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"LA RiverLore connects me with the tools, resources and models to strengthen my planning for building student led, service based opportunities in lessons and projects—modeling and teaching sustainable habits for healthy communities."
Aida Lugo, Teaching Artist
Los Angeles

"Inviting students to 'fall in love' with their subject matter is a simple but revolutionary concept. It re-engages students with the learning process in a way that allows students to take pride and ownership in what they are learning.I can’t express how excited I am to connect schools and communities with each other using the shared topic of the LA River."
Jonny Rodgers
Service-Learning Director
Campbell Hall School

"During the Summer Institute our LA RiverLore Cohort explored the map of the LA River, identifying its headwaters and tributaries. We found out that the lake in MacArthur Park in our school's Westlake neighborhood is fed by natural springs and is a watershed for the River. My students were excited to learn this and now want to start a park beautification project to support the ecological health of the urban park and its surroundings."
Paul Lowe, LAUSD Teacher
Westlake Neighborhood





green teacher


ABOUT LA RiverLore

Looking Backward and Forward
aidaLA RiverLore looks to the past and the future simultaneously—through an educational and community building project that runs parallel to the revitalization effort now underway with the River. Our work centers around the communities surrounding the 51 miles of the Los Angeles River, supporting teachers and students working to uncover what is unique and special within each of these communities along with their relationship to the Los Angeles River.

LA RiverLore, a project of Community Works Institute (CWI), is a multi year professional development program for K-16 and community based educators. We see the crucial need to deeply involve K-16 educators and their students in a process of cultivating a “remembering,” coupled with an understanding that looks forward, reclaiming the River as the vital life-giving source it once was. In the process, student work will be central to envisioning what the River and its environs can be for all Angelinos; an ecologically thriving, artistically stimulating, socially vibrant, and celebrated place that bridges and unites the longstanding cultural divides it travels through.

Currents of concrete move me 
Around flotsam archives, variables unknown.
"Where does the river end?"
Her hair poses.
Do I care enough
to know how she feels?
Floating in her
Confluence of language
Where the fonts may differ,
Such voices sing along
As trains remember.
By Paul Lowe

Among our larger goals is contributing to an inclusive and connected community with shared needs, solutions, and innovations. We envision students becoming the catalyst for interest and investment in the history, culture, and future of their own local communities. Greater Los Angeles is a metropolitan area that has historically often existed in spheres, separations, and implicit demarcations, We are using the River as both a metaphor and vehicle for building a sense of shared purpose, and community with students playing the lead role in that effort.

LA RiverLore's work focuses on Place as the Context, Service-Learning as the Strategy, and Sustainable Communities as the Goal. Our core objective is to connect students to their own local communities, through curriculum and programs collaboratively developed by local educators.

How LA RiverLore Works
service learningParticipating teachers and schools represent a partnership for public purpose between public and private/independent schools up, down, and around the LA River. Our geographic focus will eventually span the LA River from its upstream headwaters, down through East LA and the urban core of Los Angeles, on to South Central LA and into the Port of Long Beach.

Our educator participants experience intensive and ongoing professional development. Coming together for intensive training and collaboration, teachers are provided the time and space to support each other, working through common ideas and challenges. RiverLore teachers return to their own schools empowered and prepared to connect their students, through service-learning, to their own “place,” and its relationship to the Los Angeles River. Our overarching goal is for these students to deeply engage in, understand, and directly contribute to inclusive, sustainable, and socially just communities—with the Los Angeles River as the connecting theme.

Professional Development and Student Engagement

la riverloreWe know that dynamic professional development holds the key to genuine and sustained student engagement and learning. LA RiverLore is fueling an effort to develop, create, and connect student projects that are focused on the uniqueness, character, and resilience of their own communities. Our common thread is a developing a shared relationship with the LA River, and with each other. Guided by essential questions including, “What Makes a River a River?” LA RiverLore is bringing educators, students, and ultimately the wider community of Los Angeles, into a participatory process around the River itself—contributing to understanding and sharing the historic and cultural life of the many communities around and through which the River travels.

