Nueva’s environmental citizenship program helps students develop an empathetic bias toward action that is based on an understanding of the interconnected web of natural and human-made systems to which we all belong. It is a pillar of Nueva's learning approach and draws on the sciences, humanities, and arts to understand complex environmental challenges and develop students’ mindsets as empathetic, innovative, and resilient solutionaries.



Nueva’s commitment to environmental citizenship brings together the concepts of advocacy, compassion, and empowerment as we strive to take care of ourselves, others, and the world in which we live.

Environmental and outdoor education are foundational aspects of Nueva’s curriculum. Launched in 2019, the environmental citizenship builds on this tradition while allowing the school to advance its embrace of environmental awareness in its operations and in partnerships with other key educational programs and values, including design thinking, equity and social justice, global citizenship, and social emotional learning. 

Students engage in environmental citizenship across divisions and throughout the curriculum. The environmental citizenship program equips students with robust knowledge, experiences, and mindsets that enable them to be proactive, empathetic and resilient citizens well-versed in systems thinking and problem solving.


The immersion in environmental citizenship at Nueva begins in pre-kindergarten, and students build on their skills throughout their years in the lower, middle, and upper schools. 

Through a stage-appropriate curriculum that includes outdoor play and exploration, investigations in disciplines such as ecology, marine biology, and earth sciences; design thinking projects and study trips focused on environmental topics; and independent studies, the environmental citizenship program pursues the following overarching transfer goals:

  • A mindset of environmental citizenship
  • A proclivity towards nature
  • Knowledge and use of systems thinking
  • Ability to design and evaluate solutions

Science and Environmental Center

The new Science and Environmental Center on our Hillsborough campus opened its doors to students in preK through 12th grade in January 2021. This indoor-outdoor learning facility serves as a think tank, where students practice sustainability, conduct environmental and social studies, and debate solutions to a broad range of environmental challenges.

Watch the video below to take a look at the new SEC. 

Environmental Citizenship Enduring Understandings

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Through our program, students learn to balance a sense of urgency with a sense of optimism to positively engage with environmental challenges through innovation, advocacy, and making responsible decisions. They grow to be comfortable in nature and see it as a source of wonder, inspiration, community and personal growth, while also taking responsibility for the environmental impacts of their own behaviors. Furthermore, the language and approaches of systems thinking enables Nueva students to generate insight about complex human-environment interactions.

Students also apply design thinking as well as practices rooted in diversity, equity and inclusion to change-making in order to develop and participate in effective acts of environmental care/stewardship.

Examples of student opportunities to learn about and address issues from the local to the global and across all disciplines include reducing plastics waste in kindergarten, the Sustainable Living Project in sixth grade, the Silk Road and Global Systems investigations in seventh and eighth grade, and numerous elective courses in the Upper School.


Sarah Koning
Director of Environmental Citizenship


The Nueva School Named a National Green Ribbon School by the United States Department of Education

In April 2021, Nueva was recognized by the United States Department of Education as a California Green Ribbon School and a ‘Green Achiever,’ an honor that recognizes Nueva as a National Green Ribbon School Only one private school per state is accorded this honor each year! 

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Lee Fertig

Head of School

"It is important to empower students to nurture the place in which they live and learn: their local neighborhood, regional environment, and global ecosystem. With increased awareness of devastating climate change and acknowledgement of the unsustainability of certain patterns within the human condition, environmental citizenship and the development of this mindset in schools are now core necessities in the educational process."

Environmental Citizenship News

Nueva Students Celebrate Earth Month

Last week, Nueva was recognized by the United States Department of Education as a California Green Ribbon School. Director of Environmental Citizenship Sarah Koning noted that Nueva students have been working hard on environmental issues all month. 

Students Explore the Power of Poetry to Illuminate Environmental Issues 

Over the past semester, students in English 10 have been immersed in a unit focused on eco-poetry. Throughout the year, teachers and students investigate a variety of issues brought on by colonialism, post-colonialism, and globalization.

“Poetry is political and subversive. It has the power to spark conversation, inspire change, and make a profound impact,” said Amber Carpenter, upper school English teacher. 

Environmental Citizenship Program Launches Ambassadorship Role

Kindergarten associate teacher Carrie Stouffer has been named Nueva’s first lower school environmental citizenship ambassador. The role of the environmental citizenship ambassador evolved from the school’s desire to build strong, responsive, and effective relationships with faculty and division heads in all three divisions.

The Power of Student Agency

The invitation for Wednesday’s roundtable event “Divestment: The Million Dollar Question” noted, “In response to student activism, the Nueva Endowment Committee is considering the divestment of its holdings in fossil fuel companies for the first time.”

This was very exciting news for students because for at least the past four-to-five years, the student-run Nueva Divestment Team has been working to convince the Nueva Endowment Committee of the need to divest. 

The Great Nueva Zoom-School Plant Project 

Eighth-grade biology students have dived straight into an exciting study of genetic variation. One of the major themes of eighth-grade science is to understand humanity’s relationship with the living world. So, the teachers asked their students to grow Wisconsin Fast Plants to discover for themselves why plants produce offspring with variation. This led to a discussion about how humanity has modified species for food and other purposes. 

​​​​​​​Environmental Citizenship during COVID-19 

For environmental educators, the pandemic creates a unique opportunity to engage with students in real time and on multiple fronts. Teachers can bring their disciplinary lens to examining the environmental effects of the pandemic with questions such as “What are the changes, where do they occur, and how do we measure them?”

Fireside Chats Ignite Interesting Discussions

In the midst of the COVID-19 “new normal,” the popular Fireside Chat series has sparked many engaging discussions. Hillary Freeman, Jennifer Paull, Tanja Srebotnjak, Alegria Barclay, and Aron Walker took the lead a few months ago to provide the Nueva community with a relaxed forum to discuss some timely topics

Remote Learning Roundtable: The World Post Covid-19

In honor of Earth Day 2020, Alegria Barclay, Aron Walker, Patrick Berger, and Tanja Srebotnjak organized a roundtable: “The World Post Covid-19: Opportunities for Social Justice and Environmental Resilience.”