LA RiverLore is looking back and forward 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.
Research shows that place based education and service-learning contribute significantly to:
• Student achievement
• Personal development
• Community engagement
• Social responsibility
• Student empowerment
Why LA RIverLore is Important for Students
LA RiverLore, a project of Community Works Institute (CWI), is a multi-year professional development program for K-16 and community based educators in the Los Angeles area. 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 of the present 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 surrounding communties can be for all; ecologically thriving, socially just, artistically stimulating, socially vibrant, and celebrated places that bridge and unite the longstanding cultural divides the River travels through.
"During the Summer Institute with CWI 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. Currently we are learning about the native plants and animal species and other species that have been introduced. On our walkabout, the students plan to learn more about the habitat and the relationships that people have with their environment. We are also creating a needs assessment survey to find out how the community can make deeper connections to their natural habitat."
Paul Lowe, LAUSD Teacher
We Start with Professional Development
LA RiverLore’s professional development program provides local teachers with the inspiration, tools, and collaborative support needed to create deeply engaging and relevant curriculum that encourages students to follow their own curiosity in discovering their community's past, exploring its present, while becoming visionaries and advocates for the future. The LA River provides the common thread and backbone for that exploration. LA RiverLore participants' collective work will serve and celebrate a sense of place and common purpose, using the LA River’s transformation process to understand and promote a sustainable future that is enjoyed and shared by all.
LA RiverLore Offers Educators and Schools:
• An understanding of the LA River, its surrounding communities and their social, environmental, and economic circumstances.
• Exposure to educational visionaries, naturalists, civic leaders, artists, and others who are passionate about creating an inclusive and sustainable future.
•Intensive training in best practices for place based service-learning and sustainability education.
• Collaboration with veteran educators, sharing inspiring resources and work from the field.
• Support in designing unique place based curriculum projects in their own discipline.
— i.e. social studies, science, history, mathematics, literacy, the arts, community ethnography and
mapping, engineering and design. (3 optional graduate credits are available for an additional fee)
• Opportunities for collaborative planning, sharing, collegial critique, and reflection.
• Membership in RiverLore’s expanding cohort, and support through CWI’s network of educators.
Place Based Service-Learning as a Powerful Pedagogy
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.
Service-Learning is a Strategy
that combines academic and social education goals to meet real community needs. It requires the application of knowledge, skills, and systematic reflection about the experience.
Place Based Learning is a Teaching Approach
that uses each community’s unique local culture, history, environment, and resources, to teach essential skills and concepts. This provides a starting point to teach concepts in language arts, math, social studies, science and other subjects across the curriculum.
"CWI and LA Riverlore brought together a wonderfully diverse group of people dedicated to education: various grade levels, a diversity of socioeconomic experiences, many different educational settings and foci, and a tremendous variety of cultural referents and outlooks on reality. There was a breadth of experiences and passions, ideas and experience, yet enough of a crossover that we were able to see each other as less of the “other” and more as a partner. We symbolically linked arms and pulled each other along through this shared journey."
French, Teacher, LAUSD
T. S. Starr Middle School
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, LA RiverLore serves as both a metaphor and vehicle for building a sense of shared purpose, and community with students playing the lead role in that effort.
Celebrating our First LA RiverLore Educator Cohort
We marked our first gathering of Los Angeles area K-16 and community based educators in Summer 2016. Our first educator cohort spent a remarkable week together at CWI’s Summer WEST Institute, focused on developing community focused learning experiences for their students, with the LA River as our touchstone. Our inaugural cohort came from schools and organizations that ranged from Cal State Northridge, to MacArthur Park, and on to South Central. After a week of powerful collaboration and curriculum development these educators are now involving their students in the process of community inquiry and service in their local neighborhoods.