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.

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.

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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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 wine and hors d'oeuvres

"The Language of the Spirit" with Michael Krasny, Robert Hass, and Brenda Hillman

Saturday, February 28, 2015, 6-9 p.m.

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

RSVP HERE by February 12, 2015 

Contact us for tickets to a VIP champagne hour with the panelists.

krasnyMichael Krasny, Ph.D. is host of KQED’s award-winning news and public affairs program Forum, the nation’s most-listened-to locally produced public radio talk show. He has also served as host of NPR’s Talk of the Nation and as a frequent interviewer for the City Arts & Lectures series. Krasny is a professor of English at San Francisco State University and has published fiction, literary criticism and political commentary. He is the author of Spiritual Envy: An Agnostic’s Quest and Off Mike: A Memoir of Talk Radio and Literary Life, coauthor of the textbook Sound Ideas, and creator of the DVD presentation “Masterpieces of Short Fiction." He lives in Marin County.


hassRobert Hass is one of the nation's most celebrated poets, a distinguished UC Berkeley professor, an environmental activist, a noted translator and the author of many books of poetry and prose, most recently Time and Materials, which received the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, The Apple Trees at Olema, and a collection of essays, What Light Can Do. A Saint Mary's alumnus, Hass '63 is also the co-founder of the River of Words program, an education initiative that integrates nature and the arts into K-12 classrooms nationwide, and the International Youth Creativity Awards, the largest youth poetry and art competition in the world. 



hillmanBrenda Hillman is the author of nine full-length collections from Wesleyan University Press, the most recent of which are Practical Water (2009), winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Award, and Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire (2013), which received  the International Griffin Poetry Prize for 2014. With Patricia Dienstfrey, she edited The Grand PermissionNew Writings on Poetics and Motherhood (Wesleyan, 2003), and has co-translated Poems from Above the Hill by Ashur Etwebi and Instances by Jeongrye Choi. Hillman teaches at St. Mary’s College where she is the Olivia C. Filippi Professor of Poetry; she is an activist for social and environmental justice. 




Limited space available

 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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Current Exhibitions


A Fine Line
The Dr. Maurice Alberti Print Collection of European and American Masters

October 4 - December 6 

Dr. Maurice Alberti, Saint Mary’s College class of 1951, grew up in Oakland, CA. He practiced dentistry for more than 30 years.   In addition to dentistry, Dr. Alberti had a passion for art. He was an avid print collector, establishing Malbert Fine Arts in 1974, buying and selling fine prints as a private dealer. He co-founded Prints Chicago, an annual Print Fair bringing together dealers from throughout the U.S. and overseas. Upon his death, he gave St. Mary's his vast print collection of museum quality American and European Prints to establish the Maurice A. Alberti Print Collection and Art Library at the Saint Mary’s College Museum of Art.  The collection consists of master works on paper by leading Impressionists, Expressionists, Fauvists and Cubists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Opening on October 4th part of his impressive private collection will be on view in the Museum including works by Henri Toulouse Lautrec, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Francisco Goya, Georges Braque, Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall, Edouardo Vuillard and many more esteemed artists. The Museum thanks Dr. Maurice Alberti for his gracious and generous estate gift that has made this exhibition possible.

 Public Programming:

The Art of Collecting: A Lecture Given by Print Dealer Dan Lienau on How to Start an Art Collection

Sunday, October 4, 2:00pm, Soda Activity Center

Daniel Lienau founded the Annex Galleries in Santa Rosa in 1971, dealing in works on paper from the 19th & 20th centuries, with a focus on American printmaking from 1900 to 1975. The gallery now has an inventory of over 6000 works.  Specialties include 20th century California prints, color woodcut and Arts & Crafts, Abstract Expressionist prints of the 1940s and 1950s.  Lienau worked closely with Dr. Maurice Alberti in many of his collecting endeavors. 


