News & Resources

New Edition of Learners to Leaders: Environmental Justice Literacy Curriculum
August 9, 2018 | |

The new edition of Groundwork USA’s Learners to Leaders: Environmental Justice Literacy Curriculum is now available for download!

If you download and use the curriculum, we ask that you kindly help us to track where and how it’s being used! This may also be a chance to contribute to the next edition of the curriculum.

To help us keep track, please fill out this very short form or contact Download the new edition of the curriculum, and accompanying Timeline Activity and citations.

The Learners to Leaders curriculum aims to help youth (and adult) leaders:

  • develop a shared definition of environmental justice (EJ);
  • describe historical and current EJ events;
  • demonstrate basic understanding of environmental injustices in their own neighborhoods;
  • acquire knowledge of government agencies, community-based organizations, and
    resources addressing injustices;
  • know where to go for information, and how;
  • feel inspired;
  • identify and address a local issue through research, campaign, or other action; and,
  • connect global issues with their own neighborhoods and themselves.
Groundwork Denver youth used recyclable materials to play the Limited Resources game, an activity that demonstrates the impacts of unequal access to resources.


The curriculum was invented by youth and community leaders who do environmental justice work every day. Groundwork Richmond (CA) program staff and Green Team youth identified a need for greater EJ literacy in Groundwork youth programs. Groundwork USA further refined it by coordinating a testing and development project with volunteer Groundwork Trusts throughout the country, incorporating feedback from Green Team youth and youth leaders to make it into a more robust, well-rounded program. The first edition was released in August 2018.

This latest edition was further tested in 2019 by Groundwork Denver staff and the Blue Team kids in the neighborhood of Sheridan, in Denver, CO. This team added several new activities to the curriculum, refined existing activities (in other words, made them more fun), and used the training to jumpstart a whole new environmental justice project in their Denver neighborhood. The students were able to:

  • establish an understanding of EJ;
  • break down systemic inequality and understand the relationship between access and environmental justice;
  • identify and discuss a range of local EJ issues, including housing instability, water quality, food desert, inaccessibility of outdoors for youth, pedestrian safety;
  • visit sites and record short films about various local issues;
  • develop plans of action and pitches; and,
  • identify one issue to address as a group (inaccessibility of the outdoors for youth), leading to the development of a new after-school sports camp for 5th graders at the Sheridan Recreational Center in Denver.


We hope that this resource will help you jumpstart similar projects in your own communities! If you have feedback or ideas about how to improve the curriculum, please reach out to

Read more about the curriculum and its genesis. 

Groundwork Denver youth used the curriculum to identify and discuss a range of local environmental justice issues, including housing instability, water quality, food deserts, outdoor inaccessibility for youth, and pedestrian safety. Ultimately, they chose to work together to address the inaccessibility issue, and developed an outdoor recreational program for area youth.

– Maria Brodine is the Water Program Specialist at Groundwork USA.