The Center for Environmental Literacy and its premier program, River of Words, could not work effectively without help and inspiration from other institutions, businesses and organizations.

Among our many collaborators are:

  • The Center for Environmental Literacy's newest partnership is with Saint Mary's MFA Program in Creative Writing. MFA grad students are working with us to process and evaluate the thousands of entries to our Youth Poetry and Art contest, publish the annual anthology, and plan the annual ROW Ceremonies.

2012 MFA Graduates Andrew Taw and Casey McAlduff review entries with Robert Hass


  • Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose, which features an exhibit of our winning and finalist artwork each year! Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose also hosts art and nature journaling workshops with River of Words co-found and the Director of the Center for Enviornmental Literacy, Pamela Michael, and River of Words art judge and renowned nature journaling expert, John Muir Laws
Collaboration is one of the hallmarks of sustainability.
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Support Education for Sustainbility

You can help students and their teachers develop an informed and heartfelt connection to the earth with a gift to The Center for Environmental Literacy and River of Words.

Ways to donate:

1) You can send your gift to our office:

Please make gifts out to CEL or ROW at Saint Mary's College. 

Mail to:
Pamela Michael, Director
Center for Environmental Literacy
Saint Mary's College of California
P.O. Box 4300
Moraga, CA  94575-4300

Please feel free to also direct your gift in the memo line or with a letter.

2) You also can donate by using the online Giving Form.

Please follow these steps to donate online via our online Giving Form:

  1. Click on Giving Form
  2. Click "Direct my Gift to a specific area.
  3. Enter the gift amount
  4. Click "Select Department/Program and Enter Gift Amount"
  5. Select "Kalmonvitz School of Education"
  6. Select "Center for Environmental Literacy" *this is the most important step
  7. Complete the rest of the form.


To discuss specific projects or initiatives you might support, please call Pamela Michael at 925.631.4289.

Help us nurture a generation (generations!) of informed, creative, compassionate earth stewards.

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Who We Are


Pamela Pamela Michael photoMichael, CEL Director

Pamela is the co-founder (with Robert Hass) of River of Words. A writer, radio producer and host, and the former director of the United Nations Task Force on Media and Education, she has also worked for Save the Children (Egypt), the United States Coalition for Education for All, and many other development and educational organizations. She worked for the Discovery Channel’s Educational Division as a curriculum development consultant and was director of marketing and public relations for the San Jose Symphony. Pamela is the author of several books, including The Gift of Rivers; The Whole World is Watching: An International Inquiry into Media Involvement in Education, and many magazine, journal, and newspaper articles. Her anthologies of children's art and poetry are used in classrooms around the world. She has taught writing to aspiring and professional writers, as well as teachers, for over twenty years.

p: (925) 631-4289

e: [email protected]

Student Workers:

Margie Simone

Margie Simone was born in Fresno, California. She was raised on a fig and almond farm. She is currently a junior at Saint Mary's College. She is interested in a Health Science major and is also involded in the Dante Club. Margie also strongly believes in the SLOW food and social justice movements.




River of Words Advisory Council

Robert Hass

Robert Hass, co-chair

River of Words judge, advisor, and co-founder, and former U.S. Poet Laureate, Bob is the author of several books of poems, including Field Guide (1973), Praise (1979), Human Wishes (1989), and Sun Under Wood: New Poems (1996); and a collection of essays, Twentieth Century Pleasures: Prose on Poetry (1984). His poetry collection Time and Materials (2007) won the National Book Award for poetry and the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for poetry. His awards include the Yale Younger Poets Award, the William Carlos Williams Award, the National Book Critics’ Circle Award for criticism in 1984, an Award of Merit from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship. A professor of English at the University of California at Berkeley since 1989, Bob served from 1995 to 1997 as Poet Laureate of the United States and as consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress. He is a graduate of Saint Mary's College.


