The Course

Roots of Success is as a leading resource for education and workforce programs across the country that strive to prepare youth and adults with barriers to employment for careers in the green economy, and empower them to improve conditions in their communities. Students are given the opportunity to examine society’s most pressing environmental problems, identify innovative solutions, and put their ideas into practice as they respond to community needs and pursue environmental careers.
We enhance the capacity of education and workforce programs serving low-income youth and adults. We do this by providing schools and programs with an empowering environmental literacy and job readiness curriculum that increases students’ academic, professional and leadership skills. Our comprehensive Train-the-Instructor training introduces instructors to our unique pedagogy and teaching materials, and provides them with opportunities to practice teaching Roots of Success, guidance on engaging at-risk youth and managing classroom dynamics, and help developing a plan to integrate the curriculum into their programs.

The curriculum works well for all students but was specifically designed for youth and adults who are struggling in school or have barriers to employment. Our pedagogical approach engages students, makes learning relevant, builds on previous knowledge and experiences, and connects what students are learning in the classroom to real world issues. The material is not simply presented to students as if they are open vessels ready to bank information, but as people who learn better when they engage with content that is relevant to their lives, and participate in rich conversations. Students are given opportunities to examine society’s most pressing environmental problems, identify innovative solutions, and develop innovative and entrepreneurial responses to community problems and needs.

The curriculum gets students excited about learning and keeps them coming back to class. Built around intensive student engagement, integrated multimedia, and group activities, the curriculum stimulates students’ intellectual curiosity and ignites interest in science, math, environmental issues, public health, and civic engagement. Students also learn about career pathways in multiple sectors of the economy while increasing their professional skills.


Roots of Success consists of 10 modules: (click for full description)

Programs can teach as many or as few modules as they choose.


Key Features

  • One day instructor training and certification
  • Community-of-Practice for certified instructors
  • Instructor’s Manual requiring no prior teaching experience
  • DVD with all multi-media and print material
  • Turn-key curriculum (ready to use “out of the box”)
  • Student Workbook containing all materials for the course
  • On-going technical support
  • Certification/college credit for students

The strength and impact of Roots of Success comes from how we deliver information. The material is not simply presented to students as if they are open vessels ready to bank information, but as people who learn better when they engage with the material, see and hear content that is relevant to their lives and sparks conversation. Students are encouraged to learn from one another, understand how what they are learning in the classroom can prepare them for opportunities and careers, and are able to apply what they are learning to real world problems and opportunities. Teachers engage students using interactive, dynamic teaching methods. Videos and visuals are used to increase understanding of key concepts and ideas and provide students with examples of how young people are developing innovative responses to community problems and needs. Exercises and activities allow students to apply what they are learning in the class to real world issues and challenges.

Roots of Success works because it is engaging, adaptable, affordable, easy to teach, and works well for students with different learning styles and from diverse backgrounds. The curriculum strengthens core academic skills, increases knowledge about environmental problems and solutions, with a focus on social and environmental justice. People are given the opportunity to examine society’s most pressing environmental problems, identify innovative solutions, and put their ideas into practice as they respond to community needs in innovative and entrepreneurial ways. They learn about career pathways in a multiple sectors of the economy as they increase their professional skills.

The pedagogical approach and curriculum design used in Roots of Success were created by Dr. Raquel Pinderhughes, Professor of Urban Studies and Planning at San Francisco State University. The structure and content for the curriculum were adapted directly from her textbook, “Alternative Urban Futures: Planning for Sustainable Development in Cities Throughout the World” (2004).


There are four main components in each module:
  • The environmental literacy component provides participants with the environmental knowledge, vocabulary, and skill sets they need to be competitive in the green labor market.
  • The academic skills component strengthens vocabulary, reading, writing, math, critical thinking, decision-making, problem solving, communication, public speaking, computer, and test taking abilities and skills.
  • The job readiness/career pathways component provides detailed information about employment and social enterprise opportunities in multiple sectors of the green economy, increases interview, resume-building, financial literacy, entrepreneurial skills, and prepares people for successful job interviews.
  • The leadership component prepares and inspires people for civic engagement.


