Welcome to your own local environment on the River of Words website! Whether you’d like to make art, write poems, or learn more about the natural world around you, this is the place to be.

Check out our international art and poetry contest, open to youth age 5 to 19 around the world. It’s free to enter, and you could win a trip to the awards ceremony in Washington, DC! To get started, discover your local watershed. Get art tips and poetry tips from our experts. 

One of the best ways to learn about art and poetry is to look at a lot of it. Take a moment to look at the amazing art and poetry created by youth around the world

Regional Coordinators

Regional Coordinators

Here in our California headquarters we don’t pretend to have that knowledge about every watershed on our continent—or our planet. Our Watershed Explorer Educator’s Guide is merely a foundation; to complete the structure we rely on our invaluable team of Regional Coordinators.

These unpaid volunteers work at the state or regional level to bring cultural and natural history alive for students and community members. Some administer state-level ROW contests in conjunction with our international contest. Others conduct teacher-training workshops, create state-specific teaching materials, or host traveling ROW exhibits.

To see whether your area has a ROW regional coordinator, please check our directory.


Our services for educators include:

Educator-training workshops. Our dynamic sessions, held throughout the United States and abroad, teach classroom teachers, park rangers, 4-H and Scout leaders, and other educators how to to use their own homegrounds as a context for learning. The curriculum integrates outdoor observation, investigation, and poetry writing with core subjects like English, math, science, social studies, and the arts. Workshop info.

The Watershed Explorer Educator’s Guide. Incorporates language skills, art, science, history, and culture into activities and exercises for kindergarten through high-school students. Order it now.

Free poetry writing guide. This full-color, 75-page guide helps students get beyond impediments to creativity and expression. Developed by Louisiana teachers Connie McDonald and Harriet Maher, in conjunction with River of Words and Milkweed Editions. Download it now.

Free curriculum guide, Teaching the Poetry of Rivers, developed by the Colorado Center for the Book, Colorado Foundation for Water Education, and the Colorado Endowment for the Humanities. Download it now. Integrates poetry, water resource science and the humanities.

One Square Block

Every block tells a story—of plants and animals, history and culture, soil and water. One Square Block™ invites students to explore a single square block in their community—their own neighborhood, a local park, the schoolyard—and create poetry, art, and reports about what they find there.

Younger students may create field guides to plants, trees, and animals on their block; they’ll learn where their water comes from, where the rain runoff goes, and who lived there a long time ago. Older students may investigate land use, transportation, zoning, and other specifics; they conduct oral histories and learn to identify architectural details, weather patterns, and geographic information systems (GIS) coordinates. Each block project will post a detail-rich, standardized “block print” online and compare its block with other blocks from around the world.

We have developed and piloted about ten activities for One Square Block with great success. We are currently working with both Saint Mary's faculty and community partners to expand our offerings, which will eventually include a full K-12 range of exciting and interactive place-based classroom and field activities.


Educational institutions and nonprofits may rent high-quality laminated color reproductions of art from our collection. They are lightweight, easy to display, and inexpensive to ship. We charge a negotiable, nominal rental fee. Contact The Center for Enviromental Literacy at 925-631-4289 or [email protected] for more details.

Museums, galleries, and other venues that can guarantee round-the-clock security may rent original art. Fees are negotiable.

We also offer special themed exhibits, including:

  • Birds! Birds! Birds! from River of Words
  • In Praise of Water: Images and Poetry from the River of Words Collection
  • Children of Chernobyl
  • Frogs and Amphibians
  • The World in their Hands: Earth Images from River of Words
  • Lost Horizons: The Art and Poetry of Gulf Coast Children
  • As Above, So Below: Reflection in the Art and Poetry of Children
  • Art in Exile: The Extraordinary Art of Afghan Refugee Children


In addition to serving educators, we also lead workshops for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. All of our workshops provide ideas and models for integrating nature exploration and the arts into core subject areas, including science, math, social studies, and language arts.

Educator workshops: We offer two-day, one-day, or half-day workshops as well as shorter introductory presentations. The cost is $1,000 per day plus travel expenses. Workshops may be held at your site or at Saint Mary's College in Moraga, California

Student workshops: Our workshops can be tailored to fit into a single classroom period, several periods, a full day (for older students), or a semester. They may be held in your classroom or in an off-campus site, or outdoors.

Topics include journal making; anxiety-free poetry writing; "sightless" drawing; kite flying (to learn about flight, weather, and atmosphere); and information about the local watershed and bioregion. Students also learn how to hone their observation skills; educators learn about classroom resources, new ways to engage hard-to-reach learners, and other invaluable tips.

Presentations: In addition to our workshops, we offer introductory presentations about River of Words.

To schedule a workshop or a presentation, please contact the Center at 925-631-4289 or email Director, Pamela Michael at [email protected]

What We Do

Our curriculum, youth poetry and art publications, and recognition opportunities for young people nurture creativity and critical thinking.

Our multidisciplinary, place-based curricula — Watershed Explorer and One Square Block — improve literacy, enhance investigation and critical thinking, and nurture creativity.

Our free, annual, international youth poetry and art contest — the largest in the world — inspires children ages 5 to 19 to translate their observations into creative expression. Other River of Words successes include training workshops, traveling exhibits, community partnerships, creek clean-ups and restorations, and two Girl Scouts patches — the Watershed and Waterdrop, developed in conjunction with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Youth Inspiring Youth

Wit & Fright (2009 music, 2001 poem)
Composed by Ryan Harper, poem by River of Words winner Eric Pierson, age 10


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

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.


Maps & Directories

Mailing Address

Saint Mary's College of California
1928 Saint Mary's Road
Moraga, CA 94575
(925) 631-4000
Google Map | Campus Map | PO Boxes