Chris Sindt

Christopher Sindt 

Christopher Sindt is Vice Provost for Graducate and Professional Programs at Saint Mary's and was director of the College’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program for seven years. Sindt has a doctorate in English and a master's degree in creative writing from UC Davis. His book The Bodies was published by Parlor Press in 2011 and his poetry chapbook, The Land of Give and Take, was published in 2002 and his poetry has recently appeared in nocturnes, Pool, Swerve and Xantippe


Dr. Raina J. León   Raina Leon

Dr. Raina J. León, Cave Canem graduate fellow (2006) and member of the Carolina African American Writers Collective, has received several prestigious poetry awards and is the author of the forthcoming 2013 book of poetry, Boogeyman Dawn, which was also a finalist for the Naomi Long Madgett Prize (2010). Her first collection of poetry, Canticle of Idols, was a finalist for both the Cave Canem First Book Poetry Prize (2005) and the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize (2006) and is now available through Wordtech Communications.  She headed the High School Literacy Project at the University of North Carolina where she recently received her doctorate in education and is currently an assistant professor of education in the Kalmanovitz School of Education at St. Mary's College of California.  She came to Saint Mary’s from the Department of Defense Education Activity, where for three years she taught military dependents in Bamberg, Germany.   Raina received her BA in Journalism from Pennsylvania State University, MA in Teaching of English from Teachers College Columbia University and PhD in Education under the Culture, Curriculum and Change strand at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.  Her research interests include high school engagement and the teaching of poetry, critical literacy in the high school classroom, facilitating freshmen transitions and educational technology usage among high school educators.  She also is a founding editor of The Acentos Review, an online quarterly, international journal devoted to the promotion and publication of Latino and Latina arts.       


David Wood

David Wood

David Wood has worked for more than 25 years as an English teacher at Northgate High School in Walnut Creek, currently serving as department chair. He received a distinguished teacher award from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, in 2002. He was a member of the board of the Aurora Theatre in Berkeley from 1998 to 2007 and served as board president from 1999 to 2001. He received an undergraduate degree from Yale University and a master of arts in teaching (MAT) in English education from the University of Chicago. Mr. Wood is also a director of the Wood Foundation of Chambersburg, PA.


John Muir Laws, River of Words Art JudgeJohn Muir Laws

River of Words art judge, Naturalist, educator and artist John (Jack) Muir Laws delights in exploring the natural world and sharing this love with others.  Laws has worked as an environmental educator since 1984 in California, Wyoming, and Alaska.  He teaches classes on natural history, conservation biology, scientific illustration, and field sketching. He is trained as a wildlife biologist and is an associate of the California Academy of Sciences. In 2009, he received the Terwilliger Environmental Award for outstanding  service in Environmental Education. He is a 2010 TogetherGreen Conservation Leadership Fellow with the National Audubon Society. He was the 2011 artist for International Migratory Bird Day. Laws has written and illustrated books about art and natural history including The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds (2012), Sierra Birds: a Hiker's Guide (2004), The Laws Guide to the Sierra Nevada (2007), and The Laws Pocket Guide Set to the San Francisco Bay Area (2009). He is a regular contributor to Bay Nature magazine with his "Naturalists Notebook" column. His illustrations are informed by extensive field experience and capture the feeling of the living plant or animal, while also including details critical for identification. Laws is deeply committed to stewardship of nature and collaborates with organizations throughout the state. He is the founder and host of the Bay Area Nature Journal Club. A free, family friendly, intergenerational community who connect with nature through art and field journaling. He is the primary author and editor of the California Native Plant Society Curriculum: Opening the world through Nature Journaling. This standards based, curriculum is kid tested and teacher approved and integrates science, language arts, and visual arts through teaching students to keep a nature journal. He initiated Following Muir's Footsteps, an educational program to engender passionate love of nature, personal understanding of natural history and commitment to stewardship. This program gets students out in the field, learning from their own observations and using field guides and nature journals as the basis for discovering nature around them. As a part of this project, he is working secure funding to donate sets of field guides to every middle and high school in the Sierra Nevada.  

Leonore Wilson Leonore Wilson

Leonore Wilson has long taught English and creative writing at various colleges and universities in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her new book of poetry is Western Solstice (Hiraeth Press). Her poetry, stories and essays have been featured in such magazines as Quarterly WestMadison ReviewLaurel ReviewPif, and Third Coast. She has won fellowships to the University of Utah and Villa Montalvo Center of the Arts. Her work has been nominated for four Pushcart awards. Leonore lives on her historic family cattle ranch in the east hills of the Napa Valley. She is the mother of three grown sons.


