Curriculum Resources

Focusing on environmental themes – energy, natural systems, climate, sustainability – can help classrooms successfully teach Next Generation Science (NGSS) and CA Common Core Standards.

• Environmental topics make science ideas relevant and exciting for students

• Environmental field programs emphasize NGSS Science and Engineering Practices

• Environmental topics engage students in Science, English Language Arts, Math and History

• Community-based environmental organizations add support

Across Santa Cruz County, local Environmental Education organizations offer programs to connect students to their local environment.

The Partner Portal is an online database for teachers, school administrators and organizations to find environmental literacy programs and partners. Find local programs and partners searchable by: 

5th grade boy sitting on log by flowers and writing in journal

At the Santa Cruz County Outdoor Science School, fifth and sixth grade students experience a four- or five-day residential, hands-on science program. Students focus on investigating the rich coastal redwood forest ecosystem that surrounds our coastal community. 

Surveys of students who participated in a week at SCCOSS were:

The program also offers Extending the Impact, a free companion ELA unit connecting language learning with the outdoor school experience. 

Below is a select sampling of free and low cost curriculum resources that can supplement your classroom curriculum with an engaging environmental lens.

Free nature journaling curriculum, videos of lessons in action and teacher guides from John Muir Laws and Emelie Lygren!

Save the Redwoods League Curriculum Resources and Transportation Grant

Save the Redwoods League offers free curriculum, publications, maps, a reading list and field trips guide to support educators to introduce the wonders of the redood forest to students of any age.

Save the Redwoods League and Santa Cruz County Office of Education have also partnered to establish a Redwoods Transportation Grant Program for Santa Cruz County TK-12 classes to visit local redwood forests. Grants cover the cost of transportation and are awarded on a first come, first served basis. 

Access the Bay of Life Curriculum Resources for TK-12 Educators and explore the most significant biodiversity hotspot in North America--Monterey Bay!  Bay of Life creators Frans Lanting and Chris Eckstrom have partnered with Santa Cruz County Office of Education to educate and inspire conservation.

This website links iconic images from the book, Bay of Life: From Wind to Whales, to TK-12 education resources and field trips to bring the themes from Bay of Life into every classroom. 

Logo for Kiss the Ground

Kiss the Ground

Created by Kiss the Ground and Life Lab, this free, downloadable middle school curriculum focuses on the vital role of soil. Lessons teach about the carbon cycle, soil science, photosynthesis, various agricultural practices, and concludes with a regenerative soil-based project. A Kiss the Ground webinar training video is  available archived.

Logo for Strategic Energy Innovations (SEI)

Strategic Energy Innovations SEI supports students, teachers, and administrators to become sustainability leaders who will transform their school communities. K-12 and higher education curriculum include free CTE courses and project-based learning guides.

Logo for Project WET (Water Education for Teachers)

Project WET Project WET activities are designed to engage students of all ages in the study of water through interactive simulations, use of models and reality-based scenarios. Training is required to access the curriculum but the 6 hour training is usually free or low cost .

Logo for Project Learning Tree (PLT) Programs

 Project Learning Tree

Award-winning EE program designed for teachers, parents, and community leaders working preK-12

Logo Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network (CLEAN)

The Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network (CLEAN) has vetted a collection of 700+ free resources that have been rigorously reviewed by educators and scientists for secondary and college level. Browse the collection using filters for keywords, grade level, resource type or NGSS content, 

Logo for the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

EPA: Learning and Teaching about the Environment

Environmental Protection Agency's library of teaching resources. Find an array of K-12 environmental and science based lesson plans, activities and ideas from EPA, other federal agencies and external organizations. Resources are organized by environmental themes, but may not be NGSS aligned.

Logo for Lawrence Hall of Science's BEETLES Project

BEETLES Science and Teaching for Field Instructors

Originally created for outdoor science school educators, these tools also help teachers learn to use the outdoors as classroom 

More resources can be found on these pages: