Ten Strands Advocacy Successes

The educational and political landscapes in California toward environmental literacy, climate change education, and environmental justice issues have significantly shifted over the last ten years, due in part to our advocacy alongside partners to support the future of our planet. Over the last decade, the system of support for education has increasingly recognized the importance of protecting California’s environment, with policies in new academic standards that emphasize what students need to understand to live healthy lives and create sustainable communities. Academic standards are now more rich in process, environmental content, and problem-solving. We have served a pivotal role in legislation passage and budget allocation several times and have secured over $10 million in public funding for teaching and learning focused on environmental literacy concepts, including climate change and environmental justice.

Read on to learn about Ten Strands’ history of advocacy and partnership, demonstrating our commitment to ensure a world where everyone understands and experiences the interrelatedness of people and place; where all students have access to high-quality environment-based education; and where all people have the knowledge, awareness, and ability to advance the health and well-being of themselves, their communities, and the planet.

Ten Strands’ history of advocacy reflects work that has and will continue to impact thousands of schools throughout the state, including tens of thousands of teachers and millions of students.

After Ten Strands was founded in 2012, we partnered with the Office of Education and the Environment (OEE) at CalRecycle to market and distribute the Education and the Environment Initiative (EEI) Curriculum, a powerful, state board of education-approved instructional resource that helps educators teach to state standards in science (pre-Next Generation Science Standards) and history–social science using the environment as context.

“Through Ten Strands’ leadership and advocacy efforts throughout the state, students will not only have meaningful learning experiences in the classroom, they will also have opportunities to engage in developing culturally-relevant and responsive solutions for their communities with incredible community partners.”
-Kelley Lê, Environmental and Climate Change Literacy Projects (ECCLPs) executive director

It’s critical that students learn about the impact humans have on natural systems and become aware of actions to mitigate and adapt to that impact in their communities.

In 2014, then state superintendent of public instruction (SSPI) Tom Torlakson convened the Environmental Literacy Task Force (ELTF) to create A Blueprint for Environmental Literacy, a cross-sector plan of action for integrating environmental literacy into California’s K–12 education landscape. We partially funded and contributed to the creation of the Blueprint. We also partnered with the State Education and Environment Roundtable (SEER) to include California’s Environmental Principles and Concepts (EP&Cs)—big environmental ideas that help students deeply understand the interdependence of natural systems and human social systems—in History–Social Science, Science, Health, Arts, World Languages, and Math Frameworks.

“Ten Strands has championed environmental literacy for all students across California and has garnered significant resources to support high-quality climate change curriculum and instruction in schools statewide.”
-Nancy Magee, San Mateo County superintendent of schools

Teacher preparation and learning is critical when it comes to a student's knowledge of environmental literacy.

In 2015, we hosted the release of ELTF’s A Blueprint for Environmental Literacy: Educating Every California Student In, About, and For the Environment alongside SSPI Torlakson. We also partnered with SEER and environmental education providers to create a model for teacher professional development that combined the California Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) with the EP&Cs and environmental service learning, and we delivered a pilot program to teachers in San Mateo County. The program is now in its ninth year.

“I’ve worked alongside Ten Strands for two years to advocate for greater support of climate and environmental literacy in California. I’ve seen firsthand why Ten Strands is a leader in environmental education: it’s the commitment to TK–12 education, obvious depth of knowledge, and ability to build partnerships that spark action. Every day, they demonstrate the ideal so neatly captured in their name, weaving the pieces together to create a stronger whole.”
-Sarah B. Ranney, San Francisco Bay Chapter Climate Literacy Committee chair

We believe there is a direct connection between environmental issues and core subjects students learn every day in the classroom, including science, math, and history-social science.

In 2016, Ten Strands was selected by SSPI Torlakson to lead the fund development and implementation efforts of the Environmental Literacy Steering Committee (ELSC), now known as the California Environmental Literacy Initiative (CAELI). Ten Strands was charged with implementing A Blueprint for Environmental Literacy with partners around the state. During the first year, we raised $3.6 million for the ELSC, and that same year, the EP&Cs became fully integrated into History–Social Science and Science Frameworks in California. During the same year, Ten Strands worked with Senator Ben Allen to secure $780,000 to support the EEI curriculum.

It’s important for local environmental education providers to learn how to align their programs with academic standards, integrating their work with classroom curriculum and goals for student learning.

In 2017, Ten Strands led the implementation of the Blueprint’s priorities with ELSC. We also sponsored SB 424 alongside Senator Allen, which resulted in $4 million of state Budget Act money to support California teacher demand of EEI Curriculum materials and the California Regional Environmental Education Community (CREEC) Network, which brings community providers of environmental education together with teachers and administrators to provide students with hands-on, outdoor, environment-based experiences.

“Ten Strands is allowing us to calibrate a focus statewide on equity, inclusion, and cultural relevance.”
-Juanita Chan-Roden, Rialto Unified School District agent of science & career pathways

Our advocacy has supported teachers with the opportunity to design standards-based lessons that provide hands-on learning experiences both inside and outside the classroom.

In 2018, we sponsored SB 720, authored by Senator Allen and co-authored by then Assemblymember Tony Thurmond, and it was signed into law by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. SB 720 strengthens California’s commitment to providing all public school students with the opportunity to become environmentally literate citizens prepared to lead our state into the future. It also ensured the inclusion of the EP&Cs in new curriculum frameworks, as had already happened in the History–Social Science and Science Frameworks, which provides guidance to educators on how to integrate environmental literacy into these and other core subjects. The State Board of Education approved twenty-nine K–8 science programs that include the EP&Cs. Educators now have clear guidelines regarding how the EP&Cs support teaching

We believe in the value of providing students with community-centered and culturally responsive learning experiences in schools to equip them with the tools they need to be agents of change for our planet.

In 2021, Ten Strands worked with Senator Allen to garner support for his $6 million budget request which will lead to the creation of free educational resources on climate change and environmental justice. Our Climate Change and Environmental Justice Program (CCEJP) will help teachers promote students’ understanding of climate change and environmental justice, leading to action in their communities.

“As co-lead of the Climate Ready Schools Coalition, Ten Strands has been a driving force to create more climate-resilient schools across California. Ten Strands has been a critical partner in securing tens of millions of dollars to upgrade and electrify school HVAC systems through CalSHAPE; launching a key report on how schools can mitigate climate change; and supporting a statewide Master Plan for Climate-Resilient Schools.”
-Jonathan Klein, co-founder and CEO, UndauntedK12

Get up to speed and learn more about our current advocacy here.


Photo Credits:

Header: Intothewoods7, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo 1: Ariel Argonne

Photo 2: Ariel Argonne

Photo 3: Hannah Arista

Photo 4: Jan Darrell Steely

Photo 5: Ariel Argonne

Photo 6: Kerry James

Photo 7: Hannah Arista