Stanley Young

In addition to serving as the climate change information officer for the California Air Resources Board, Mr. Young is an author and journalist who has written books and articles on environmental subjects. As communications director of the California Resources Agency, the umbrella state agency for natural resources and environmental management, he oversaw the internal and external communications of 28 departments, boards, commissions, and conservancies and managed a budget of $5 billion and a staff of more than 14,000. Later, as director of marketing for Jones & Stokes, he oversaw communications and branding for this environmental consulting firm of 500 professionals with offices in seven states. He is currently the climate change information officer for the California Air Resources Board. A Commonwealth Scholar who attended universities in Canada, Israel, and England, Stanley has also worked as a modern dancer, yoga teacher, and chef, and was a field officer in a Cambodian refugee camp.



Patty Murray

For the past 25 years Patty has been an arts administrator, both professional and volunteer. She wore many hats with the New Pickle Circus in San Francisco, managed a Concert Series at Lafayette Orinda Presbyterian Church, and was Concert Manager of WomenSing, a Bay Area choral group. Retired from that work professionally, she still shares her expertise with WomenSing. She is a dedicated choral singer! 

On a fortuitous visit to River of Words’ Young at Art Gallery in Berkeley in 2003 Patty met ROW co-founder, Pamela Michael. WomenSing had just established a New Music Fund and the poetry and art at the gallery made a deep impression. With the enthusiastic involvement of WomenSing’s Artistic Director a partnership was developed with ROW called Youth inspiring Youth: Commissioning Emerging Composers. Using the inspired poetry of the children of the world from the River of Words collection, Youth Inspiring Youth holds a competition for young (under 25) composers annually and has premiered ten pieces for treble chorus, some of which include a children’s chorus, since the project began. The Library of Congress Center for the Book, a long-time affiliate of River of Words, sponsored a concert for WomenSing in Washington DC in 2011.

Patty is an involved grandmother to seven, a singer, an adventurous and frequent traveler to Nepal and Tibet, and a garden builder. Way back in the middle of the last century, she graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Rhetoric, followed by a stint at Stanford’s Summer Institute for Radio and Television Production.

The Center for Environmental Literacy (CEL) is located in the Kalmanovitz School of Education, Filippi Academic Hall.
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River of Words

2016 Entry Forms

You can also submit your poems online. (Individual entries only)

Current entry forms are available on this website.

Be sure to send your entries to the correct address. Our old Berkeley, CA PO box is now closed. Entries sent to that address will not be entered in the contest. 


Note: Due to rising costs and concerns about the environmental impact of air travel, we will no longer be holding our Youth Creativity Awards ceremony. Winning art and poetry will still be published in our annual anthology and on our website.


(Drum roll) Here they are -- click for a list of winners!

Click here for winning and finalist art!

Click here for winning and finalist poetry!

Promoting Environmental Literacy through the Arts and Cultural Exchange

River of Words® (ROW) is a program of The Center for Environmental Literacy and a part of the Kalmanovitz School of Education.  Acknowledged pioneers in the field of place-based education, River of Words has been inspiring educators and their students for over seventeen years with an innovative blend of science and the arts.

River of Words is its own watershed: a linked network of people throughout the United States and the world who are committed to teaching the art and poetry of place to young people. Since 1995, River of Words has encouraged young people to explore and savor the watersheds where they live and trained educators to guide them with inspiration and passion. Through professional development and other educational services, traveling exhibits, publications and community programs, ROW reaches thousands of educators and young people around the world.

ROW was co-founded in 1995 by writer and activist Pamela Michael and then-US Poet Laureate (and SMC alumnus) Robert Hass. One of the program’s most noteworthy events, conducted in affiliation with The Library of Congress Center for the Book, is a free, annual international poetry and art contest for children in kindergarten through twelfth grade. ROW has donated their collection of children’s art—the largest in the world—to Saint Mary’s Hearst Art Gallery, which will exhibit the work and make it available for scholarly research. There are many opportunities available for SMC faculty to collaborate with this innovative and dynamic program through the Center for Environmental Literacy. For more information please contact Pamela Michael, River of Words co-founder and director of Saint Mary's Center for Environmental Literacy, at [email protected] or 925-631-4289.


