Pamela Michael has manifested her commitment to social change and the arts in a variety of ways for many years.
Her experience includes:
• Arts organization administrator
• Arts education activist/consultant
• Impressaria/event producer
• Non-profit director
• Radio producer and on air talent
• Teacher: kindergarten—grad school
• Small business owner—screen printing company and mobile food cart in Berkeley, CA
• Marketing/public relations director
• Curriculum development specialist
In the 1980's Michael wrote for audio technical journals and later began doing curriculum development for the Discovery Channel. While director of the United Nations-sponsored International Task Force on Media and Education, she edited a groundbreaking book on media's role in education called "The Whole World is Watching" (UNESCO 1992). As interim executive director of Resources for Community Development, she built and managed affordable housing for low-income San Francisco Bay Area residents. Overseas, Michael developed rural educational programs in Upper Egypt as a consultant for Save the Children. She has helped advance the principles of place-based education and project-based learning around the world. As marketing and public relations director of the San José Symphony, Michael doubled their audience and expanded the symphony’s outreach and repertoire into the Latino community. She also produced numerous world and classical music concerts, readings, art exhibits and events in the Bay Area, earning a reputation for innovative offerings in unique and intimate venues.
The non-profit educational organization she co-founded in 1995 with then-United States Poet Laureate Robert Hass, River of Words, was one of 100 organizations honored in 2002 by the Kennedy School at Harvard University’s Innovations in American Government Committee for its excellence and creativity. River of Words (ROW) promotes cultural and environmental literacy through the arts and cultural exchange. Tens of thousands of teachers and countless students around the world now utilize the “Watershed Explorer” and “One Square Block” curricula developed by Michael.
In 2011, River of Words became part of the newly founded Center for Environmental Literacy (CEL) in the Kalmanovitz School of Education at Saint Mary’s College of California. CEL’s mission, in addition to continuing the effective work of River of Words, is to research, develop and assess effective pedagogies that help build resilient communities and that nurture creative students. Michael directed the Center until her retirement in 2016.
River of Words, now over 25-years-old, conducts an annual international poetry and art contest for youth (the largest in the world), in affiliation with The Library of Congress Center for the Book. Through its workshops, curriculum materials, exhibitions and publications, ROW encourages students around the world to explore their own communities and imaginations—weaving in natural and cultural history—and then to synthesize what they've learned and observed into line and verse. In 2003, River of Words opened one of the first art galleries in the world devoted entirely to children’s work, called Young at Art, in Berkeley, California’s historic Sawtooth Building. The gallery closed in 2011 when River of Words moved to Saint Mary’s.
Michael is an acknowledged expert on children’s poetry and art, and has been an advocate for arts and environmental education for most of her adult life. She presented at the 2011 TedX Conference on “Teaching Compassion,” and was honored by Stonyfield Farms in 2001 for her innovative work in the environmental education field. She was also a finalist in the 2006 Volvo for Life Humanitarian Awards. In 2010, the City of Berkeley, California declared September 22 “Pamela Michael Day” to honor Michael’s lifetime achievements. Michael also was awarded the Sui Generis Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015.
Ms. Michael has published several books and won many awards for her writing. In 1997, she won the British Airways/Book Passage Travel Writing Grand Prize for her story, The Khan Men of Agra. In 2003, the anthology she co-edited, Wild Writing Women: Stories of World Travel, won the National Association of Travel Journalists (NATJA) Award for Best Travel Book of 2002. NATJA also named her writing group's online magazine on Ireland the Best Online Magazine of 2004. Her book, River of Words: Images and Poetry in Praise of Water, won the 2004 Skipping Stones Award for “Best Book on Nature or Ecology.”
Ms. Michael also has written numerous articles on education, community, media and travel for a variety of magazines and newspapers, including the San Francisco Examiner, Odyssey, Salon.com, Resurgence, Shape, Orion, BookLinks, Pt. Reyes Light, Maiden Voyages and others. She has done three books for San Francisco-based Travelers' Tales: The Gift of Rivers, A Woman's Passion for Travel, and A Mother's World: Journeys of the Heart. Her book, Young Poets & Artists on the Nature of Things, is used in classrooms around the world.
A long-time writing teacher and coach, Ms. Michael leads writing workshops on both non-fiction and poetry. She has also given teacher training workshops all over the world, instructing classroom teachers, park naturalists and youth leaders in ways to incorporate nature exploration and the arts into their work with young people.
Michael is the former travel editor and morning news anchor of KPFA-fm in the San Francisco Bay Area, the first listener-sponsored station in the country. Her coverage of the execution of Robert Alton Harris at San Quentin Prison in 1992 won her a Silver Reel Award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. Her earlier radio work includes writing and producing a four-hour series on Buddhism in the United States, narrated by Richard Gere, which was broadcast on public radio stations around the country. She also produced and hosted an hour-long, weekly program on Sirius Radio, called “The Animal Show.”
Ms. Michael has given presentations and speeches around the world to organizations including the United Nations Education for All Forum in New Delhi, Environmental Education Association of Southern Africa in Zambia, and Near East South Asia Council of Overseas Schools in Bangkok. In the United States, Ms. Michael has given keynote addresses and presentations at the World Affairs Council, California Department of Fish and Game, North American Association of Environmental Education, Bioneers Conference, Environmental Grantmakers, TedX, US EPA Watershed Partnerships Seminar, The Library of Congress, Global Rivers Environmental Education Network, Adopt-a-Watershed Summer Institute, Project WET Conference, San Joaquin River Symposium, and many others.
Ms. Michael lives in Northern California in Sonoma County's Valley of the Moon.
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