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ecorise youth innovations sustainability curriculum

Dear supporters,

It is becoming increasingly apparent that the climate crisis is at our doorstep. With the onslaught of heat waves, drought, rolling blackouts, and more, I find many adults feel overwhelmed—me included! However, I see something entirely different in our youth. They are eager to create change and are already taking action to build a world that places people over profit and restores the health of our planet for future generations.

Despite continued disruptions throughout the school year in K–12 schools, youth in EcoRise classrooms were granted a record $71,970 in Student Innovation Funds to create 130 solutions to social and environmental challenges. We saw a range of inspiring projects. Students in Brooklyn are creating mini-hydroponic systems for every classroom to grow fresh greens for lunch; students in rural Texas are implementing multiple strategies, from an education campaign to biodegradable lunch trays, to reduce the amount of plastic waste their school produces. These projects are saving water and energy, reducing carbon emissions, creating outdoor spaces for learning and pollinators, and growing food for school communities across the nation. You can learn more about our students’ work in the Student Innovation Fund section of this report.

This was a big year for EcoRise. We returned to in-person convenings, hosting four Student Showcases nationally in addition to a series of virtual events. We published our new strategic plan and updated our mission statement to ground our work in equity and ensure environmental justice is centered in our programming. Over the coming three years, we are committed to expanding our school programs nationally, launching new Youth Climate Councils and green workforce opportunities, and accelerating systems change in K–12 schools through a collective impact initiative we call Gen:Thrive.

I am continually inspired by the 467,488 students and 8,348 teachers we serve across the nation, as well as by my phenomenal colleagues who persevered through yet another challenging year to make our schools and communities healthier, more equitable, and increasingly sustainable. I hope you enjoy reading the report that follows, which includes stories, milestones, and data points from the 2021–2022 academic year. Thank you for joining us in supporting youth and their educators as they make this dream a reality!

Together, #WeRise.

Jonathan Stott
Executive Director

EcoRise mobilizes a new generation of leaders to design healthy, just, and thriving communities for all.

We updated our mission in tandem with publishing a new strategic plan this year. Our refocused mission builds upon years of transformational work with K–12 teachers and students and ensures our efforts include environmental justice communities in our movement so that they are an integral part of solution-building.

Check Out Our Vision 2025

Our Program

Our Values

What We Offer

Click the tabs below to explore our curricula and programs.

Gen Thrive Website


Connects schools, environmental education providers, and funders to accelerate sustainability and environmental education programs in K–12 schools

EcoRise Teacher Ambassador Program

Teacher Ambassador Program

Supports teacher leaders in developing leadership and facilitation skills to champion sustainability education in their communities

Youth Programming Blogs

Youth Climate Councils

Engages students and educators in climate-justice civic action through monthly gatherings and community-based impact projects

EcoRise Sustainable Intelligence Program

Sustainable Intelligence Program

Pairs hands-on curriculum with engaging professional-development experiences and microgrants to make students’ green ideas a reality

Paid Summer Internships

Provides high school students with immersive green career and workforce development experiences through paid internships with local organizations

Project-Based Learning Academy

Project-Based Learning Academy

Trains teachers to transform passive learning into active participation, linking multidisciplinary programs with sustainability education

Sustainable Intelligence

Learning That Inspires Action

Builds sustainability knowledge across seven eco-themes: water, waste, food, energy, air, public spaces, and transportation

Intro to Environmental Justice

Lessons for All Ages

Creates a foundational understanding of environmental justice history and concepts and encourages students to explore their place in undoing harm caused by racist behaviors, policies, and systems

Design Studio

Framework and Activities for Innovation

Guides students to develop and implement creative solutions to pressing problems by using EcoRise’s design-thinking process

EV Lessons for Schools

Transportation, Education, and Access

Introduces students to electric vehicles (EVs) and helps them analyze transportation habits and the environmental impacts of those habits

Biomimicry and Science

Applying Nature’s Strategies

Challenges chemistry, physics, and biology students to look at “nature as a mentor” in order to solve sustainability challenges

Green Building Lessons

For a Sustainable Future

Prepares students to enter the green workforce with an understanding of green building techniques, sustainability, and climate resiliency; also offers an optional pathway for students to take the LEED Green Associate™ Exam to gain a valuable professional credential

The Business of Social Good

Entrepreneurship in Service of People, Planet, Profit

Introduces principles of social entrepreneurship, sustainability, and design thinking and challenges students to develop a business idea

What's New This Year

Who We Served This Year

Teacher Training Workshops

EcoRise programs are used in 50 U.S. states and 54 other countries!