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We are pleased to announce the winners and finalists of the 2015 River of Words Contest. As usual, the judges had a difficult time choosing from the thousands of entries. This year's entrants displayed a remarkable connection to the places they live and to the workings of the natural world. We congratulate all the students and teachers who participated in this year's contest. The 2015 anthology and Watershed Explorer certificates are in production.

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Center for Environmental Literacy

You can also submit your poems online. (Individual entries only)


2015 River of Words Poetry and Art Contest Winners


Our 2015 winners and finalists hail from:


United States:  Alabama, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington

Anna Novakov publishes new book

Anna Novakov's latest book, "Phantom Architecture: Essays on Interwar Architecture in Belgrade," has been published by UC Berkeley's Beatrice Bain Research Group. Anna was a Scholar-in-Residence with them from 2008-2010.


Join us for an evening of "literary toasts" with Daniel Handler, Robert Hass, Cristina García, Yiyun Li, Joyce Carol Oates, and Al Young. Hosted by Faculty Director, Matthew Zapruder.

Wine, beer, hors d'oeuvres, music, Italian villa raffle, silent auction, and door prizes!

All funds raised provide scholarships for MFA students.

Saturday, February 27, 2016 

RSVP Now. Limited Space Available.

Dolby Chadwick Gallery
210 Post Street, Suite 205
San Francisco, CA 94108
Map  |  Parking Information

Raise your glass with:

Daniel Handler



Daniel Handler is the author of five novels, most recently We Are Pirates and, as Lemony Snicket, far too many books for children, including A Series Of Unfortunate Events, currently being developed by Netflix as an original series.




Robert HassRobert Hass has published many books including Field Guide, Praise, Human Wishes, and Sun Under Wood. His collection Time and Materials won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Awarded the MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship and the Wallace Stevens Award, among other prizes, Robert Hass is a professor at UC Berkeley.

Cristina Garcia



Cristina García is the author of six novels, including Dreaming in Cuban and King of Cuba. García’s work has been nominated for a National Book Award and translated into fourteen languages. She is the recipient of a Whiting Writers Award, a Hodder Fellowship at Princeton University, and an NEA grant.



Yiyun Li


Yiyun Li's short story collections and novels have won many awards, including the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, the PEN/Hemingway Award, and the Guardian First Book Award, among other accolades. She is the recipient of a 2010 MacArthur genius grant and was named among The New Yorker’s “20 Under 40.” 


Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates is the author of a number of novels, story collections, essays and memoirs, most recently The Lost Landscape: A Writer's Coming of Age. She is a recipient of the President's Medal in the Humanities and the National Book Award and is currently teaching a fiction workshop at UC-Berkeley.


Al Young

Al Young’s poetry reflects his interest in music, specifically jazz and blues, as well as his life in California. He has received a Wallace Stegner Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and Fulbright Fellowship, among other prizes. He was named Poet Laureate of California in 2005.



Limited space available

$125 per person
$50 for MFA alumni

 Proceeds of this event benefit the MFA Scholarship Fund.  The fair market value of this event is $50.  All contributions exceeding fair market value are tax-deductible to the extent that the law allows.

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Celebrate 20 Years of Mentorship & Support Year 21 
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Current Exhibitions

Environmental Impact

February 14 - May 1

Environmental Impact is an exhibition which aims to recognize, document, and share the work of leading contemporary artists who choose to focus their work on global as well as local environmental issues and to heighten public awareness and concern about the degradation of diverse environments through the power of art. Traditional art generally depicts nature in all of its glory, often in beautiful, pristine conditions. The 50 paintings, photographs, prints, installations, and sculptures in Environmental Impact are different because they deal with ominous environmental issues ranging from industrial scale resource consumption and development to oil spills, the perils of nuclear energy, global warming, and many other phenomena that impact people and other inhabitants which populate the planet today. The exhibition draws upon a diverse range of artists whose works are not only hard-hitting, but which also propel the Environmental Movement in the modern age.

