Wisdom and Expertise That Live in the Collective


Collectively, we approach the Climate Change and Environmental Justice Program with a commitment to enlivening the stories of people who fight to change systems. Based in Oakland, our organization, Mycelium Youth Network (MYN), prepares frontline youth for climate change with science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) programming focused on ancestrally grounded, place-based climate resilience. Our hands-on training blends the traditions and practices of local Indigenous people and the technologies of today to empower young people with the skills needed to survive and thrive while facing the uncertainty of a climate-challenged world.

The Mycelium Youth Network Ten Strands super-team.

Individually, we’ve grounded our collaboration in our personal relationships to land, a medium through which social systems have unearthed both the present moment and the challenge to dream of our resilience. For Jomar, who grew up in one frontline environmental justice community and now lives in another, and whose family has faced discrimination at the language, citizenship, and class levels, it is of utmost importance that we challenge the idea that climate change is a purely scientific process that occurs in a vacuum. For Maya, who is a descendent of enslaved African people, exploited Puerto Rican migrant laborers in the occupied Kingdom of Hawaii, and white colonizers, STEAM must be contextualized through interdisciplinary analysis of social and environmental ethics. And for Andrew, whose family survived diaspora amidst imperial reach because their labor power was valued enough to permit “citizenship,” writing and teaching are significantly motivated by an anger only matched by the love for another world struggling to breathe.

Our individual and shared positionalities are shaped by the very forces that we hope to illuminate and untangle through our climate resilience and environmental justice units: the relationships between violence and resistance, survival and resilience, and privilege, power, and struggle-joy that is situated in place. Moving at the speed of relationships, consensus, and trust has created an open space for creativity, mistake-making, and shared visioning. From that space, we experience dynamic, fun, and flowing time together.

Jomar, Maya, and Andrew engage in vision work and brainstorming in preparation for Ten Strands’ curriculum design.

The First Anchor Experience

Our first lesson is one that highlights the plight and protracted struggle experienced by workers in California’s largest industry: agriculture. In a case study of Kettleman City, the curriculum we designed first invites students to explore the range of community vulnerabilities produced by pollution and socioeconomic injustice, as well as community assets, which we refer to as community cultural wealth and which are underrepresented in environmental justice discourse (Yosso, 2005). We then introduce intersectional frameworks to encourage students to develop their own curiosities around linked systems of oppression that create environmental racism and climate-challenged futures, specifically in the context of communities like Kettleman, which are affected by both.

Through this process, students come to see how the social location of this specific community has framed Kettleman as vulnerable or disposable—and, at the same time, equipped community members with skills and strengths to defend their families, the water, the air, and the climate. Be it battles to stop incinerators or toxic waste facilities, this lesson attempts to live in a space of climate hope. It considers cumulative impact not only in the sense of bombardment of environmental racism but, more importantly, through analysis of transformative grassroots action (EPA, 1999).

In Mycelium’s Climate Resilient Schools program, students and educators engage in hands-on resilience in the garden and the classroom.

The Dance of Iteration

We are excited to include in the curriculum design process an educator who teaches in the same county as Kettleman City, which has allowed us to receive direct feedback on how participants are engaging with our curriculum. Teaching and learning is dynamic interplay and relationship—to collaborate with educators and students in our curriculum writing process is to acknowledge that beautiful dance.

It will be interesting to see how our curriculum is adapted by educators from various backgrounds, with respect to teaching experience and familiarity with social justice, liberatory education, environmental sciences, and ethnic studies frameworks. This process reminds us that wisdom and expertise live in the collective rather than the individual and, accordingly, belongs to everyone. 

Ultimately, we are offering a set of analytical frameworks that help contextualize both climate in/justice and offer practical applied skills for transformative grassroots action, including data analysis, asset and eco-mapping, campaign strategy building, and storytelling. While opportunities for action are often neglected in climate change and science education, our organizational approach underscores the importance of providing concrete tools because current community vulnerabilities will only worsen if frontline communities, especially frontline youth, remain sidelined from resources and decision-making processes.

Mycelium’s Youth Leaders research and present their findings on the benefits of sheet mulching.


As in any learning process, this collaboration has also surfaced some informative and iterative challenges, such as making accessible the complexities of environmental and climate justice for audiences of different learning and lived experiences; relaying and representing information from communities that are not our own; and rejecting the siloing that happens between traditional humanities and scientific disciplines, which can often atomize or disappear the holistic and systemic nature of our environmental present, past, and future.