High-Impact Regions

Atlanta, GA • Austin, TX • Boston, MA • Houston, TX • New York City, NY • Northern New Jersey • Rio Grande Valley, TX • Sacramento, CA • San Antonio, TX • South Florida • Southern California • Washington, DC

Meet Jaya, a San Antonio youth council alumna who joined the council to have a positive impact on her community. She enjoyed connecting with like-minded youth, meeting community leaders, and discovering her path to a green career.

Meet Jaya

Tasha Messer is an EcoRise Teacher Ambassador in Atlanta, Georgia, who is fiercely dedicated to the greater good and activating students to become changemakers in their communities. She helped us celebrate our expansion in Atlanta, which was made possible by generous funding from the American Family Institute for Corporate and Social Impact.

Meet Tasha & Learn About the Partnership

EcoRise Teacher Ambassadors are champions of sustainability education, implementing EcoRise resources and curricula in their classrooms while inspiring and empowering other teachers locally and nationally.

Meet the 2021–2022 Ambassadors

Youth Programs

With a focus on civic engagement and green career pathways, EcoRise provides opportunities for a diverse network of student leaders to influence environmental policy, cultivate climate resilience, and participate in the new green economy. We are proud to facilitate youth councils focused on civic engagement and centered in climate resiliency, equity, and action; and to offer paid summer internships designed to create equitable pathways to green careers for youth from communities that are historically underrepresented in the fields of sustainability. Click the tabs below to learn more about each program we offered.

The second cohort of the Mayor’s Youth Engagement Council for Climate Initiatives (MYECCI) launched this year with 37 San Antonio-area youth. In partnership with the City of San Antonio Mayor’s Office and Office of Sustainability and with support from the Holloman Price Foundation, the MYECCI mobilizes the next generation of climate champions and provides them with a platform and tools needed to become effective advocates in their community. This year’s council members implemented community impact projects aligned with the City of San Antonio’s Climate Action & Adaptation Plan, including building community gardens in neighborhoods with a low tree equity score, installing a Little Free Pantry improving food security in low-income communities, understanding the needs of westside community members through data, and establishing a school supply recycling program.

Meet the MYECCI

In partnership with the City of Austin Office of Sustainability, the Austin Independent School District (AISD), and Planet Texas 2050, EcoRise facilitated the inaugural Austin Youth Climate Equity Council (AYCEC) this year. 18 youth leaders from across AISD engaged in local climate action efforts and informed the AISD long-range plan and the City of Austin’s Climate Equity Plan through community impact projects. Council member projects included installing CO2 sensors to mitigate energy usage in unoccupied rooms, anti-displacement efforts for AISD communities, and expanding greenspace with rainwater gardens at schools that don’t have any.

Meet the AYCEC

EcoRise worked with the City of Houston Office of Sustainability to facilitate the Houston Youth Climate Ambassadors (YCA) program during the summer of 2021 as a part of Mayor Sylvester Turner’s Hire Houston Youth program. The YCA educated their communities about the Houston Climate Action Plan (CAP), collected data about community climate needs, and designed recommendations for equitably implementing the CAP. Two of their biggest recommendations were centered around a just transition to green energy and continuing youth involvement in city planning. Watch their recap video to learn more!

EcoRise and the University of Texas School of Architecture facilitated a robust, paid, 6-week internship for students in Central Texas and Massachusetts during the summer of 2021. Students learned about green careers, workplace skills, climate resilience, environmental justice, leadership, and more with EcoRise. Interns were paired with green professional mentors to learn more about a green career field they are passionate about. The program ended with a powerful Student Innovation Showcase: Interns presented the projects they had been working on over the summer with their mentors, which included weatherizing buildings, optimizing HVAC systems, enhancing sustainability in food services, implementing outdoor learning for students, and improving air filtration.

“I learned a lot about climate change, equity, and why we have to take action. I was given an opportunity to make a difference by collecting data, contacting people, and actually making a project that will help the environment and the people in it. What makes it even better is that the topic I got to research was something I was interested in.”

Youth Councilmember2021–2022

"I loved getting to discover a community of passionate young environmental leaders that I did not know were around me! I feel better about going to study Environmental Studies in college and participating in more of these projects and discussions."

Youth Councilmember2021–2022

“I plan on reapplying next year because I really enjoyed this experience. I don't think any other program or anything in San Antonio could even get close to how much MYECCI taught me about environmental/climate justice.”

Youth Councilmember2021–2022

"This opportunity has basically confirmed what I already knew about myself. I can't wait to graduate and maybe, one day, hold office and be a catalyst for change for a lot of the things we need to move our planet forward in a sustainable way."

Houston Youth Climate Ambassador2021

"The most valuable thing that I have gotten out of my internship is real-life preparation for the workforce while also getting the opportunity to build connections with various professionals in green careers, which has been helpful in learning what I want to do for my future and how others can help/guide me."

