Environmental Literacy & Job Readiness Curriculum

An empowering educational program that prepares youth and adults for environmental careers and to improve conditions in their communities.

Used in high schools, youth programs, job training programs, prisons, jails, juvenile facilities, reentry programs, community-based organizations, and government agencies.

How It WorksWho We Are

Our Mission

To prepare youth and adults who come from communities disproportionately impacted by poverty, unemployment and environmental injustice to become professionals and leaders who can improve environmental and social conditions in their communities and in society more broadly.

Improving social and economic opportunities and outcomes for youth and adults from underserved communities

Our Unique Approach

Roots of Success is flexible and adaptable. The curriculum is composed of ten modules. After teaching the “Fundamentals Module” programs can teach as many or as few modules as they choose and tailor the curriculum to their specific programatic needs. The course can be taught as a stand-alone class or integrated into an existing course. Once a program decides to use Roots of Success, staff work directly with the Roots of Success team to develop an implementation plan that includes instructors going through a one-day train “Train-the-Instructor” training program, where they receive all of the materials needed to teach the course and join a national community-of-practice composed of Roots of Success instructors in 36 states and 3 countries.

How It Works

Roots of Success is a multimedia, activity-based curriculum that is facilitated by an instructor and taught in a classroom setting. The curriculum is composed of ten modules and can be taught as a stand-alone course or integrated into an existing program or curriculum. After teaching the Fundamentals module programs can teach as many or few modules as they choose. To ensure that the content is directly relevant to every student in the class, customized versions of the curriculum have been developed for different populations: in school youth, out of school youth, adults, incarcerated populations (youth and adults), Spanish-speaking populations, specialized versions for students living in the UK and South Africa. There is also a version for high schools students and teachers that is fully aligned to Common Core standards.

The Training

Roots of Success can be taught by experienced teachers as well as by individuals with little or no teaching experience. New instructors go through a one-day Train-the-Instructor training which can take in place in-person or online. Trainings are offered on a regular basis. Instructors leave the training with all of the teaching materials and multimedia content they need to teach the course and receive ongoing technical assistance, and join a national Community-of-Practice through which instructors share best practices and support one another’s work and programs.  

The Curriculum

Roots of Success is a multimedia, activity-based curriculum that is facilitated by an instructor and taught in a classroom setting. The curriculum can be taught as a stand-alone course or integrated into an existing program. After teaching the Fundamentals module programs can teach as many or few modules as they choose. There are customized versions for different populations: youth, adults, incarcerated populations, and Spanish-speaking populations.

The Guidebook

The Green Jobs & Career Pathways Guidebook uses Bureau of Labor (BLS) statistics and employment data to describe 125+ jobs and careers in the green economy. It includes detailed information on job descriptions, basic qualifications, salary ranges, benefits, career ladders, and growth figures. The Guidebook is explicitly designed for youth and adults who have not been served well by schools, and includes information on jobs and careers that do not require a college degree but offer employees living wages and occupational mobility over time.

Academic Objectives

Each module is structured to address 6 key areas:


Environmental Literacy

Focuses on examining society’s most pressing environmental problems, learning the vocabulary to discusses the issues,  identify innovative solutions, and develop innovative and entrepreneurial responses to community problems.

Environmental Literacy
  • In-depth understanding of environmental problems and solutions
  • Develop vocabulary to discuss pressing environmental and social issues
  • Examine impact of environmental problems and injustices in student’s communities
  • Preparation for environmental and STEM-based careers

Academic Skills

Focuses on vocabulary building, reading, writing, math, oral presentation, critical thinking, and computer activities, which systematically builds academic skills and confidence.

Academic Skills
  • STEM skills and knowledge
  • Reading and writing
  • Digital literacy
  • Written and oral communication
  • Critical thinking and problem solving
  • Customized version for schools aligned to Common Core Standards

Job Readiness and Career Pathways

Focuses on job skills and job re-entry skills (mock interviews, conducting job searches,  writing a resume) and demonstrates pathways for entering the environmental field.

Leadership Development
  • Recognize and understand roots causes of environmental problems and injustice
  • Identify solutions to pressing environmental and social problems
  • Learn community organizing strategies that inform and inspire action

Leadership Development

Focuses on developing skills to identify problems, participate in discussions about environmental issues, and take action to achieve solutions.