Luis Gutierrez: Another Kind of Truth

October 4 – December 6

Mexican-American artist Luis Gutierrez was born in the small town of Pittsburg, California in 1933. After his father died when Gutierrez was only 5, he helped out the family by shining shoes and selling newspapers.  As he grew older, he worked in the local steel mills.  Despite receiving no encouragement and never being taken to museums, Gutierrez was drawn to the visual arts and in high school won a Bank of America merit award.  Gutierrez enrolled at Diablo Valley College, and through the guidance of his first mentor, transferred to San Jose State, where he received his BA.  After completing his graduate studies in Mexico at the Instituto Allende in San Miguel de Allende, upon his return to San Jose he began teaching art at San Jose City College, where he remained until retiring in 1995.  Abstract Expressionism, the Bay Area Figurative movement, Beat, Funk and Pop all influenced him.  Gutierrez garnered national recognition through the inclusion of his work in prominent exhibitions at the De Young, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Palace of the Legion of Honor, Triton Museum, San Jose Museum of Art, Oakland Museum, Mexican Museum, Instituto Allende in Mexico and university galleries in the U.S. national survey shows. In 1962, Gutierrez received the prestigious James D. Phelan Award.


On view will be Gutierrez’s newest body of work, anchored by a small group of assemblages, for which he became well known in the 1980s and ‘90s.  In this work he draws upon multiple artistic methods, but the underlying question he investigates is how to make meaning in a work of art.


Public Programming: Thursday, November 5th, 4-6 pm, Soda Activity Center

In Conversation with artist Luis Gutierrez and visual artist, curator and arts educator, Susana Aragon.


Ron Hutt: The Axis Mundi/ Open Portals

October 4 - December 6 


 The Axis Mundi / Open Portals project utilizes horizontal and vertical panoramic photographs captured while crisscrossing the United States and Europe. Hutt looks for locations that reveal some life affirming connection to a unique set of physical and psychological features. Those features function as a creative catalyst for his art making practice and a provisional center of his personal world -- the Axis Mundi. The art works for this project emerge from the mapping of his unique cyber geography.  They utilize techno-ritualized methods for the invocations of a mythopoetic consciousness in order to produce a set of networked and interactive art works. The pieces are available for download by viewers as a free offering to our interdependency as humans in this astounding world.

 Using the Vertical Pano Photos as the base inspiration he begins to tease out digital paintings that are more of a layered mythopoetic, private response to the public location than a rendering of any specific geographical details. These works are done freely with an emphasis on the spontaneous associations derived from the poetics of place, the musicality of atmospheric light, expressive mood and visual impact. The digital paintings are purposefully sparse compositions that make associations between earth and sky via bold textural brush strokes, high contrasting values, limited color palettes and recurring themes. He utilizes embedded Quick Response Codes (QRC) that invite viewers to augment their level of artistic participation through their personal mobile devices. The codes are linked to various sound files, text and animations. They are also the portals to a downloadable, free version of the artwork. As a digital file it can be print out or passed on to other interested individuals. These works are a gift and an offering to the viewer and the ancient collective layers of narrative that are much larger than any of us individually. 

 Ron Hutt lives in Providence, Rhode Island and the San Francisco Bay Area. His works, which include digitally mediated paintings, multiples, video installations and net art, address the antithetical status of technology as a path towards social enlightenment and individual isolation, contemporary myth making and cultural discourse. Hutt is currently Associate Professor of Digital Art and Design at the University of Rhode Island.


William Keith and the Battle for Hetch Hetchy

October 4 - May 1

 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, preservationists 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 controversy; a controversy 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: does nature have a price?

 On display will be William Keith oil paintings, 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. The exhibit will be on display from October 4 through May 1. 




Saint Mary’s offers a variety of opportunities to engage your creative side, from day trips and individual classes in film to academic majors and minors in Art and Art History and in Performing Arts: Dance, Music, and Theatre.  There is also an undergraduate minor in Creative Writing.


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Mailing Address

Saint Mary's College of California
1928 Saint Mary's Road
Moraga, CA 94575
(925) 631-4000
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