HCOE Environmental Education

Advancing Learning Landscapes

A CDE grant project increasing educator capacity to nurture environmental literacy for Humboldt County students


Our teachers and coaches have found these to be the most useful curriculum, activity, and pedagogical resources for building environmental literacy in students.


Our team of Environmental Literacy Coaches have been teaming up with classroom teachers across the county to craft lessons that help connect their students with the outdoors. Our aim is to deepen students’ sense of place by having meaningful learning experiences in nature on or near their school campuses — and to build teacher capacity to do so. Here we are sharing highlights so that you may use these lesson series as well.

Wildfire Climate Who Pooped In the Redwoods Lesson Plans


Grow your skills and be inspired to include environmental literacy in your teaching practices – and find opportunities for your students as well.

About the Program

Job embedded professional learning and partnerships with local agencies build capacity for teachers to make the most of their outdoor campus

Environmental literacy fosters a student’s understanding and skills to make responsible decisions that consider his or her relationships to natural systems, communities, and future generations. It is founded on sound scientific information, skills for critical thinking, as well as creative and strategic problem solving.

The Humboldt County Office of Education’s Advancing Learning Landscapes (ALL) project develops and enhances student and teacher understanding of environmental literacy through a deepened connection to their school campus (and eventually beyond) in rural elementary schools across the county.

We use innovative teaching methods to integrate and strengthen place-based science instruction across the curriculum through a program of embedded professional development activities initially based on the campus of county schools. This integration improves student’s connection to the natural world and in doing so improves their thinking and reasoning skills.

This in turn prepares them to successfully meet the performance expectations of the Next Generation Science Standards. HCOE’s team of Environmental Literacy Coaches partners with teachers to develop and curate curriculum for campuses across the county, coordinate guest scientists visits, and provide training (co-teaching) at school sites with ways to use these resources.

Meet the Project Team

Jennifer Ortega

Jennifer Ortega

Curriculum Specialist/Coach & Grant Evaluator

Jennifer is a lecturer in HSU’s Environmental Science & Management Department and Kinesiology & Recreation Administration Department.  When she’s not in the classroom or working on her doctorate of education, you’ll find Jennifer instructing for the California Naturalist Program and the Forestry Institute for Teachers.  A credentialed science teacher, Jennifer has led outdoor schools and worked in museum education.

Denise Newman

Denise Newman

Curriculum Specialist/Coach, Community Resources

Denise, Projects Coordinator with Redwood Community Action Agency, received her masters in Natural Resource Interpretation and Planning from HSU. She oversees watershed-based k-12 environmental education projects from grant proposal and planning to classroom and field studies. Denise also designs natural and cultural-themed interpretive signage as well as leads interpretive tours along our local trails, including the Eureka Waterfront Trail.

Allison Poklemba

Allison Poklemba

Curriculum Specialist/Coach, Coordinator

Allison has been bringing valuable lessons to students and teachers for years, visiting classrooms and facilitating CREEC meetings and training events. From waste reduction to seaweed collection, Allison inspires through competitive recycling sorting to recording natural observations. She makes a mean squash soup but it is her wildcrafted elderberry syrup that has people lining up for little blue bottles of goodness.

Sal Steinberg

Sal Steinberg

Curriculum Specialist/Coach

A long time local educator, Sal has been active in the community working to improve salmon habitat and developing Watershed Education programs.  He has led projects with Healthy Streams and Kids in the Woods grants, connecting our students to the redwoods and giving them hands on experience learning to do water testing.  If you know Sal, you can’t help but smile when you speak of him.

Michael Kauffmann

Michael Kauffmann

Curriculum Specialist/Coach

Michael is an ecologist and educator, serving as the math and science specialist for the Fortuna Elementary School District. He has authored the books Conifer Country, Conifers of the Pacific Slope,and Field Guide to Manzanitas to inspire kids of all ages about the wonders of natural history.  Michael has led numerous educational grant projects with partners such as Save the Redwoods League, California Math and Science Project, and the Cowell Foundation.

Olivia Kernen

Olivia Kernen

Project Coordinator

Olivia is a Program and Event Coordinator for Humboldt County Office of Education. Olivia joyfully coordinates multiple Environmental Education Programs, including Steelhead in the Classroom and the Redwood Environmental Education Fair. Olivia’s recently completed her Master’s in Business Administration with an emphasis in strategic sustainability and is passionate about integrating the sustainability best practices she learned into HCOE’s Environmental Education Programs.

Kids exploring nature
Students in a creek
A girl observing bugs

Scope of Work

Participating Schools

Our coaches are working with teachers from:

  • Dow’s Prairie (TK-2)
  • Mattole (TK-12)
  • South Fortuna Elementary (TK-4)
  • Loleta (TK-8)
  • Fuente Nueva Charter (TK-6)
  • Cutten (TK-8)
  • Garfield (TK-8)
  • Peninsula (TK-8)
  • Hydesville (TK-8)
  • Cuddeback (TK-8)
  • Klamath Trinity High School
  • Sunny Brae Middle School

Job embedded professional learning and partnerships with local agencies build teacher capacity to include outdoor learning experiences in their at home and on campus curriculum.

We’re on Year 3 of our Advancing Learning Landscapes Project and changing things up for this stretch of Distance Learning most of us are finding ourselves in.

For the last two years we have linked arms with teachers across the county to help them make best use of outdoor learning opportunities on or near their school campuses. 

Now that most students are learning from home instead of actually at school, we’re partnering with teachers to help them include meaningful outdoor learning experiences in their distance learning plans. And we’re meeting kids where they are to do so: at their homes! 

We’re offering monthly webinars with ideas for helping K-12 students deepen their connection to place, to better understand WHERE they actually live. The climate, the watershed, the first people and first stewards of this land, the plants, animals, and decomposers. And we’ve built in monthly support for teachers with our coaches and as part of a learning community as they guide their students through the outdoor learning labs of their yards, neighborhoods, and community open spaces.

Along the way we’ll be sharing highlights from the region, including curated lessons and resources to make Environmental Literacy an engaging part of your curriculum. This website will be updated each month as we do so. 

Thanks for all you’re doing for your students and families during this challenging time. I’m hopeful that more time learning outside will benefit everyone right now.