Professional Skills
  • Professionalism integrated throughout the curriculum
  • Emphasis on 21st century academic and labor market skills
  • Focus on resumes, cover letters, job search, and interview skills
  • Green Jobs and Career Pathways Guidebook outlines 150+ environmental and STEM jobs and career pathway
  • Students graduate with a competitive advantage in environmental and STEM-based jobs and careers

Financially Literacy

Focuses on developing the basic skills  and knowledge that allows an individual to make informed and effective decisions with all of their financial resources.

Social Entrepreneurship
  • Focus on innovative and entrepreneurial solutions to community needs
  • Management and growth strategies
  • Socially equitable business models
  • Triple bottom-line analysis
  • Starting socially responsible green business

Social Entrepreneurship

Focuses on developing the basic skills  and knowledge that allows an individual to make informed and effective decisions with all of their financial resources.

Financially Literacy
  •   Prioritizing financial needs and values
  • Short and long-term budgeting
  • Savings and asset accumulation strategies
  •  Debt management
  • Avoiding predatory financial institutions
  • Building individual and community assets


Once a program decides to use Roots of Success, our team works with staff in that program to develop an individualized implementation plan and tailor the curriculum to a program’s areas of emphasis and focus. The curriculum is designed to be easy to teach, adaptable and versatile. It can be taught over multiple days, over the course of several weeks, months, or a year. It can be used as a stand-alone curriculum, or it can be used to supplement an academic or training program. Each module can be completed in 5 hours. Teaching all 10 modules takes 50 hours.

College Credit

We work with schools and programs to allow students who complete all 10 modules of Roots of Success to obtain 3-6 units of college credit.

Ten Module Curriculum

The Fundamentals of Environmental Literacy Module (Introduction) 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.

The 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.

The 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.

The 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.

The 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.

The 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.

The 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.

The 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.

The 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.

The Application & Practice Module (Conclusion) 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.

Key Features

  • Roots of Success can be used in an education, workforce, and correctional facility setting
  • The materials are flexible, adaptable, and affordable
  • The course prepares students to address society’s most pressing problems
  • It connects education to employment
  • The curriculum prepares people for over 150 jobs and career pathways
  • All graduates receive an industry relevant certification
  • Students can receive college credit for their work in Roots of Success

Inside the Classroom

Testimonies from inmates "Behind the Wall"

The strength and impact of Roots of Success comes from how it delivers information – it is not simply given 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 and are encouraged to learn from one another.

Rebecca Lurie

Training Center Director, Consortium for Worker Education, NYC

Where We Are

There are certified Roots of Success instructors in 36 U.S. states and three countries.
List of Programs



More prepared for job interviews


Better understanding of environmental problems and solutions


Improved basic academic skills


More interested in community engagement


Increased professional vocabulary


Would recommend class to others


More knowledgeable on green careers


Will share what they learn with others

Stories From Our Programs

Programs are teaching the curriculum in different ways to meet their unique goals. Read about their work here.
Our Blog


Roots of Success is particularly well suited for young people who have not been well served by the schools. It is a tool that can help address career and college readiness for young people with low levels of literacy. The curriculum works because it is engaging, adaptable, easy to teach, works well for students with different learning styles, promotes collaboration, problem solving and student leadership.

Pedro Noguera

Distinguished Professor of Education, UCLA

Roots of Success is helping us educate offenders about the importance of conserving resources in our facility. In the last year, we’ve reduced our trash bill from $95,000 to $5,000. It is also helping us to prepare offenders for reintegration and employment.

Sheri Duffey

Chief of Industries, Ohio Penal Industries, Ohio Dept. of Rehabilitation and Correction

Roots of Success is the missing ingredient in the green collar jobs landscape: an accessible curriculum that helps people break the cycle of poverty by providing needed job and academic skills while empowering them to improve environmental and public health conditions in their communities.

We are standing on the verge of a new economy and we need to think about who this economy will include, and who it will exclude. The green economy is strong enough to lift people out of poverty, but only if the people who need jobs the most receive training and support for good green jobs.

Van Jones

Founder, Green For All, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, and Rebuild the Dream

Earning college credit helps students move towards college. For students who do not see themselves in college, Roots offers a multitude of growing career pathways that do not require a college degree.

Andra Kimball

Science Teacher, Mission High School, San Francisco, CA

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