ROW's Summer 2012 Newsletter

In the 17-year history of River of Words, this has been a remarkable and busy year.  We have a new home at Saint Mary’s College, as part of the Center for Environmental Learning in the Kalmanovitz School of Education. But our celebration of young artists and poets remains the same, as does our need for your support. 

Here’s an update on our activities this year and how you can help us continue our work with young people and a remarkable network of educators, conservationists and other committed agents of change.

Children Explore Their Watersheds and Their Imaginations

River of Words has developed time-tested strategies for engaging children and youth in exploring their watersheds and their imaginations. Our innovative classroom and field activities—utilized by teachers, park rangers, museum docents, and youth leaders around the world—not only spark students’ creative and critical thinking, but also reinvigorate teachers burdened by the increasing emphasis on testing and routine instruction.

Setting Young People’s Art to Music

And our growing collection of children’s art and poetry—the world’s largest—is once again inspiring other creative works, too, including the “River of Words Song Cycle,” a collection of art songs by seven different composers, recently commissioned by Southwestern University Music Professors Davis Asbury and Bruce Cain, which was performed at Kennedy Center and at our annual Youth Creativity Awards at The Library of Congress in April.

Two additional new commissions—choral works by composers under the age of 25, based on River of Words poems—will premier in California this year, part of our Youth Inspiring Youth partnership with WomenSing, a venerable award-winning treble chorus.

An Anthology of Children’s Art and Poetry

Sharing the creative works of young people is a big part of our mission, and accordingly, this spring we proudly released our 2012 anthology of winning art and poetry from our annual contest, conducted in affiliation with The Library of Congress Center for the Book, River of Words: The Natural World as Viewed by Young People, 64 pages of vitality, reflection, concern and creativity. (Available for $15 on our Web site by the way.)

A New Home for River of Words

Last July we became part of the Kalmanovitz School of Education (KSOE) at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, California, a move that has opened up many new opportunities for furthering our mission and for supporting scholarly research in sustainable education. We are already collaborating with faculty in the School of Education on curriculum development—continuing work on our new One Square Block K-12 curriculum—and on professional development opportunities for local teachers and school districts. KSOE is now co-sponsoring our Teacher of the Year award, as well, which this year was given to master teacher Harriet Maher, from Lafayette, Louisiana.

Coast-to-Coast Celebrations of Creativity

We wish all of you could have been at our 17th Annual Youth Creativity Awards in April (held on the East Coast at The Library of Congress and on the West Coast at Saint Mary’s College) to see young people from near and far share their powerful poems and works of art with an astounded and enchanted audience. River of Words co-founder Robert Hass presided at both ceremonies and delighted both winners and guests alike with his commentary and encouragement.

We had entries this year from 34 states and nine countries, including Afghanistan, Australia, Canada, Chile, China, Indonesia, Pakistan, Philippines, and Sri Lanka. Our 2012 International Prize winner was a 16-year-old Afghan boy, living in a refugee camp in Quetta, Pakistan. His inspiring acceptance speech at our Washington, DC ceremony was given in his native tongue, Dari, and translated by a recent immigrant to the US who turned out to be the first Afghan child to ever enter the River of Words contest, when he was in the Quetta refugee camp in 2003!

All of Us Working Together

Yes, it “takes a village” to help children develop powerful identities as creative, problem-solving citizens and earth stewards. But it takes generous, committed individuals like you as well, willing to invest in the hard work of revitalizing and reforming educational practices and shortfalls that are depriving children of not only the education they deserve, but the education they will need to face the future. Please take a few moments to send your gift today.

Pamela Michael

Director, Center for Environmental Literacy at Saint Mary’s College

Co-founder (with Robert Hass) River of Words

You can donate to River of Words at The Center for Environmental Literacy in several ways:
  • Make a secure online donation.
  • Send a check made out to Saint Mary’s College with River of Words in the memo line to: River of Words, Saint Mary’s College, PO Box 4300, Moraga, CA  94575
  • Through corporate gift matching, your employer can multiply your gift to River of Words, making it go further. Check to see if they offer gift matching. If your employer does offer this program, your Human Resources department should provide you with a matching gift form to send to River of Words along with your donation. Complete this form and mail it with your donation to: River of Words.

    Corporate Matching

If you have any questions about giving to The Center for Environmental Literacy or River of Words, please feel free to call me at 925-631-4289 or

To learn more about River of Words and the other programs of Saint Mary’s College Center for Environmental Literacy, visit, or on Facebook.