The larger scope of this project will affect the way we think, in collaboration with external partners, about evaluation and the dance between lesson implementation and feedback cycles. As an organization, we are excited by the alignment between the internal development of MYN evaluation processes and the coalitional work that Ten Strands has invited us into, which connects our conversations with educators, researchers, and nonprofit advocates.

And for the students in particular, mapping work will include making real-life connections to local resources, including natural resources (e.g., watersheds) and community resources, as well as local leaders, organizations, and local policy-making processes. This has huge long-term implications from the individual to the global level, as students disperse into young adulthood with this rich network of mycelial connections as a foundation to build from and lean into.

Justice-oriented climate resilience curriculum is one piece of a larger possibility in which young people have the schools, lessons, and material resources to steward their own lives and the trajectories of their communities. It’s a possibility in which educators are resourced with the material power and political safety to realize education as the practice of freedom,” cultivating spaces of shared learning where the entire community can make meaning of their lives as they are and organize for the lives they desire (Hooks, 1994).

Imagination and play are core values to Mycelium’s pedagogy (photo taken from our 2022 live action environmental justice game).
Jomar Rodriguez Ventura
This article was written by Jomar Rodriguez Ventura

Jomar (he/him) is a Latine transplant from South El Monte, Kizh and Tongva territories, to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he lives and grows both gardens and community near the San Francisco Bay Estuary in unceded territories of Chochenyo-speaking Ohlone Peoples. He currently serves as environmental justice educator and climate resilient communities coordinator for Mycelium Youth Network and is currently a graduate student in the Master of Science Resilient and Sustainable Communities program at Prescott College. Jomar aims to graft environmental justice (EJ) education, climate communication, BIPOC-led community organizing, and frontline climate resilience through adaptation and mitigation strategies across multiple systems from food sovereignty to land-use policy. A background in psychology and social welfare informs his frameworks and approaches to the human-work central to community-level systems changes that will ultimately promote physical, psychological, and spiritual benefits with regards to environmental protective factors and resultant indicators of health. Jomar believes that young people’s quality of education, food, health, and general well-being should be held as center-piece for all conversations around climate resilience precisely because they are the most marginalized individuals while also the biggest stakeholders in a climate-challenged future. For these reasons, Jomar’s broad goal includes raising youth critical consciousness and enabling youth climate justice leaders. Mycelium Youth Network’s Youth Leadership Council, CAPECA, and various other partnerships continue to develop his capacity to foster youth leaders. Jomar hopes to engage students and teachers abroad as community-based climate justice leaders through the Ten Strands curriculum as we incorporate MYN elements into the climate justice curricula for ninth and tenth grade across California. Ultimately, Jomar’s vision for EJ and climate resilience is to shift the conversation from solely focusing on solutions for the climate crisis and instead dialogue about fertile possibilities for social-ecological justice in a climate-challenged future.

Maya Salsedo
This article was written by Maya Salsedo

Salsedo has spent fifteen years working in community-based, social, and environmental education programs with emphasis on BIPOC and high-school-aged youth. A product of the youth food justice movement, Salsedo is committed to providing young people with experiences, environments, and mentorship that help to break down human and nature binaries on a path to address systemic injustices in environmental and social contexts. Salsedo’s career has spanned from delivering programming as an educator in Bay Area gardens and schools, to coalition leadership with Rooted in Community national youth network, to education program directorship. Currently, Salsedo is Mycelium’s curriculum and evaluation manager, weaving critical pedagogies and research justice towards efficacy in work which aims to nurture and uplift youth voice and power for climate change resilience and adaptation. Salsedo’s work is influenced by the Black feminist theory, popular education, queer ecologies, and the personal-political endeavors of understanding diaspora and decolonization.

Andrew Yeung
This article was written by Andrew Yeung

Andrew Yeung, educational director for MYN, is a community-based educator and organizer learning and laboring at the intersections of gender, race, class; power, violence, authority; and education as freedom-struggle. Andrew was born in San Gabriel, California—the unceded territories of Kizh and Tongva peoples—and raised by East Asian, working-class immigrant parents. They now work to be a good guest and neighbor on unceded Lisjan Ohlone land. For over ten years, Andrew has labored to de-center and dismantle the school-prison nexus; to co-create, mentor, and steward the agency and emancipatory spirit of Black, Indigenous, youth of color; and alongside youth leaders, reclaim the dignity of education as a practice of freedom. Andrew also labors as a core organizer with Teachers for Social Justice and co-leads a neighborhood mutual aid project. In previous capacities, Andrew has served as a writing mentor with the Asian Prisoner Support Committee, as the board secretary of Richmond LAND, and as economic justice program manager at the RYSE Youth Center. He is also a retired punk, polite anarchist, and Wikipedia enthusiast.