Opening panel discussion and reception:

Sunday, February 14, 2 PM Soda Activity Center

Please join the Museum for a panel discussion with curator David J. Wagner and exhibiting artists Chester Arnold (Sonoma, CA), Britt Freda (Burton, WA), Peter J. Goin (Reno, NV), Karen Hackenberg (Port Townsend, WA), Mary Helsaple (Sedona, AZ), Michael Meilahn (Pickett, WI), Martin Stupich (Albuquerque, NM) and Suze Woolf (Seattle, WA).


David Maxim: Points of View

February 14 – April 24

One point of view may be vastly different from another, but all are part of human experience. David
Maxim has spent his career pondering the stages and struggles of human life, and the eternal mysteries of metaphorical meaning and ambiguity.  His art is informed by his own point of view, enriched through his engagement with history, art history and theatre.   Through this selection of small sculptures paired with watercolor studies, David Maxim provides the viewer with insight into his creative process, while recognizing that viewers may respond in an entirely different manner.

David Maxim is a native Californian who travels and exhibits both nationally and internationally.  He received an MA in Art History from UCLA and taught at Cal State Los Angeles before going to South America to find himself as an artist.  In 1976 he moved to San Francisco, where he continues to thrive, both personally and professionally.  His work is held in numerous museums, notably The British Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, Carnegie Institute of Art, Pittsburgh, PA, Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Vienna, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum fur Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Achenbach Collection, and the Oakland Museum of California, as well as Saint Mary’s College Museum of Art.  He has just published a comprehensive two volume monograph, STAGES: The Art of David Maxim.  


Instagael: SMC Student Instagrams

February 14 -April 24

Instagram has changed the art world. Now Saint Mary’s College Museum of Art examines this recent force with Instagael, a student Instagram exhibition. Instagael displays the best photographs the student community has to offer, but also provokes fundamental discussions about the identity of art.

Instagram boasts 60 million photos shared each day from a community of 300 million members. These photos, and this forum, represent the art world of the future. Indeed, since 2013, “Instagram” is searched more often in the search engine Google than “art” itself. Instagram is a uniquely democratizing force in the art world. Now, anyone can post their photographs and receive near immediate feedback. Likewise, anyone with an internet connection now has a gallery of billions of photographs at their fingertips.


William Keith and the Battle for Hetch Hetchy

Ongoing through May 1, 2016

In 1907, William Keith accompanied John Muir to Yosemite’s twin valley, Hetch Hetchy. The trip was not a lighthearted hike, but a determined mission to bring the rich colors and epic landscapes back to the Bay Area, where politicians schemed to dam the valley. This trip was a desperate last stand for the preservation of the valley. The plan to dam the Hetch Hetchy Valley had brewed for decades, spiced with controversy and corruption. The fate of the valley was a national reflection, preservationist versus conservationist, municipal versus national authority, over the American soul.

This exhibit details the struggle, encompassing a Bay Area history not often told. Come explore how San Francisco’s expansion became central for a national debate; a debate that preoccupied two presidents and birthed the environmental movement. See how the Hetch Hetchy Water System came to exist and how you benefit from the modern marvel today. Finally, join William Keith and John Muir as they hiked to Hetch Hetchy in a mortal struggle for national preservation.  You must answer the question, does nature have a price? On display will be works by William Keith, including a rare painting from his 1907 trip, accompanied by photographs and documents courtesy of the Sierra Club, Restore Hetch Hetchy, and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.


Verve Student Research

In 1937, the French art magazine, Verve, appeared on the newsstands of Paris.  Verve was filled with color reproductions of art, ranging from medieval to modern, and essays by influential writers. Verve was a big, brilliant jewel amid newspapers whose growing focus was trouble in Europe.  Amazingly, this art magazine survived World War II, often displaying works that were related to the war and the emotions it evoked. The Saint Mary’s College Museum of Art has a number of editions of Verve in its permanent collection. Some of these fantastic magazines will be on display in the near future. This project will focus on the correlation between events leading up to and during World War II and the content of Verve.

 — Alisa Sakakura ‘19, Museum Intern






 The Saint Mary's College Museum of Art is currently open Wednesday through Sunday 11 to 4:30. The Museum will be closed March 25 through 28 in observation of Easter. Thank you!
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