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Art as Activism

Art as Activism: a 2018 End of Year Appeal

We live in a time of drastic change where, despite rising sea levels and global temperatures, there is still a lack of public support to address this growing environmental crisis. A sustainable future calls for the action and activism of a new generation of earth stewards.

At River of Words, we believe one of our most powerful tools for performing that work is art. As another year approaches, we would like to recognize all our generous supporters whose contributions helped us take great strides in education, watershed protection, and social imagination. Now we are asking you to continue to stand with our Art as Activism mission here at the Center for Environmental Literacy with an end-of-year gift to support the vital impact of River of Words. If you have an educator, environmental activist, poet, or artist in your life, a gift to River of Words in their honor might be a thoughtful holiday gift.


“The Blue World” by Vinci, age 6. Hong Kong. China. 2016-2017 River of Words International Winner

Thanks to your gifts and support this past year, we have been able to:

  • Connect with over 3,000 students and teachers across the USA and the world through River of Words’ environmental youth art and poetry contest
  • Exhibit, honor, and publish nature-themed art and poetry of students from around the world through our River of Words Anthology and public exhibits
  • Revitalize the River of Words Watershed Festival to celebrate our young winning and finalist artists and poets
  • Create new materials and multidisciplinary strategies for STEAM education
  • Host online and in-person STEAM centered workshops for teachers and educators
  • Create partnerships with California State Parks and coordinate with local schools to bring students outside to explore their watershed through analytic observation and artistic engagement
  • Foster regional and statewide, home-grown River of Words programs


Our 2016-2017 International Winner, from Hong Kong, artist Vinci, age 8, explains his inspiration for “The Blue World,” his winning piece:


“I was inspired to create it to protect the earth’s water, and all of the

earth’s good things… I really feel strongly about protecting the earth.”


As Vinci so excellently explains, environmental poetry and art allow youth to connect deeply with their watersheds and their worlds. This engagement fosters lifelong passion for protecting and preserving the planet in many of our Watershed Explorers.

Ziva, a 2nd grader from Golden Oak Montessori in Castro Valley, California, said this about her school’s ROW-inspired field trip to Mount Diablo State Park:


“I thought it was very cool because we were standing on something

that was in the ocean once and now it is sandstone.”


"Vacuum Cleaning My Way to a Greener World" by Ailie, age 16. Berlin. Germany. River of Words 2018 Finalist

Please help us nurture a generation of creative and informed earth stewards and an inspired and dedicated band of educators to help reconnect children to the natural world. Please take a moment to send a generous tax-deductible donation. We cannot do this work without you.  

In gratitude,


Luz Casquejo Johnston
Director of the Center for Environmental Literacy

Maureen Esty
River of Words Coordinator

PS. As a thank you to our year-end supporters, every donor who contributes $100 or more will be sent a copy of our 2018 anthology!


“Awareness of our world is the first step in caring for our world. Feed curiosity, create wonder.

Wander through the clouds and acknowledge the blue between."

- Joanna Fox, River of Words / Kalmanovitz School of Education 2014 Teacher of the Year”


the place where the spine meets the skull
is called the atlas
did you know that the earth’s map
is a place within the hollows of your body?
you need to protect this planet’s form
as she protects yours with hers

water resurrects itself
from the underbelly of my tongue
you can be a spitfire girl
with the swell of every ocean between your teeth
you can possess every kind of ferocity and peace
this world has to offer

a tunnel of cypress trees
teaches me to speak their language
they commune in undaunted honesty
and when my voice reaches them
a single truth escapes
i am the love of my life

how could you not fall
for a body that is so similar
to that of this planet?
how could you not want to heal
a planet that is so similar
to that of your body?

-- Sarah, age 15. Orinda, CA.
   River of Words 2018 Poetry Winner


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Help us nurture a generation (generations!) of informed, creative, compassionate earth stewards