensure that students across California are equipped with the knowledge necessary to create healthy communities.
With immense gratitude,
Karen Cowe, CEO
Our Board of Directors supports the work of Ten Strands by providing governance and mission-based leadership while cultivating strategic partnerships. Our Advisory Board further enhances our impact by offering their expertise and supporting new avenues for innovative educational change.
supporters of legislative proposal
letters of interest received from over 70 organizations
Organizations selected to collaborate with Ten Strands
Ensuring that all of California’s 5.8 million public school students have access to free, high-quality climate and environmental justice curriculum is critical to achieving educational equity. In July 2021, the State of California appropriated $6 million for the development of education resources to help teachers develop their students’ understanding of climate change and environmental justice. CCEJP is a collaboration between Ten Strands, the San Mateo County Office of Education, the California Department of Education, a wide-range of partner organizations, and leaders who have come together to develop K—12 curricular resources. The free open education resources will connect the humanities with the sciences, offering students over 15 hours of interdisciplinary instruction each year. At each grade level, the activities will build upon prior lessons so that students have cyclical and iterative experiences over the years.
The program will provide students with a deep understanding of climate change and environmental justice issues in California, empowering them to make a positive difference in their local communities. Our commitment to an equitable approach in creating these K—12 learning resources has attracted a wide range of partners who center the experiences of historically marginalized and Indigenous communities in their instructional method. This innovative approach to standards-based instruction brings valuable and diverse perspectives to the project.
A collective action network seeking to ensure access to high-quality environment-based learning for all California’s TK–12 students.
We believe in the power of systems change as a lever to ensure that all students have access to high-quality environment-based learning. This year — with a membership made up of educators, governmental and non-governmental agencies, scientists, sustainability professionals, and individuals with expertise on the environment and systems change — CAELI completed its first full season under the leadership of Andra Yeghoian as project director and the new Theory of Action. Andra replaced Ten Strands’ CEO, Karen Cowe, who was in this role for the first eight years of the initiative. Learn more about how the hubs promote student learning in our monthly newsletters.
Joining Juanita Chan-Roden, we also welcomed CAELI’s newest co-chair, executive director of the Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education Estrella Risinger, and said goodbye to departing co-chair Craig Strang, since the launch of CAELI. We thank Karen and Craig for their service. Read more about the leadership transition that took place in June 2023 here.
At CAELI, we have new and exciting opportunities for individuals and organizations to be a part of the movement! This year we published two new web pages: one provides ways to Get Involved, and the other offers access to the many Resources created by CAELI.
new CAELI Members
participants in CAELI events and programs
people with CAELI resources and stories
new newsletter subscribers
social media followers
new users to our website
Online Library Resources
The pandemic created immense challenges for educational leaders by increasing rates of teacher burnout, exacerbating existing inequities, and the urgent need to support student learning recovery. Ten Strands, alongside Green Schoolyards America, the Lawrence Hall of Science, the San Mateo County Office of Education, and other key partners, understood that outdoor learning provides a powerful opportunity to deliver healing and equitable education to all students, benefiting their academic achievement, social development, and overall well-being. We co-founded NOLI as a collective action project to develop a free online library to guide K—12 schools to safely and equitably reopen. Over 400 volunteers created more than 200 resources, garnering extensive national press interest from 1,110+ media outlets with 166 unique articles published. In June 2021, NOLI was presented the Best of Green Schools Michelle Curreri Collaborator Award.
This effort has evolved into a long-term climate action initiative that helps educational institutions consider how they can make investments in building resilience through permanent outdoor spaces and programs.
Ten Strands has also joined forces with Green Schoolyards America, the California Department of Education, and CAL FIRE to launch the California Schoolyard Forest System (SM), a new initiative to create schoolyard forests across PK—12 public school grounds to directly shade and protect students from extreme heat and rising temperatures. We remain committed to school grounds designed for ecological resilience, teaching and learning using the outdoors, and student health and well-being.
Virtual and in-person attendees
Goal to graduate environmental and climate literate high school students in California
Our partnership with the University of California (UC), the California State University (CSU), and community organizations is a first-of-its-kind collaboration preparing pre-service and in-service teachers to advance climate and environmental literacy in PK—12 instruction. By significantly expanding the opportunities of every child in California to learn about climate change and to have the tools to affect positive social action, our youth will develop an intrinsic desire to care for our planet. ECCLPs focuses on PK—12 climate and environmental justice literacy through research, teaching and learning, and community partnerships within the UC and CSU systems, through which more than half of the state’s teachers are trained.
ECCLPs’ relaunch event brought together climate change activists, educators, and funders for an immersive experience showcasing the important perspectives of students, educational leaders, Indigenous voices, and community organizations. The event also served to announce Ten Strands’ board member, Dr. Kelley Lê’s, appointment as the initiative’s inaugural executive director at UC Irvine. An experienced education leader and author, Kelley is motivated to bring practical and scalable solutions to the preparation of current and future teachers to educate students across the state to be dedicated stewards of our planet.
A New Holistic Approach to Scaling Environmental and Climate Literacy, and Supporting Sustainable and Climate Resilient Schools
Change often requires the disruption of existing systems and practices. For our first 10 years, we have focused on teaching and learning as the center point to advancing environmental literacy. Ten Strands aims to meet the urgency of the climate crisis and the need for environmental justice by catalyzing change through an innovative whole systems approach – a holistic framework engaging the multiple educational components of campus, curriculum, community, and culture to make transformational shifts. By expanding our approach, we will open up new opportunities for investing in programs and services that align key constituents around high-impact leverage points that connect environmental literacy instruction to climate resilient school improvements. Our whole systems framework increases student engagement, building connections and momentum across classrooms, schools, districts, and counties. Ten Strands will continue to build strategic synergy and maximize the impact needed to achieve systemic change by prioritizing environmental literacy, climate change, and justice. While we remain steadfast in our commitment to teaching and learning, we realize the importance of a whole systems approach including grounds and facilities.
Chief Executive Officer
Philanthropic Engagement Manager
Director of Strategic Partnerships
Director of Curriculum
Chief Advancement Officer
Founder and President
Director of Equity and Inclusion
Executive Assistant to CEO
Chief Innovation Officer
Dr. Tom Adams
Dr. Adrian Hightower
Dr. Kelley Lê
Sheila Nahi, Chair
Dr. Milton Chen
Dr. Hardin Coleman
Leslie Mintz Tamminen
Ten Strands operates on a July 1 through June 30 fiscal year
Total Revenue and Support: $4,734,751
Total Revenue and Support: $2,169,103
Total Program Expenses: $1,452,694
Salaries & Personnel Expenses: $381,391
Other General & Administrative: $46,574
Total Support Expenses: $427,965
Total Program Expenses: $1,358,006
Salaries & Personnel Expenses: $520,105
Other General & Administrative: $124,828
Total Support Expenses: $644,932
At every level, our accomplishments are all thanks to our supporters who enable us to provide environmental literacy learning experiences to California’s K—12 students.
check_small Donors with consecutive giving over the past three years
check_small Loyal donors with five or more years of support
check_small Donors who have given annually since our founding in 2012