Center for Environmental Literacy


Welcome to the Center for Environmental Literacy!


A CEL SIGNATURE PROGRAM:  River of Words®: The Natural World as Viewed by Young People


As the world continues to evolve, it is crucial that we nurture a deep understanding and River of Words® has been an innovative force in the realm of place-based education for over twenty-five years. By blending science and the arts, River of Words® has inspired countless educators and students around the world to engage with the environment, develop their creative skills, and express their thoughts and feelings about the natural world. This year's competition saw more than 2500 entries from talented students spanning grades K-12, and hailing from all corners of the globe.

The "River of Words® The Natural World as Viewed by Young People" offers a unique glimpse into the perspectives of young people, presenting their visions of the natural world through a diverse array of artistic mediums and poetic expressions. As you experience the art and voices of these young environmentalists, you will encounter a rich tapestry of colors, textures, and ideas, each piece a testament to the creative spirit and environmental awareness of our youth. These young artists and poets remind us of the wonders of nature and the importance of preserving our planet for future generations.

We are deeply grateful to our dedicated advisory board members and generous donors, without whom this exhibit would not have been possible. Their unwavering support has enabled us to bring the work of these young creators to the forefront, fostering a love for nature and the arts that will resonate throughout their lives and the lives of those who view their work.

Let the art and poetry of these young visionaries inspire you to connect with the natural world and appreciate the beauty that surrounds us. By giving these young creators a platform to share their perspectives, we take a significant step towards ensuring a more environmentally conscious and creative future.

We invite you to experience the wonder of our natural world through the eyes of its future caretakers. Be inspired, be moved, and be encouraged by the voices of these young artists and poets, for they represent the promise of a brighter, more sustainable future for all living beings on this incredible planet we call home.


Center for Environmental Literacy Advisory Board

Joe Wright, Chair

David Wood

Brett Morris

Major Donors

Wood Family Foundation

Freitas Family Foundation

Ms. Mary R. Morgan

Row art - Dreaming

Our Mission

CEL's mission is to provide “education for sustainability” by empowering educators to adopt a cross disciplinary approach that integrates inquiry-based learning, the arts, and environmental literacy.

row art - Plastic

Our Vision

The River of Words Art and Poetry Contest fosters environmental stewardship and conservation and helps teachers integrate the arts in the classroom.

  • CEL's professional development programs provide support for teachers.
  • CEL generates resources like the Watershed Explorer Curriculum to integrate the arts into science lessons in line with the Common Core State Standards for writing (CCSS), Next generation Science Standards (NGSS), and National Core Art Standards (NCAS).
Row art - Fox

Our History

Founded in 1995 by former US Poet Laureate Robert Hass and writer Pamela Michael.

In 2011, River of Words Collection of Children’s Environmental Art and Poetry became a part of the new Center for Environmental Literacy in the Kalmanovitz School of Education at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, California.

The River of Words Collection of Children’s Art and Poetry, one of the largest in the world, now resides at Saint Mary’s and is available for scholarly research.

Like What We Do?

Alaskan Cove - Emma Ratshin, Age 13; 2013 Finalist

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