1. Fundamentals

The Fundamentals of Environmental Literacy (Introduction) Module helps students think about the interconnectedness between natural systems, biological systems and social systems and the connection between human activity and the environment. The focus is on: the economy, natural and built environments, extraction and use of natural resources, global warming, climate change, bioaccumulation, synergistic effects, how decision makers evaluate environmental issues, cost-benefit analysis, how environmental decisions effect communities differently, climate justice, and how people advocate to improve environmental conditions in their community. Students go through a series of activities that allow them to analyze environmental issues, problems, and solutions from the multi-disciplinary perspectives of environmental science, math, technology, public health, social science, land use planning, policy analysis, environmental justice, and civics. The job readiness exercise focuses on understanding career pathways and ladders.
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2. WaterThe Water Module introduces students to basic concepts and issues relevant to water extraction, management and use, the characteristics of water, how water is used in different settings, the importance of water for humans and other species, the water cycle, water use in agriculture, modern water management approaches, the inequitable distribution of fresh water, ground water extraction, wastewater management, and water contamination. Activities allow students to analyze different approaches to conserve water and reduce contamination, including: water saving technologies, grey water and rainwater catchment systems, native and edible landscaping, ecological wastewater treatment systems, programs and incentives offered by local governments or utilities. The job readiness exercise enables students to identify their professional strengths and weaknesses and develop a plan for improving professional weaknesses. In addition, students identify career pathways and entrepreneurial opportunities in the water sector.
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3. WasteThe Waste Module introduces students to a range of issues related to waste management and resource recovery. Students learn about the waste stream and how it has changed over time, bury and burn strategies, problems that stem from the way institutions and individuals dispose of products and materials at the end of their identified lifecycles, alternative waste management approaches, resource recovery, appropriate technologies, and the 4 Rs. A job readiness exercise focuses on job searching skills and strategies, including identifying and responding to job listings. In addition, students identify career pathways and entrepreneurial opportunities in the waste recovery sector.
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4. TransportationThe Transportation Module helps students understand land use planning, the development of transportation systems and infrastructure, diverse transportation modes and transit systems. The module focuses on renewable and nonrenewable resources, the role of fossil fuels in modern transportation systems and vehicles, problems stemming from urban sprawl, greenhouse gas emissions, and air contamination, policies that promote transit-oriented development, alternative fuels, and transportation justice. A job readiness exercise focuses on resume writing. In addition, students identify career pathways and entrepreneurial opportunities in the sustainable transportation sector.
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5. EnergyThe Energy Module helps students understand diverse energy sources, the principles of electricity, the role of energy in the world and in our lives, and the economic, political, environmental, and social factors that influence energy decisions. Students are introduced to the characteristics of energy and electricity, basic concepts and issues relevant to energy systems, the role of fossil fuels and nuclear energy in modern electricity systems, greenhouse gasses and their impacts, and problems associated with the burning of fossil fuels. The module focuses approaches and technologies that help people reduce energy use, renewable energy sources and policies that promote clean energy and climate justice. The job readiness exercise helps students write a cover letter to an employer. In addition, students identify career pathways and entrepreneurial opportunities in the clean energy sector.
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6. BuildingThe Building Module introduces students to basic land use planning, building, and green building concepts. The focus is on built environments, building design and construction, building materials, building systems, embodied energy, indoor air quality, energy and water consumption in buildings, environmental and public health impacts of conventional building practices, green building principles and practices, improving building efficiency, and resource conservation in the construction, operation, and deconstruction of buildings. The job readiness exercise focuses on preparing for a job interview and mock interviews. In addition, students identify career pathways and entrepreneurial opportunities in the building sector. The module supports students studying for the BPI (Building Performance Institute) exam.
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7. Health, Food, and AgricultureThe Health, Food & Agriculture Module focuses on human health, food systems, and agricultural production. Students learn about health, nutrition, local and global food systems, agricultural practices, industrial agriculture, global food systems, factory farming, GMO crops, processed and fast food, food deserts, how to increase health and food justice, local food systems, urban agriculture, backyard and community gardening, and health education. A final activity has students envision their local food system and think about how new businesses and initiatives could improve health and food access in their communities. The job readiness exercise has identify career pathways and entrepreneurial opportunities in the sustainable food, agriculture, and public health sectors and think about career pathways they may like to pursue.
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8. Community OrganizingThe Community Organizing & Leadership Module introduces students to civic engagement, advocacy, community organizing, and leadership approaches, strategies, and skill sets. The module helps students understand the roles and responsibilities of an effective advocate and organizer. Students identify the root causes of problems, build a community-based organization, craft a mission statement, identify organizational goals and values, strategize campaigns, and simulate door-to-door campaigns. The job exercise has students think about career pathways in advocacy and civic engagement.
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T10. Financial Literacyhe Financial Literacy & Social Entrepreneurship Module focuses on personal financial literacy and on basic business practices, skills sets, and green business principles. Students think about how they can address problems in their communities through entrepreneurial initiatives. In the first part of the module, students’ focus on their personal finances and learn how to analyze income and expenses, create a budget, set financial goals, deal with debt and predatory lenders, establish savings, and effectively manage their finances. In the second part of the module, students develop green business ideas and business plans, and focus on how to operate a small green business, effective communication skills, business models, basic accounting, target markets, hiring staff, financial reporting, and recruiting advisors.
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9. ConclusionThe Application & Practice (Conclusion) Module provides students with an opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills they have learned in the course to real world situations. In the final exercise students envision and design a sustainable, healthy, and just community block.
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Supplementary materials

The Roots of Success supplemental materials enhance and complement the Roots of Success curriculum. They are designed to provide students with additional opportunities to engage in the content in each module and encourage more discussion between and among students. They include over 50 videos and reports that can be used compliment each of the 10 modules. Content also includes videos and reports on climate change.

How it Works

Get Trained to Teach the Curriculum

One-day training that introduces instructors to our unique teaching approach and materials.

Order Books for Your Program

Provide students with all of the vocabulary terms, exercises, activities, and materials they need for the course

Start Teaching Roots of Success

Instructors are provided with ongoing technical and program support

Provide Graduates with a Certificate

Graduates receive a certificate that is valued by employers across the country.

Schedule a Training

If you are interested in hosting a Roots of Success training for your staff, follow the link to schedule a training today.

Order Books

Click to order Roots of Success Student Workbooks, Green Jobs & Career Pathways Guidebooks, or other materials.

Contact Us

Interested in learning more about implementing Roots of Success? Contact us using the form below or via phone at (510) 470-0803.