ROW Regional Coordinator Starter-Kit

So, you're interested in becoming a River of Words Regional Coordinator? Here are all the things you'll need to know. 

Regional Coordinator Kit Closed

The Center for Environmental Literacy is not onboarding new River of Words regional coordinators at this time. If you would like to participate in the River of Words competition as a group facilitator, please submit entries here


Why River of Words?

If you value environmental literacy among students and community, if you are committed to teaching the art and poetry of place to young people, River of Words may be the program for your community! 

Since 1995, River of Words has encouraged young people to explore and savor the watersheds where they live and has trained educators to guide them with inspiration and passion. River of Words strives to foster a sense of belonging, kinship, and stewardship for the places where they live.

ROW reaches thousands of educators and young people around the world. And how do we do it? 

  • Through our annual contest, which is merely a vehicle for community building, creates a space for students to submit their poetry and art. Learn more about our annual contest.
  • By bringing our Watershed Explorer curriculum into classrooms 
  • By celebrating the imagination and creativity of young people through art galleries, poetry readings and community events
  • By providing professional development opportunities, support, and educational services to educator in the classrooms
  • Traveling exhibits and community programs
2018 Deer artwork

Why River of Words?

Ask yourself, "Why River of Words?" Ground yourself in a mission statement that will help you and your team move towards your goals as a Regional Coordinator. Some questions you may want to consider:

  • What region are you planning to work with?
  • Are you planning to work with a school, or other organization?
  • Is there a specific environmental cause in this region you would like to focus on?
  • What local resources are there available? (Artists, naturalists, writers, book stores, museums...)
  • What do you want to accomplish?
  • What effect do you want River of Words to have on your community?

Build Your Community

Community support is an important component of River of Words. So, how will you build your region's River of Words Community? 

  • Consider individuals of all backgrounds as potential partners (media, school boards, parents, students, local art councils, environmental groups, businesses...) as each can contribute its own particular expertise, resources, contacts, and funding. Such partnerships are not essential, but giving students’ work and concerns a wider audience can engage them more fully in the process.
  • Create opportunities to engage with local groups: exchange ideas, discuss issues, address education and/or watershed protection challenges, strategies for increasing awareness, and benefits of a partnership with River of Words.
  • If you are school-based, encourage your fellow teachers to be involved in River of Words. Collaborations between science, language arts, social studies, and art teachers have produced wonderful poems and paintings and led to community-service projects like creek clean-ups and school gardens.
  • Collect examples of local and regional nature writing and landscape art. Ask your local library, university, or regional center for the Book to help you research your region’s literary and artistic heritage.
  • Connect with other regional River of Words.
Library ROW Display


How will your region engage with young people around poetry and art? You will want to create a time and space for students to reflect and create. 

  • Hold poetry and art workshops for students in your area.
  • Invite students to local poetry readings and/or art galleries.
  • Invite local poets, artists, and environmentalists into the space to enrich the Watershed Explorer curriculum. 
  • Host field trips to local environmental centers, parks, wilderness, green spaces in cities, and/or local creeks to try to involve students first-hand in elements of their watershed. Repeat visits to the site are best, and allow students to note seasonal and other changes.
  • Many teachers incorporate a “service learning” component in their ROW projects, like water quality monitoring, tree planting, gardening, or creek clean-up.
ROW Student

Celebrate Student Creativity

Every year the International River of Words Program at Saint Mary's College of California hosts an awards ceremony to celebrate students who have had their poetry and art selected for publication in the River of Words anthology. 

Finding the best way to celebrate your students, you may consider:

  • Curate poetry readings, and/or a student art gallery
  • Have exhibits of student art and poetry in local community spaces (library, school, recreation center, etc.)
  • Provide students with awards/certificates for their participation.
  • Publish art and poetry of students online or in a physical publication.
  • Share student art and poetry in long-lasting community structures, through plaques, post cards, anthologies etc.
ROW Artwork of a rooster

Additional Resources

Education Materials for the classroom

  • River of Words: 
  • Additional education resources can be found on our Educators page

River of Words Online Entry Forms

Learn from other thriving River of Words Regional Programs!

Need additional resources? Call local water or park districts, museums, conservation, and arts organizations. They’re often generous about sharing their naturalists, poets, artists, videos, and maps, etc.