Our work will ultimately take many forms, depending on students' interests, local community needs, and educator teaching priorities. Our common thread is uncovering and sharing stories of local culture and history, understanding the LA River's relationship to each community, and envisioning a sustainable future at both local and regional levels. Place based service-learning guides our efforts.

Place Based Service-Learning is a process and teaching strategy that emphasizes the unique character of each community and its relationship to the larger world. It combines academic and social education goals to meet real community needs. It requires the application of knowledge, and skills, and systematic reflection about the experience.
—Community Works Institute (CWI)

We are using a collaborative design model, supported by Community Works Institute, to support long term collaboration by local educators. Our pilot LA RiverLore Cohort of educators spent an intensive week working together at CWI's Summer WEST Institute in Los Angeles. We are now in the process of recruiting our 2018 LA RiverLore Cohort. contact us l register online

la river

A River Comes Back to Life

After long being “lost in plain sight,” the Los Angeles River is beginning to emerge from its near century of concrete-urban-entombment, with an unprecedented effort now underway to physically revitalize the LA River itself, along with its immediate environment. In this context people from all walks of life—throughout the Los Angeles area are becoming newly aware of the River. As future community leaders and stewards of the River, our students are crucial to the process of reimagining both the River and life in the communities that surround it.

As a metropolitan area, greater Los Angeles sits at a figurative intersection of North America, Latin America, and the Pacific Rim. One of the cores of California's economy, the eighth largest in the world, Los Angeles contains a multitude of diverse communities, integrated within a dynamic economy and a globally rare Mediterranean environment. This context provides for the richest of cultural and envrionmental landscapes for student inquiry and discovery. 

Once in a Lifetime Sometimes Comes
la riverImmense potential exists to use this once in a lifetime circumstance of rebirth of a major urban river to positively impact—indeed to redefine—the life of the city and its shared sense of community. With major design and development efforts underway to re-think our collective relationship to this river running through the heart of greater Los Angeles, educators and students have a uniquely powerful and vital contribution to make. Educators participating in LA RiverLore are learning to develop and guide student work that uncovers the social and ecological relationships within and around the River. Students, as our future community stewards, are the key to promoting shared purpose and wider public engagement.

Remembering to Look Forward
Students participating in LA RiverLore are involved in the important primary sourced work of gathering, remembering, and celebrating the River’s past to present, becoming facilitators of community voice and advocates for the public participation. Our use of place based service-learning driven curricula that derives understanding from principles of sustainability, connects to all content areas including: social studies; science; language arts; mathematics; and design standards. Authentic and inspiring work by students will spark and power wide interest and public participation from a broad spectrum of Los Angeles’s residents. Thus, the work of LA RiverLore will engage the wider community of Los Angeles in the telling of the River’s story and that of Los Angeles itself, envisioning it’s future through many eyes and voices. Rethinking our collective relationship to the River necessitates uncovering it’s past, telling it’s stories, and envisioning it’s future. Thus, we see students and teachers playing a vital role in revitalizing both the River and life in the city.

Historically, the LA River has also marked a division between the communities of its east and west banks. LA RiverLore is helping to bridge division and create common vision by giving voice to student work, our communities, and the River itself. Our goal is transform the River from a 51 mile long concrete “wall” into a commommon thread that connects past, present, and future, east and west, young and old, student, teacher and neighbor, in the shared enterprise of creating a socially just, connected, and sustainable city. LA RiverLore will bring the voices, energy, and creative imaginations of LA youth to the forefront of an exciting and important conversation, via LA RiverLore’s intensive K-16 Teacher Fellowship; a professional development program that provides participating teachers and schools with best practice focused knowledge and skills for creating place-based curriculum focused on the LA River. In the process we will provide a community platform and connective matrix for the resulting student work, art, and ideas.


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