Sparking Environmental Interest

To help meet the educational needs of students in Title I schools, we at UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability (IoES) designed the GreenSparks program which provides engaging Next Generation Science Standard (NGSS) environmental lesson plans and high-production quality videos to schools in need.  Our mission is to introduce exciting and pertinent environment and sustainability concepts to students, topics likely not prioritized in Title I schools, while simultaneously supplementing teachers’ curricula. 

We are able to field test lesson ideas with local, underserved Title I Los Angeles high schools thanks to a charitable contribution from Boeing. With their support, we are able to generate teaching modules and accompanying videos that address a wide range of environmental themes, including climate change, clean meat, water consumption, habitat restoration, environmental justice, and more.

After guest teaching and field-testing at local schools, we will distribute free lesson plans and accompanying videos through our partner educational organizations nationwide and host the modules on our website for anybody’s benefit. Teachers, get ready!

The GreenShorts film festival was an exciting component of the GreenSparks program in which students were encouraged to exercise their creative muscles and make short films reflecting their environmental interests.

The GreenSparks initiative raises awareness and creates hope for a more green future by enthralling today’s kids about the wonders of the environment.

Learn Science

Curriculum Modules on Environmental Science

After field-testing various topics live in-class, our GreenSparks curricula are well on their way!  We are drafting environmental curricula aligned with national Next Generation Science Standards. Modules will include NGSS-aligned lesson plans and accompanying short videos to inform and engage classrooms across the country.  

All material will be distributed to the National Science Teachers Association, TenStrands, and the Los Angeles Unified School District. Additionally it will be housed on our website, free and accessible to anyone with internet access.

Topics include:

  • Water Usage
  • Climate Acceleration
  • Environmental Justice
  • Habitat Restoration

Coming July 2022.



Make Films

Southern California GreenShorts Film Competition

GreenShorts is a film contest that encouraged Southern California high school students to share environmental narratives that are important to them. Students submitted short films that were 3 minutes long or less. To get important environmental information out in a joyful manner that was relevant to them, creative license was encouraged.  It was a great educational opportunity that also gave participants a chance to show off their creative flair.

From 2018 to 2021, students got creative with our annual short film competition, GreenShorts, showcasing the best student-produced environmental films from southern California and Louisiana.  To get a sense of the spectacular films young students submit, check out the 2020 winning films and the 2021 winning films on YouTube.

Categories included:

  • Climate Trailblazers: Activists or communities making a positive climate impact
  • No Justice, No Green: The intersection of environmentalism and social justice issues
  • Ready, Set, Action!: Solutions for the environment and sustainability
  • Wild California: Animals, plants, or natural systems found in the great outdoors
  • Out of the Box: Inspired by the environment, let your creativity run wild
  • Power Poetry: Slam poetry about the environmental crisis we face


Submitted films were judged by a distinguished panel of film industry experts including: 

  • Mark Cappellano, Director, Skyscrape Foundation
  • Wendy Milette: Director, Media Arts Education at The MY HERO Project
  • Janice Min, Media Executive
  • Ted Richane, Director, Engagement & Impact at Vulcan Productions
  • Jesse Sisgold, President and COO, Skydance Media
  • Whitney Weibel, Expert in Environmental Education and Communication
  • Fiseeha Moges, Da Poetry Lounge Slam Winner

This festival was free to enter and ran from 2018 to 2021.  

GreenShorts in the IoES Magazine

View the 2021 GreenShorts Film Festival Ceremony

High school students across Southern California submitted 61 short films tackling environmental issues for the 5th annual GreenShorts film competition. We received wonderful, amazing films, and it was hard to narrow them down. Winners were announced on June 10th during a virtual ceremony.

GreenShorts Mentor Program: Pairing UCLA and High School Students

In 2019, high school students were invited to join the GreenShorts mentoring project. Students were paired with a UCLA scientific mentor and worked with experts on developing their films. Students who applied expanded their science network and improved their skills in filmmaking. 

The mentor program is no longer active.