CELF Success Stories

Here are some examples of how CELF has helped schools and students achieve concrete results.

Capturing Learning Opportunities from a Green Building


Manhattan’s Gateway School, a leader in helping students with learning disabilities to succeed, has distinguished itself in a new way, thanks to its visionary school leaders and their work with CELF. When the school moved to a new, state-of-the-art “green” facility, they asked CELF’s help to articulate the learning opportunities presented by the move and the new facility. We met with administration and staff to discuss how they could use this exciting change to help them find access and connection points where they could connect “placed-based” sustainability education to their existing curriculum. The move was turned into a successful learning opportunity. READ MORE ON PAGE 8…

A Smaller “Shoe Size” for Greener Feet


CELF’s Eco-Footprinting program always helps students learn exciting sustainability concepts, but that’s not all it can do. At the Milton School, in Rye, NY, CELF’s second eco-footprinting exercise with students and teachers revealed an 11% reduction in the school’s ecological footprint since the first CELF program was conducted there 18 months earlier. This was even more impressive since the school had added 47 students and 13 teachers and administrators since the first program.

The program took the students throughout their school to meet with “experts” and learn about the ecological footprint in the cafeteria, the heating and cooling plant, the school office and other areas. Student action plans developed for their school addressed topics such as reducing paper usage and vehicles emissions, increasing energy efficiencies and improving recycling programs. READ MORE…

The CELF-Sustaining Sustainability Education Program


In 2006, the Scarsdale School District took the groundbreaking step of initiating a district-wide program for sustainability education. Few public schools had such programs at the time. The newly appointed District program coordinator, a retired principal, sought consultation from CELF.

We introduced the coordinator to the work being done at private schools and some colleges, as well as provided him with learning resources. Together, we formulated an action plan, determining that the District needed to focus on three broad areas-- its own ecological footprint; curriculum mapping to identify where sustainability content was already being addressed, and opportunities for integration; and staff development.

With support from CELF, the District became one of four nationwide to receive an EPA-sponsored sustainable leadership grant. The grant allowed them to put together a 5-year strategic plan for their sustainability education program.

CELF offered on-site professional development workshops for teachers and administrators through the Scarsdale Teacher’s Institute. More than 75 teachers have gone through the training, tremendously broadening the scope and number of people in the District committed to the program. By 2009 CELF’s teacher training program resulted in a cadre of turn-key trainers within the District.

The District’s other sustainability activities to date include:

  • Participation in CELF’s Students for a Sustainable Future EXPO;
  • A CELF Eco-Footprinting  Program;
  • Organic gardens at every school (the high school brings produce to a local food bank);
  • Green clubs in each of the seven schools, heavily involved in recycling and starting to reduce their use of plastics;
  • A Board of Education resolution that Scarsdale will reduce its carbon footprint by 10% below 1990 levels by 2020, a significant reduction for a community that has grown considerably since 1990;
  • A planned energy control program, to be paid for through energy savings, including new thermostats and lighting, and improving the tightness and insulation of the envelope of each building.

Many teachers have now introduced sustainability concepts in their classroom, and formal curriculum change is slowly happening. The teachers who are active in sustainability education are serving as models and inspiration for their colleagues to understand how and where Education for Sustainability fits across disciplines and grade levels.

CELF was critical to the District’s success: interest and passion has now reached a tipping point  and sustainability education is on the road to becoming a universal framework for the district.

Educators Learn Best Practices for a new Era in Sustainability Education


The College of New Rochelle has developed one of the first programs to build environmental literacy of students in an undergraduate teacher certification programs. The initiative started when Dr. Diane Quandt, Chair of the Education Department and Dr. Faith Kostel-Hughes, Director of Environmental Studies, attended CELF’s Summer Institute, where they learned about sustainability activities appropriate for elementary school students, and wrote an extensive curriculum for their undergraduate students. Then they set about making it a reality. 

The environmental education program for undergraduate students models the integration of environmental education in the classroom by infusing environmental content into the teaching of educational concepts to their students. For example, the students’ unit plans are based on an environmental topic. They learn about climate change while learning about vocabulary instruction.

The College has also added two new one-credit courses to the education major, one focused on the challenge of teaching about climate change, and the other specifically on teaching the Hudson Valley.

Other faculty members at the College have become involved in these teaching efforts as well. The program received a faculty fund grant to share their experiences and findings through conferences and publishing. Dr. Quandt and Kostel-Hughes are planning to present at two conferences in the coming year, as well as publishing their work so other Colleges can create similar pre-service training programs in sustainability.

Sustainability Ed Inspires Gains in Essay-Writing Skills

With guidance from Scott Beall, a CELF curriculum consultant, a fourth-grade ELA teacher reframed her curriculum on thesis statements around sustainability themes and documented major improvements in students’ skills in essay writing. The teacher said she had never seen the kids so motivated, and the students’ thesis statements were on the highest level she had ever seen, coming together effortlessly. The students were actually eager to begin writing their essays.

The sustainability context generated motivation and sense of purpose that helped the students achieve their objectives in punctuation, grammar, word choice, topic focus, etc. READ MORE ON PAGE 3…

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“At the early stages of construction, CELF encouraged us to capitalize on learning opportunities related to our new green building. We continue to work together to identify and build into our curriculum lasting, meaningful content that will support sustainability as a cornerstone of learning at Gateway.”

Robert Cunningham, EdM
Gateway Headmaster
New York, NY


“What distinguishes CELF's eco-footprinting program from other school programs … (such as just recycling or canned goods and school supply drives) is that the kids really 'get it'. More than any other program, this engages students, (not just the parents who are the ones actually sending in the cans or school supplies). There was follow-up in every classroom and the vast majority of teacher responses were overwhelmingly positive. The program was all about EMPOWERMENT - how in our day-to-day lives we can individually make positive changes and by educating our parents they can have an impact too.”

Mimi Bateman
Milton Elementary School PTA
Rye, NY



Copyright 2014. Children’s Environmental Literacy Foundation. All Rights Reserved. CELF-taught is a Service Mark of CELF.