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From LA To Boston: What Green Schools Are Doing Best

Caption: ECS Founder and Executive Director, Alison Diaz, meets with educators to share about Environmental Charter Schools’ best practices.

Originally posted on Teaching Our Cities Blog

By Alison Diaz and Sammy Lyon

We walked into what we thought would be a crisp fall day in Boston, but instead was a sweltering humid 80+ degrees at the end of September. We were coming all the way from Los Angeles to meet up with educators and students from up and down the East Coast, all of us sweating together in the beautiful library of Boston Green Academy for a day of sharing, learning and inspiration.

A year and a half ago Joel Tolman from Common Ground High School asked us if we wanted to be advisors to an ambitious new project. With initial funding by the EPA, Teaching Our Cities planned to bring five schools together over the course of a year to share in a community of practice around environmentally-themed, interdisciplinary urban education.

We’ve been to many conferences, workshops and summits, but we’ve never been to anything like this. We gathered with educators, principals and students from five schools — New Roots Charter School, The Greene School, Boston Green Academy, Connecticut River Academy and Common Ground High School — who have committed to a year of improving their practice in a range of areas, from interdisciplinary units to student portfolios to building a staff culture of sustainability.

Each school had applied to be a part of this cohort by presenting a “problem of practice” — not just one lesson or unit they wanted to work on, but a schoolwide approach. We were excited to find we had peers who were deeply engaged in developing real-world learning for students, not only in one or two classrooms but as a schoolwide commitment to engaging students in the rich resources of our communities. At the convening, we saw examples of interdisciplinary learning with authentic assessments — creating units around an essential question culminating in a demonstration of student learning. Simply put, this kind of innovative, real-world learning is not something many schools attempt to do…and here were five schools doing it! Together they were struggling through the hard issues, tackling the challenges and working to improve instruction for all students. For almost two decades, we felt alone in our work of creating communities of practice within our schools. At Teaching Our Cities, we found out we are definitely not alone.

After many years of developing similar learning opportunities that prepare students for college and community stewardship, our team at Environmental Charter Schools (ECS) in Los Angeles set out to codify those practices into a best practices framework — a teacher designed rubric to guide our work. These five Best Practices have evolved into a comprehensive Teacher Development & Evaluation rubric that we use across all 3 of our schools, but it didn’t happen overnight. We had the opportunity to share these Best Practices with educators at Teaching Our Cities in Boston.

Here’s how the ECS Best Practices evolved over time:

Founded in 2000, ECS was based upon the California Partnership Academy’s four Best Practices: Small Learning Communities, Rigorous Interdisciplinary College-Prep Curriculum, Partnerships, and Using a Career Theme (ours being using the Environment as the integrating context).

The Early Years: Student Focused (2000 – 2010)

Starting out, we created several structures in which our best practices could thrive. We created space in our instructional calendar for a team of teachers to have the same students, which allowed all students to engage in an interdisciplinary unit. We aligned our program with our goal that all students have access to college. To bring this to fruition, we adopted a College-Prep course that was scoped and sequenced for grades 6-12. Two other program pieces were added to bookend a student’s experience:

Green Ambassadors: a required class in which students learn to take action to solve an environmental challenge, and
Senior Thesis: a graduation requirement and the last course in the college prep course sequence, in which students research a social or environmental injustice and then take action to solve it!

A Focus on Instruction (2010 – 2014)

As we created a first draft of our teacher development and evaluation rubric, we realized we were missing a best practice. Our best practices talked to curriculum but not instruction. So we added a practice and four became five best practices:

1. Small Learning Communities
2. Interdisciplinary Curriculum & Authentic Assessment
3. Relevant & Engaging Instruction
4. Environmental & Experiential Learning
5. Collaboration With Partners

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Establishing Common Ground (2014 – Present)

After expanding from one to three schools, it became clear we needed our whole organization to get on the same page. We underwent a strategic planning process and laid the groundwork for the next 3 years, with one of our main focuses being: “Becoming Masters of our Own Best Practices.”

Part of becoming masters of our own best practices meant that we needed to establish a clear understanding of what it looks like to be an ECS instructor, and how to evaluate teachers on their implementation of our best practices. We wanted our teachers and leaders to be on the same page about what good instruction looks like, while documenting what we were doing so that new and existing teachers could improve.

Revising our Rubric

The first step was to create a rubric. A team of ECS teacher leaders and administrators worked to develop our very own Teacher Development and Evaluation (TDE) rubric using the Danielson and Marzano frameworks for guidance. In addition to the rubric, we also set the intention to provide examples of what the practice looked like in the classroom at each level. So in addition to implementing the rubric, we set up the following:

– Assigned an instructional coach to every teacher to offer help and catch the best practices in action at ECS!
– Implemented a Rater Training Program to ensure valid and reliable scoring across classrooms.
– Adopted Teachboost to provide immediate feedback to teachers and allow us to easily analyze scores, identify areas of strength and supports needed.

 
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See the ECS Best Practices rubric overview.

