Our Curriculum

Our Curriculum

Climate Change

The nexus for learning

CAN! cultivates environmental education based in the outdoor classroom.  The outdoor classroom provides learners with important psycho-motor experiences associated with gardening activities (like weed removal, soil preparation, planting, irrigation, etc.).

Participating students and staff learn that climate change is the alteration or change of temperature, weather patterns and wind patterns due to anthropogenic (human-caused) increases in greenhouse gasses (like carbon dioxide and methane).

Participants learn that opening up the living soil protects the local watershed by reducing pressure upon the City’s combined sewer system.  Learning about the Carbon Cycle and Carbon Sequestration (the manner that living plants and soil takes up and captures carbon) are ongoing lessons for all participating CAN!-YES middle and high school participants.

Core Learning Concepts

Promoted by CAN! Youth Ecological Stewards Program

1)  Water, Energy and Soil Conservation; Composting with the Fungus, Bacteria and Invertebrates

2)  Water Cycle Awareness, Water Pollution Prevention, Watershed Restoration Ecology

3)  Renewable Energy Promotion in the Era of Climate Change; Solar and Wind vs. Fossil Fuels


by grade level

K-2: Kindergarten to second-grade

Lessons focus on natural resources awareness,  especially water and energy conservation. Students explore the gardens searching for decomposers, edible flowers and rotting leaves.  Tactile experiences outdoors and regular exposure to bugs and plants will support dialogue about resource conservation.  Students irrigate plants and learn about the importance of and need for conservation. Bug hunts and “garden tacos” (of greens and flowers) are very popular with students of all ages.

5-8: Fifth to Eight-grade students

Curriculum dives right into the water cycle, watershed awareness and eventually watershed pollution prevention.  Garden activities include the building berms and swales, compost production, appropriate irrigation techniques with the hose, watering can, etc. Students learn about evaporation, condensation, precipitation and collection, as well as the importance of the appropriate disposal of hazardous waste (like oil, paint and other chemicals).

3-4: Third and fourth-grade student

Lesson delve deeper into life cycles (like composting with the Fungus Bacteria and Invertebrates) and energy cycles (how plants use sun energy for power) which lead to dialogue about renewable energy vs. fossil fuel energy.  A focus on direct actions for energy reductions is be prioritized as the youth are be encouraged to find ways to save energy at school and at home.  Garden lessons include cover crop planting and incorporation, turning the compost pile, journaling about scientific observations, measuring, observing and documenting daily, weekly and seasonal changes in the garden.

9th-12th Grade Students

For high school students, CAN! curriculum delves deeper into carbon cycling, watershed restoration, and basic ecological principles.  Students are engaged in hands-on learning in the garden, and all activities are tied to NextGen Science standards or other various diverse academic arenas.


Composting in schools is an incredible way to capture resources while cultivating the minds of young environmental leaders.  CAN! supports school composting programs by promoting composting in the garden as well as promoting the use of the green cart in the lunchroom.


Composting is nature’s way of recycling.  From banana peels to dirty paper towels, here in San Francisco we can compost lots of stuff.  With the Recology industrial composting facility, Jepson Prairie Organics, in Vacaville California, San Franciscans can put useful organic material into the green bin for later reuse on farm fields throughout California.

Composting in schools is an incredible way to capture resources while cultivating the minds of young environmental leaders.  CAN! supports school composting programs by promoting composting in the garden as well as promoting the use of the green cart in the lunchroom.

Learning about the various decomposers (creatures like worms, rolly pollys and slugs and snails) that help to break down, digest and poop-out valuable compost is a fun activity for youth of all ages.  Of course, fungi and bacteria do their part as well!  Worm bins, 3-bin active composting systems and passive systems are all utilized in CAN! educational gardens in our partner schools.

Composting is something that everyone can do right away that greatly supports the climate.  Since during the rot process a lot of methane is released, composting in an open-air environment (with lots of Oxygen) helps to keep methane levels lower than if organic material were to enter the landfill.  Organic material that makes it to the landfill doesn’t get reused and ends up releasing even more methane into the atmosphere.  Since methane is 80 times worse for the climate than Carbon dioxide, composting at home and at school is a wonderful way to support a healthy and resilient climate.

Carbon Sequestration

Carbon Sequestration

We’re all carbon-based life forms.  Plants, humans, elephants, bacteria and so on, are all based out of the element of carbon.  This fact is incredibly important when considering the capacity of the living soil to capture and store carbon from the atmosphere.  This process is called carbon sequestration.  Plants capture and store (sequester) carbon as they grow as well, but did you know that the living soil also provides this valuable service?

Climate Action Now! works with public and private communities to remove pavement to expose the living soil.  When the soil is exposed, gardeners can work compost and organic matter into the soil, providing food to beneficial bacteria and other decomposers.  Those decomposers (like bacteria, worms and rolly pollys) poop out their waste which is actually nutrient-rich compost.  Compost is full of carbon (remembering that we’re all carbon-based life forms) and pending healthy soil management, the carbon is captured and stored in the living soil.

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