Environmental Charter High School Hosts LEAF Educators Network Annual Retreat August 5-7

Educators from 16 High Schools across the Nation to Share Curricular Development Ideas Aimed at Inspiring Students to be Future Conservation and Community Leaders

LAWNDALE, CA | August 01, 2013

Educators from 16 environmentally themed high schools in cities across the country will converge on the Environmental Charter High School (ECHS) campus in Lawndale, Calif. to learn new ways to arm and inspire students to be future conservation and community leaders at the Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future (LEAF) Educators Network Annual Retreat happening August 5 - 7. The focus of this year’s retreat, which is presented by The Nature Conservancy with the support of the Toyota USA Foundation, is using the city as a learning tool across disciplines.

The LEAF Educators Network, now in its fourth year, has two main goals: to support teachers from schools in the LEAF network in the development of urban environmental education curriculum and to build a community of practice, through which teachers share best practices, learn together, collaborate and support each other

“The Nature Conservancy is committed to supporting the schools and educators who are spearheading a new movement of environmentally-themed high schools across the country,” said Brigitte Griswold, director of Youth Programs for The Nature Conservancy. “As the green job sector continues to grow, it’s incredibly important that conservation groups become actively engaged in empowering the next generation of environmental educators and their students – who will be the green leaders of tomorrow.”

Teachers attending the retreat will learn from innovative practitioners in the field of urban environmental education and share best teaching practices. They also will work collaboratively to develop new interdisciplinary curriculum that: (1) uses the city as a learning landscape; (2) explores urban environmental themes through systems thinking; (3) incorporates environmental and social justice within the context of urban systems; and (4) includes authentic learning strengthened by community partnerships.

Akiima Price from Community Environmental Education in Washington, D.C. will be the retreat’s keynote speaker. For the past 20 years, Price has worked with numerous environmental organizations throughout the U.S., creating and implementing innovative programs that build bridges into low-income communities.

Other presenters will include: Amanda Breuer, ECHS assistant principal; Angela Brisson, youth program project manager, The Nature Conservancy, Arlington, Va.; Maggie Cheney, urban agriculture consultant and educator, EcoStation and Just Foods Farm School, Brooklyn, N.Y.; Viviana Franco, executive director, From Lot to Spot, Los Angeles; Amy Frame, Environmental Charter Schools (ECS) director of curriculum and instruction; John Fraser, president and chief executive officer, New Knowledge Organization, New York, N.Y.; Rupanwita Rupu Gupta, researcher and analyst, New Knowledge Organization, New York, N.Y.; Alfredo Gonzalez, director Southern Coasts & Desert Region, The Nature Conservancy, Los Angeles; Sarah Juarez, ECHS student and LEAF alumna; Sarah Pidgeon, director of K-12 education, Solar One Green Energy Arts and Education, New York, N.Y.; Elizabeth Soper, associate director of Eco-Schools USA at the National Wildlife Federation, Montpelier, Vt.; Donald Strauss, founding chair and core faculty, Master of Arts in Urban Sustainability, Antioch University, Los Angeles; Jenni Taylor, ECHS principal; Fronsy Thurman, assistant director for instruction, Solar One Green Energy Arts and Education Center, New York, N.Y.; Kari Vigerstol, senior hydrologist, global freshwater team, The Nature Conservancy, Seattle, Wash.; and Angee Zavaka, youth organizer, Communities for a Better Environment, Huntington Park, Calif.

Field trips to local sites of urban sustainability will serve as examples of how teachers can infuse similar excursions into their own curriculum. These “Exploring the Urban Environment” field trips will include a community Toxic Tour, Dominguez Gap Wetlands, Farm Lot 59 Tour and Trash for Teaching.

In addition, participants will receive copies of the LEAF Anthology of Urban Environmental Education for their schools.

“We’re delighted and honored to host LEAF’s Educators Network Annual Retreat,” noted ECS Founder and Executive Director Alison Suffet-Diaz. “We look forward to the mutual exchange of insights, ideas, knowledge and experience among so many like-minded educators. No doubt this retreat will be a breeding ground for some important developments in environmental education that will have significant and far-reaching impact.”


About Environmental Charter Schools

Environmental Charter Schools (ECS) is a network of free public middle and high schools that prepares students for four-year colleges through experiential learning and by exploring the environment as a learning tool both inside and outside the classroom.

Contact Barbara Bishop, BBPR, Inc., at (310) 656-4668, go to or come take a student-led tour of one of our living campuses today to find out how ECS can help create a more ideal tomorrow. 

About The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy is the leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. Since 1951, The Nature Conservancy has protected more than 119 million acres of landand5,000 miles of riversworldwide — and we operate more than 100 marine conservation projectsglobally. The Nature Conservancy works in all 50 states and more than 30 countries—protecting habitats from grasslands to coral reefs, from Australia to Alaska to Zambia. For more information, visit 

About LEAF

Since 1995, the LEAF program provided paid summer internships for students in nature preserves across the nation and helped educators from environmental high schools share best practices and scientific resources during the academic year. The program has had a tremendous impact on urban youth—opening their eyes to career possibilities, building self-confidence, work skills and conservation literacy.

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at

Contact information

Dienna D'Olimpio
Vice President, BBPR, Inc. (on behalf of Environmental Charter Schools)
(310) 980-6936

Lisa Park
The Nature Conservancy Senior Media Relations Manager
(213) 327-0104, ext. 14203 (Office)
(408) 821-9255 (Cell)

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