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 are built into the initiative 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.

Programs and Networks

Through a variety of program and network efforts, SMCOE seeks to equip school communities with the knowledge, skills, and support to integrate sustainable and climate-ready schools practices across their campus, curriculum, community and culture. Learn more about SMCOE's Environmental Literacy and Sustainability Initiative (ELSI) Programs and Networks below (listed in alphabetical order), and explore the links to visit program pages: 

  • Community Based Environmental Education Partners (CBEEP) Network: SMCOE co-chairs this network with environmental education provider community based partners (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
  • ELSI Annual Gathering Events: Most years, the Environmental Literacy and Sustainability Initiative (ELSI) team will host gatherings for adult stakeholders, and another for youth leaders. These annual gatherings create 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 events: Annual ELSI Gathering for Adults (last hosted in February 2020) and Annual Youth Gatherings (last hosted in March 2022).  
  • 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.
  • Sustainable and Climate Resilient Schools Administrator Fellowship (Capacity Building Program): This knowledge-to-action program supports administrators to drive environmental transformation across their school community to embed environmental literacy and become climate-ready. Future cohorts will begin in fall and graduate in spring. To learn more, visit the Administrator Fellowship Program.
  • 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 - applications are open annually in the Spring. 
  • Sustainable and Climate Ready Schools Partnership (SCRS) Network: The purpose of this network is to support school district leaders in addressing their community needs to be climate-responsive and prepare for a changing environment in a way that increases their capacity and resources. Through the network, school districts will work collaboratively with a range of organizations who will offer technical assistance to help districts transform their campus facilities and operations to be green and climate-ready. Learn more about how schools can take advantage of connecting with partners in the SCRS Partnership Network.
  • 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 (fall to spring), 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. To learn more, visit the Youth Climate Ambassadors site.

Check out Interviews with Changemakers to hear stories from changemakers who have participated in these programs and networks and have led change in their school communities for environmental and climate literacy, as well as sustainable and climate ready schools efforts.

Technical Assistance and Resources

SMCOE's Environmental Literacy and Sustainability Initiative (ELSI) offers a wide variety of Technical Assistance Services for school and districts that provide support for navigating through the phases of systemtic integration of sustainable and climate-ready schools: establishing buy-in, assessing the current status, and strategic planning, implementation, and continuous improvement. Example support services include consultation and coaching, training and professional development, assessment and stragegic planning, and project management.  To learn more about services visit the ELSI Technical Assistance Services Overview that describes a tiered menu of options. 

  • The ELSI team has put together a few technical assistance and resources pages that can get communities started with key initiatives, or keep people inspired to engage with environmental and climate literacy, and sustainability and climate ready schools efforts:
  • In addition to the Technical Assistance pages above, in order to better support school districts with these services, the ELSI team has also 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. 
    • Curriculum Resources: This part of the toolkit includes resources made by the ELSI team that can be customized and adapted for use in classrooms and co-curricular educational programs.
    • 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. 

Check out the Interviews with Changemakers to hear stories from changemaker who have used ELSI Technical Assistance Services to drive change in their school communities for environmental and climate literacy, as well as sustainable and climate ready schools efforts.

Julie Hilborn

Coordinator, Environmental Literacy and Sustainability

Email: jhilborn@smcoe.org

Phone: (650) 802-5406

May Tran

Administrative Assistant III

Email: mtran@smcoe.org

Phone: (650) 802-5561