Green Building Intern2021

Student Innovation Fund

EcoRise introduces students to the three pillars of sustainability: people, planet, and prosperity.

Eco-Audit Grants Awarded
Projects Funded
School Resource Savings

Grant awardees have real impacts on their communities! Every student group that is funded demonstrates the social, economic, and environmental significance of their sustainability projects. Check out what our students accomplished this year:

2021–2022 Eco-Audit Grant Projects

Aqueduct Project

Bedichek’s Peace Garden

Compost Kids

The Green Wall

Guardians of the Greens

Recycling in the Commons

Social/Emotional Learning (SEL) Carts

Time to Get Silver Flatware

View All Projects

10% Less Plastic • AAMS MAX Lunch Program • Accessible Methods of SEL • All Eyes on Bees! • All Eyes on Owls! • All Hands On Garden! • Amazing Atrium Outdoor Space • Amethyst Backyard Sanctuary • Amping Up the Amphitheatre • Aqueduct and Historical Background Project • Beautify Our Butterfly Garden • Bedichek’s Peace Garden • BIG TECH RECYCLE • Biodegradable Lunch Trays • Bird Wildlife Habitat for Our Garden • Birdhouse Vertical Succulent Garden • Bradley Rain Garden • Breathe in Purely • Bringing Life Back to Our Ponds • Bulldogs Take Pride in Beautification, Part 1 & 2 • Cleaning Leaders United to Terminate Trash Exponentially by Recycling • The Case of the Missing Trash Cans at TA Brown • Community Edible Garden • Compost Bins for Our Garden • Compost Kids • Composting at Kuentz • Composting at Yu Ying • Composting in the Classroom • Courtyard Beautification Project • Decrease the Usage of Plastic Water Bottles • Eco Stickers • Eco-Audit Public Space • Eco-Walls • Air Quality • Water Filter Grant • Ecosystems on Campus • Enjoying the Outdoors • Garden-to-Cafe: Hydroponic Edition • Gardening Tools for All • Green Team •Green Team/Outside Learning Space Project • Green Thumbs Up! Adding Greenery to Our Shared Spaces • The Green Wall •Growing Green Wall • Guardians of the Greens • Herb Keyhole Compost • Home for the Monarchs • Huskies Birdkeepers • Huskies Outdoor Reading Adventure • Huskies Sit and Enjoy Nature • Husky Outdoor Learning Space • Hydroponics for a Flourishing Winter • ICHS Recycling Project • Improving HSCJ’s Outdoor Space • Improving Plantation • Infinite Green Garden • International School of Texas Compost and Plastic Waste Project • It Is Not Just Trash • Jade’s Rain Water Garden Restoration Project • JLES Pollinator Garden • JLES Rain Garden • Keyhole Compost Butterfly Garden • Knights Love Reading by the Pond • Langford’s Pizza Vegetable Garden • Let’s Clear the Air • Let’s Get Cooking! Demonstration Kitchen @ JLES • Let’s Make LBJ Grow Again with Plants and Flowers • Living Animals for Our LBJ Pond •Main Hallway Renovation • Mobile Food Garden • Modified Rooftop Garden Part 2 • Monarch Heroes • Native Grass Garden • New Garden Beds for Plants • Nurturing our Garden • Ocean Helpers • One Man’s Waste Is Another Chickens Treasure • Our Garden Needs Plants! • Outdoor Learning Center • Outdoor Science Lab • Paradigm Shift Series: Cultivating our Minds and Meals • Paradigm Shift Series: Pondering Minds • Peace Garden Habitat • Perfectly PURE Air • Plants for HSCJ Terrace • Plastic for Pizza • Portable Mural and Outdoor Seating Area • Posters and Plastic Water Bottles – Plastic Audit • Protect, Preserve and Project! • PSJA EcoFriends, Keeping North Clean! • Public Garden Spaces • Rain Barrel • Recyclable Table • Recycle and Compost for a Better Future • Recycling in the Commons • Recycling Program • Reduce, Reuse, TerraCycle! • Reducing Water Waste • Relaxing in the Outdoors • Relocating the Tiger Prairie • Reshaping our Plastic Consumption Habits, Part 1 & 2 • Reusable Water Bottle Distribution Program • Rose Garden • RYMS Bears Literacy Atrium • Save the Environment – Use a Water Bottle! • Science and Math Hallway • Sit, Stay, and Learn • Solar Chargers for Energy Equality • Solving Food Deserts One Plant at a Time – Boyd’s Farmers Market • Sprucing Up Our Garden @ JLES • Sustainable Watering Problems and Solutions • SWS Compost • Tactile Sensory Garden • Terrace Rain Garden for Codman • Time to Get Silver Flatware! • Tree-mendous Outdoor Eating Space • Turning Green at Brown • Turning the Walls Green • Vegetable Garden •Visualizing Thermal Maps on Comfort, Perception, Physiology, and Energy Use, Part 1 & 2 • Viviendo en Naturaleza con los Pájaros • Waste Wise • We Need Benches! • Wear and Recycle II • Will Davis Outdoor School – Chicken Coop, Part 1 & 2 • Windmill Wind Power for 4th Graders

