Creating a new generation of environmental stewards through elementary school education and meaningful partnerships with Indigenous communities.

Expanding LEEP

Since 1996, Pitzer College has worked to bring environmental education programs to local school-aged children through LEEP—Leadership in Environmental Education Partnership. In this program, Pitzer students and native elders teach ecological literacy to elementary school children from diverse socio-economic and racial/ethnic backgrounds. For many of these children, it has been their first opportunity to meaningfully connect directly with nature. In over two decades, LEEP has inspired over 3,000 elementary school graduates, a significant number of whom are now old enough to be passing down their appreciation for ecological well-being to their own children.

In Fall 2020, with generous funding from the Dean Witter Foundation, the RRC hired an Environmental Education Curriculum Specialist who will expand the curriculum to include new lessons with both in person and virtual components, as well as engaging in outreach to under-resourced students in Pomona and Montclair. We hope to bring our educational efforts to bear on conservation in the broader region.

Each lesson is compiled of about 8 30-minute sections totaling four hours per lesson, each lesson also has an online alternative that reflects what activity would happen in person in respect to online teaching guidelines created during the COVID-19 pandemic. The curriculum is mostly class based, with a plethora of online activities like mini-quizzes, interactive slides, and online escape rooms. Students and teachers working with Pitzer college will learn about our sagebrush environment extensively before spending a day or two at the Bernard Field Station. Lessons that align with California State Standards are made for all ages but align with certain science standards of certain grade levels, primarily 4th and 5th grade. At the end of the program, students will hopefully have a comprehensive notebook of field sketches and completed activities that they will be able to use as a keepsake and reference to their time learning about their local environment.

These lessons on nature, paired with environmentalism, have the potential to turn all participants into environmentalists, both the students and teachers alike. We hope these lessons leave you with more knowledge, some good memories, and a drive to learn more about the beautiful ecosystems of Southern California. 

Try one of these lessons yourself in this online interactive Wildfire Escape Room!

The Tongva Library Project

In Fall 2020, RRC Director Susan Phillips and Tongva Elders Barbara Drake and Craig Torres began brainstorming directions for library project at the Conservancy dedicated to Tongva culture and California native plants. We were soon joined by student Sandra Sublette, who began to research theories and strategies of library decolonization. Drake and Torres shared their most valued books, which were soon ordered for the collection. We began to co-determine categories for inclusion without utilizing the Dewey decimal system, which relegates all Indian cultures to the category of “history”—essentially writing native cultures out of the present time. The goal is that the library—the first of its kind—will serve as a resource for the Tongva community, for Claremont College students, faculty, and staff, and for broader communities to serve as a tool for Tongva cultural knowledge, curated by Tongva people. The library will be housed in the built-in bookshelves within the Conservancy entryway.