Ecoliteracy Programs

Big Oak Canyon

What is Ecoliteracy?

Cultivate care and connection between students and the earth, while supporting academic standards taught in the classroom.

Ecoliteracy is the understanding of the natural systems that make life on our planet
possible. Students become ecoliterate when we allow nature to be the teacher.

Provide students with engaging, hands-on activities that support California standards.
Environmental content is a major component of the CA Next Generation Science Standards. Furthermore, environmental topics are incorporated into many of the disciplinary core ideas and performance expectations for students at every grade level. Both the Common Core and the Next Generation Science Standards require students to engage in rigorous thinking and problem solving. By supporting student environmental literacy, we are directly supporting the California Standards.

Provide students with direct interaction with the natural world.
These interactions also help make classroom instruction meaningful as students connect what they do in Earthroots programs to academic content they are provided by their teachers.


Kindergarten students will learn how to connect with nature in our Ecoliteracy program. Plant and animal life are also observed on and around school grounds as students learn how to slow down and notice the natural world. Kindergarteners are active learners who are beginning to understand how their actions affect the world around them. Activities in the Kindergarten Eco-Literacy program revolve around direct observation of nature and hands-on activities, while encouraging exploration and engagement. Students will deepen their connection to the plants and animals around them in programs that include observation, songs, storytelling, nature games, artifact exploration, and guided activities outdoors.

What do plants and animals need to survive? K-PS2
Where do animals live and why do they live there? K-ESS3 How do human actions impact Earth? K-ESS3-3

Topics include

  • Exploring Seeds: Sort, Harvest, Plant, Grow
  • Oak Trees and Acorns
  • Bird Language and Observation
  • Animal Homes
  • Vermicomposting
  • Make Seed Balls
  • Recycle, Reuse, Reduce, Rot

First Grade

In first grade, students will develop their sensory awareness to perceive subtle details, patterns, and changes in the environment. However, the natural world offers a diverse palette of sights, smells, noises, tastes, and textures for students to explore. Additionally, students will develop a caring relationship for the earth as they use their senses to observe the natural world around them. Through exploration, songs, games, storytelling, and guided activities, students will come to know nature in new and exciting ways while learning to be good stewards of the earth.

Ecoliteracy - harvesting garden crops first grade

What are some ways plants and animals meet their needs so they can survive and grow? How are parents and their children (plants and animals) similar and different? Also, what objects are in the sky and how do they seem to move?

Topics include

  • Nest Building
  • Bird Language
  • Gardening Unit – From Seed to Harvest
  • Life Cycle of a Plant
  • Life Cycle of a Worm
  • Life Cycle of a Honeybee
  • Sun, Moon, and Star Patterns
  • Solar Oven Cooking

Second Grade

In second grade, students will learn how to look for clues on the land, and how they tell the story of what happened there. Careful observation of earth’s features can tell us how water, plants, and human and animal activity have shaped the land around us. Furthermore, through hands-on activities, stories, songs, and action-based learning, students will deepen their connection to our changing planet and the diversity of life it supports.

How does land change and what are some things that cause it to change? What are the different kinds of land and bodies of water? How are materials similar and different from one another, and how do the
properties of the materials relate to their use? Also, what do plants need to grow?

Topics include

  • Exploring Watersheds
  • Create a Mulch Basin
  • Water Harvesting Basics
  • Become a Scat Detective
  • Wonderful Weeds
  • Leaf Features and Adaptations
  • Gardening Unit

Ancestral Arts Series

Supports History Social Science Content Standards for grades 3-5. Students learn about Native American Culture and Ancestral Survival Skills through storytelling, song, and hands-on activities and crafts.

History Social Science Content Standards 3.2, 4.2, 5.1

Ancestral Arts series- yucca cordage

Topics include

  • Make Yucca Cordage
  • Explore Plant Medicine: Plantain, Yarrow, Sage
  • Process and Cook Acorns
  • Shelter Building
  • Fire by Friction
  • Bows and Arrows: Craft an Arrow out of Mulefat
  • Make a Gourd Cup or Bowl
  • Tracking
  • Natural Painting

Gardening Series

Earthroots instructors will come to your site to help you establish a garden with your students.

Topics include

  • Crop Selection and Garden Planning
  • Planting Seeds and Starters
  • Plant Propagation
  • Soil Health
  • Composting
  • Transplanting
  • Seed Saving
  • Harvesting
  • 3 Sisters Garden
  • Value Added Garden Products
  • Food Preservation, Cooking, and Sharing
Gardening series - Seed planting

Additional Classes

  • Build a Mini Cob House
  • Establish a Composting System
  • Set Up a Vermicompost Bin
  • Natural Dyeing
  • Make Natural Healing Salve
  • Elderberry Tree: Make Elderberry Vial or Beads or make Elderberry Syrup
  • Permaculture Design

Field Trips and Overnights at Big Oak Canyon

Big Oak Canyon is Earthroots 39-acre teaching campus for wilderness awareness and sustainable living.

Big Oak Canyon, located on ancestral Achjachemen and Tongva territory in Silverado Canyon, California, transports students to a natural oasis. Once there, students will experience the beauty, diversity, and calming force of nature amongst centuries-old oak trees, diverse native flora, flowing creeks, and a multitude of intact ecosystems.

A wonderland for children and adults alike, Big Oak Canyon moves Ecoliteracy to a new level as children take in this vast wilderness and connect with nature at a deep level. Undoubtedly, your senses will come alive to the sound of rustling leaves and the language of birds, the feel of mud squishing beneath, the smell and taste of sour lemongrass and fragrant sage, and the sight of soaring hawks.

Even a brief visit to Big Oak Canyon will result in wonderful memories, restful sleep, and a lasting love of the outdoors.

Please see our Field Trips page for more information.

summer picnic