About the Environmental Literacy and Sustainability Initiative

The San Mateo County Office of Education (SMCOE) launched the Environmental Literacy and Sustainability Initiative (ELSI) at the start of the 2017-18 school year. The core foundations and purpose of this initiative include the following:

  • MISSION: The Environmental Literacy and Sustainability Initiative (ELSI) provides "backbone support" to San Mateo County Schools in prioritizing environmental literacy and integrating environmental sustainability and climate-resilient practices across a school's campus, curriculum, community, and culture.
  • GUIDING PHILOSOPHIES: "Educate to Survive and Thrive" and "The World Becomes What We Teach AND Do".
  • VISION: K-12 school communities are models of sustainability and climate resiliency, and equip students with the tools, resources, and life experiences to create an environmentally sustainable, socially just, and economically thriving world.
  • ACTION FRAMEWORK: The 4Cs Whole-School Sustainable and Climate Resiliency Integration Framework provides a roadmap for operationalizing principles and practices of environmental literacy, environmental sustainability, and climate resiliency across all aspects of a school:  Campus, Curriculum, Community and Culture.
  • INTENDED OUTCOMES: Sustainable and Climate Resilient School Communities that...
    • provide equitable access to safe and healthy spaces for children, youth and adults to learn and play;
    • minimize disruptions to learning from climate related crises; and
    • serve as a catalyst for transformative change within their communities.


Through a variety of programs and efforts, SMCOE equips school communities with the knowledge, skills, and experiences to act individually and collectively to bring forward an environmentally sustainable and just existence. Learn more about SMCOE's Environmental Literacy and Sustainability Initiative Programs below (listed in alphabetical order), and explore the links to visit program pages: 

  • Sustainable and Climate Resilient Schools Administrator Fellowship (Capacity Building Program): The 10-month paid Sustainable and Climate Resilient Schools Administrator Fellowship Program supports administrators to drive environmental transformation across their school community to embed environmental literacy and become climate-ready.  Cohorts begin in March and graduate in December. Learn more about this program.
  • Environmental Solutionary Teacher Fellowships (Capacity Building Program): The Solutionary Teacher Fellowship, formerly called the San Mateo Environmental Literacy Collaborative Teacher Fellowship (SMELC), is a knowledge-to-action program that builds teacher capacity for designing and delivering learning experiences that are student-centered, problem-project-based, solutions-oriented, and integrates real-world environmental justice issues. Teachers who participate in this fellowship are eligible for a stipend ($1,000 per semester) and continuing education units (CEU). To learn more, visit the Environmental Solutionary Teacher Fellowship Program.
  • Youth Climate Ambassadors (Capacity Building Program): The Youth Climate Ambassadors (YCA) Leadership Program brings 9-12th grade students from across San Mateo County together to take climate action into their own hands. In this year-long knowledge to action program, student leaders build background knowledge on pressing environmental issues and then develop and implement projects that drive change within San Mateo County. Throughout the process, students gain a diverse set of skills related to sustainability, climate action, and overall solutionary leadership. Learn more about this program.
  • Community Based Environmental Eduation Partners (CBEEP) Network: SMCOE co-chairs this network with environmental education provider community based parnters (CBP). The purpose of this network is to foster collaboration between nonformal/informal environmental education providers and the formal education system, to build capacity and consistency in programs alignment, and to further integrate environmental literacy into districts and schools. Learn more about the CBEEP Network
  • Environmental Youth Leadership Network: The Environmental Youth Leaders Network (EYLN) brings together 7th-12th graders who are eager to make an environmental sustainability impact in their community. The network convenes for an annual summits (either fall or spring or both) and stays connected through a monthly newsletter. To learn more about EYLN, please visit Environmental Youth Leadership Network and Summits
  • Sustainable and Climate Resilient Schools Challenge (Awards and Recognition Program): The purpose of the San Mateo County Sustainable and Climate Resilient Schools Challenge (formerly called the One Planet Schools Challenge, and linked to the 2020 Solutionary Fair), is to identify students, teachers, administrators, and community members who are leading meaningful change in the Campus, Curriculum, or greater community, and to recognize them for their impact towards creating a sustainable future.  Standout leaders from this program are eligible for a financial reward! Visit the Sustainable and Climate Resilient Schools Challenge to learn more.
  • Annual ELSI Conference: This annual gathering creates the space for networking, problem-solving, and exchanging innovative solutions that are driving environmental and social transformation across school communities, and opportunities to connect with community based partners. Learn more about past conferences at Annual ELSI Conference


SMCOE's Environmental Literacy and Sustainability Initiative has put together a toolkit of resources to support stakeholders with efforts to integrate environmental literacy, and sustainabiility and climate ready school efforts across their school communities: 

  • Sustainable and Climate Mitigation Focus Area Resources: This part of the toolkit is organized by sustainable and climate mitigation focus area topics (i.e. energy, water, waste, food, land ecosystems, etc.) and includes goals, strategies, and mandates; resources for taking action on the campus (buildings and grounds) and curriculum; solutionary examples from local districts and schools, and connections to community based partners. 
  • Whole School/District Sustainability Efforts: This part of the toolkit includes resources for district-and school-wide efforts such as sustainability committees, staffing examples, assessments and strategic plans, and campus sustainability dashboards. 
  • Environmental Literacy Funding: This part of the toolkit  provides access to ongoing and one-time funding opportunities to support environmental literacy, sustainability, and climate resilience efforts. 

Andra Yeghoian

Environmental Education Coordinator

Email: ayeghoian@smcoe.org

Phone: (650) 802-5406