Student Innovation Showcases

See More Photos

We hosted four in-person and five virtual Student Innovation showcases this school year! The return to in-person was glorious with 36 student teams presenting their Eco-Audit Grant projects at showcases in Central Texas, San Antonio, and Washington, D.C. The San Antonio Mayor’s Youth Council also showcased their Community Impact Projects at an in-person showcase. Students and staff alike were thrilled to celebrate their accomplishments with community members and VIPs such as the mayor of Austin, San Antonio City Council members, and U.S. EPA representatives! Eco-Audit grant recipients from New York City and South Florida and the Austin Youth Climate Equity Council also presented their work virtually to green professionals from across the United States.

Program Impact

Of the EcoRise teachers surveyed …

Of the EcoRise students surveyed …

"EcoRise provides engaging, relevant, kid-friendly learning resources on meaningful topics that affect our everyday lives. I will continue to use their resources for years to come. Also, their team is fantastic—super supportive, responsive, and flexible!"

Yu Ying Public Charter School TeacherWashington, DC

"I have been using EcoRise lessons for 2+ years. I enjoy using the lessons because they are well prepared 5E lessons. my students enjoy the EcoRise lessons because they are hands on, and they use real-world issues."

Klein Forest High School TeacherHouston, TX

"Student voice and self-advocacy skills are greatly improved by doing Eco-Audit Grants. It’s amazing to see kids take on environmental problems in their community and tackle them head-on by creating solutions!"

John Lewis Elementary TeacherWashington, DC

"EcoRise materials are engaging. The materials provide ample opportunities for teamwork as well as reflection of environmental justice issues. In addition, I love the people highlighted in the material as it is representative of the students I teach."

Colombia Secondary School TeacherNew York, NY

"The EcoRise curriculum has helped me grow as an educator and, therefore, as a person. Something I learned this year is that sometimes it's the second or third time that we try a given lesson that we can derive deeper meaning from the information within it."

PSJA Early College High School TeacherSan Juan, TX

"EcoRise provides excellent curricula that make sustainability concepts real by helping students to apply their learning to real-world situations. The curriculum is thorough, easy to manage, and very engaging for the students. I cannot recommend it enough!"

Boston Green Academy TeacherBoston, MA

EcoRise Programs in the Media

National Partnerships to Advance Equity in Environmental Education

The field of environmental education has historically been dominated by white-led organizations that have excluded environmental justice communities and people of color. As our movement wakes up to the systemic inequities that cause communities of color to be disproportionately impacted by environmental hazards, and our role in perpetuating these inequities, we are humbled to work alongside some of the largest environmental education organizations in the country to begin the essential work of unlearning racism and creating more inclusive and equitable organizations and programs. Here are a few examples of the webinars and workshops that we collaborated on in 2021–2022.

Financial support from EcoRise partners allows us to further vital programs.

Spotlight Partners

Supporting Partners

Program Collaborators

BLGY Architecture
Captain Planet Foundation
Citizens’ Environmental Coalition
City of San Antonio Office of the Mayor
Climate Generation
Dream in Green
Green Building Education Services
Green Schools National Network
Groundwork USA
K–12 Climate Action – Aspen Institute
Kansas Association for Conservation and Environmental Education

Madison Gas and Electric
Math for America
National Wildlife Federation/EcoSchools USA
North American Association of Environmental Educators
Planet Texas 2050
Project Learning Tree
Project WET
School District of Palm Beach County Science Department

Texas Association for Environmental Education
Texas Children in Nature
United States Green Building Council (USGBC)
The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture
U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools
USGBC Center for Green Schools
University of Texas Marine Science Institute

School District Partners

Austin Achieve
Austin Independent School District
Louisiana Department of Education
New York City Department of Education
Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE)
Sacramento City Unified School District
San Mateo County Office of Education
Tomball Independent School District
Washington, D.C. Public Schools

Community Support

Austin Energy
Austin FC
Balcones Resources
Built Environment Plus
City of Austin Office of Sustainability
City of Houston Office of Sustainability
Perkins Eastman, DC
Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction

EcoRise is cultivating the next generation of resilient youth who are passionate about creating a more just and sustainable world for all.

In the face of adversity and the climate crisis, join us in harnessing the power and potential of young leaders by championing transformative K–12 sustainability education.