Resilient Schools

The Resilient Schools Program supports schools and school districts in designing long-term ecological, economic and bio-cultural resilience into their curricula, campus and community. We believe in the power of educational institutions – incubators of the next generation of leaders and systems designers – to serve as community hubs for ecological literacy, intergenerational engagement and cross-sectoral collaboration of interdependent stakeholders co-designing their own thriving community in the context of climate disruption.

Watch this short intro to our School Garden Teacher Training course.

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What is a Resilient School?

Resilient schools are where education, communities and ecosystems thrive. Imagine your local public school as a model of sustainability that cultivates resilience-thinking across the community through living learnscapes deeply integrated with rigorous curricula. Efficient, renewable energy sources; hydrologically literate water management; school garden and local farm meals made from scratch in the cafeteria; zero-waste; and low carbon emission transportation. And students are the designers and operators of all of the systems! Schools can achieve these goals through community organizing: we gather stakeholders of your community together to engage in democratic decision–making, creative fundraising and participatory systems design to meet the academic, economic and climate needs of a resilient community for generations to come. In addition to our flagship School Garden Teacher Training courses, OAEC has also hosted Resilient Schools Trainings. Participating districts from Los Angeles Unified, Sacramento City Schools, Calaveras County & Carmel Valley have gathered at OAEC to develop their Resilient Action Plans.

Read about Resilient Schools on our blog >


Program Impact

Since 1994, OAEC has supported school districts to establish the foundation for school-based Resilient Community Design in school gardens. We have trained and supported teams from 300 schools and over 1,000 educators – reaching over 100,000 students annually – throughout the nation to establish place-based, ecological literacy programs in living learnscapes.


  • A Handful of Seeds (downloadable PDF – 2 MB): OAEC’s seed-saving publication for educators.
  • Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, Richard Louv, Algonquin Books; Updated and Expanded edition (April 22, 2008).
  • How to Grow a School Garden: A Complete Guide for Parents and Teachers, Arden Bucklin-Sporer and Rachel Pringle, Timber Press (June 30, 2010).
  • Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation, Sharon Gamson Danks, New Village Press (November 2, 2010).
  • Schoolyard-Enhanced Learning: Using the Outdoors as an Instructional Tool, K-8, Herbert W. Broda, Stenhouse Publishers (November 2, 2007).
  • Moving the Classroom Outdoors: Schoolyard-Enhanced Learning in Action, Herbert W. Broda Stenhouse Publishers (May 28, 2011).
  • Ecological Literacy: Educating Our Children for a Sustainable World (The Bioneers Series), David Orr (author); Michael Stone & Zenobia Barlow (editors); Fritjof Capra (forward) Sierra Club Books (October 1, 2005).
  • Learning Gardens and Sustainability Education: Bringing Life to Schools and Schools to Life, Dilafruz Williams & Jonathan Brown, Routledge (November 12, 2011).
  • Place-based Education: Connecting Classrooms & Communities, With Index, David Sobel, The Orion Society (2005).

Defining Ecological Literacy

Ecoliteracy-GraphicAs we navigate a just transition through climate disruption, OAEC’s Resilient Schools Program supports whole communities to cultivate a reverential relationship with place – whether you find yourself in an urban context, suburban sprawl, a rural community or anywhere in between.

As we are all interconnected to place and natural systems, the intentional exploration of our relationships to our home leads to an increased capacity for supporting local people, places and systems. By cultivating “ecoliteracy” – the understanding of our relationship to place – across sectors, regions and generations, we foster community resilience: the capacity to thrive in response to changing conditions over time.

Learn about OAEC’s Resilient Community Design methodology >