Building Reliability and Confidence in the System

With this new system, our biggest concern was whether teachers would accept and put their faith in this more formalized system. We put a lot of time into defining what a level 1 vs level 4 performance was and surveyed our teachers throughout the entire process. After 3 years, 80% of teachers feel that our teacher evaluation system and rubric is valid and reliable, and want to grow and develop into Level 4 teachers.

Show, Don’t Tell

At ECS, we remain committed to continual improvement, including that of our TDE rubric. After implementation and adoption we recognized the need to provide concrete examples of what each best practice would look like in practice. Our goal was, and still is, to be able to answer the questions “What does this look like in a classroom? Why do we have this best practice?” and “What do students get out of it that makes it worth it?”

In 2017 we implemented a Documentation Project that will create a teacher-led case study that exemplifies each best practice, starting with Environmental & Experiential Learning, after which we will tackle the other four Best Practices.

Teaching Our Cities Takeaways

We came away from our experience at Teaching Our Cities inspired by fellow educators and grateful to share where we stand after 17 years of work. In those years we have learned that we must be deliberate at every step of the way as we create learning opportunities that use the environment to engage students and connect them to the wider world. Has it been worth it? Absolutely. Perhaps the best part was knowing that there are so many other committed colleagues doing the messy and hard work from coast to coast and we look forward to sharing together far into the future.

#MyClimateHero

College Readiness students at ECMS-Gardena participated in a nationwide activist art competition aimed to promote modern heroes in the fight against climate change. #MyClimateHero is an interactive comic art series and exhibition depicting heroes of the modern climate security and environmental justice movements. The series explores the evolution of climate leadership, current challenges, and opportunities for individuals and communities to take action in 2018 and beyond. Students learned about climate change heroes and created activist art to spread the work.

The climate change activists that ECMS-G students depicted were Angel Hsu, Jane Kleeb, Anthony Karefa Rogers Wright, Patricia Espinosa, and Neil Degrasse Tyson.

Out of 80 finalists, artwork from nine ECMS-Gardena students was selected to be shown in an Amplifier Art exhibit in Seattle, Washington. The artwork will also be used to teach students about climate change in schools across the nation.

Selected ECMS-Gardena student artists are Diana Vasquez, Ivy Ma, Jennifer Ron-Parra, Jessica Soto, Libby Kelley, Mariana Escobedo, Marilyn Zamora, Lelani Montano, Iliana Salcedo. We are so proud! Check out the featured work of our students below!

 

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We are Looking for an Extraordinary Leader!

Environmental Charter Schools is searching for an outstanding, experienced leader for our middle school in Gardena. The school was founded in 2010 and currently serves 360 students in grades 6-8. Our program is interdisciplinary, environmental, social-justice driven and focused on Best Practices that our organization has developed over the past 18 years.


Principal – ECMS-Gardena

Environmental Charter Schools is seeking an experienced, visionary, talented, dynamic leader with a proven record of success in urban settings and school transformation. The candidate should be experienced with resetting culture and expectations and instilling a collaborative and positive professional culture.
 
The Principal will enjoy a significant degree of autonomy and flexibility to lead our school, educators, and students. We offer a competitive salary and a comprehensive benefits package. The Principal reports directly to the Executive Director and collaborates with the ECS leadership team to ensure the following:
 
Leadership, Vision & Strategy
Works to set strategic direction of the school, relying on mission-related and data-driven decisions that ensure student success and helps to close the achievement gap for low-income students of color.
 
Culture
Responsible for a positive, results-oriented culture that maintains equity across students and staff.
 
Management & Operations
Ensures a school that runs smoothly and efficiently, overseeing day-to-day operations, staff, facilities and programs.
 
Academic Rigor
Collaborates with teaching staff and Instructional Leadership team to set data-driven goals in the context of student achievement. Monitors, motivates and leads teachers to improved instructional practices through observations, growth plans, and weekly Professional Development and staff meetings.
 
Community & Outreach
Collaborates and meets with stakeholders, communicates about school programs and supports the development of partnerships to best support and enhance ECS goals.
 
See Full Description


Environmental Charter Schools Statement on the #Enough National School Walkout

Dear ECS Community,

We are all devastated, shocked and frustrated by the tragedy in Parkland, Florida. There are no words that can completely allay any fears we may have about coming to school. Each of our schools, however, cares about our community’s safety. Here is what we have in place to encourage and support safety at each of our sites:

Emergency Plans: All schools have an Emergency Plans in place that includes response plans in the event of an active shooter. All staff have been trained on the response plan in the event we have to lock down the campus. Emergency drills are practiced throughout the year. An Active Shooter Training is being scheduled for each of our school sites.

Emergency Response Teams: each school has a team of staff trained to respond to various types of emergencies

Counselors: We have trained professional(s) at each site who provide services to students and families

Police Partnerships: School Administration have established close partnerships with local law enforcement.

School Entrances: all doors lock after students enter in the morning; access is by pin code or office “buzz-in” only.

Emergency Plan: kept in each classroom and office containing plans for handling many types of emergencies, including lock-downs procedures.

We are constantly updating and discussing our emergency plans. We also hold safety drills and trainings at each of our campuses for all staff and students throughout the year. We encourage you to reach out to us and let us know what steps we could take to be more effective at protecting our students.

It has also come to our attention that some students may be participating in a national walk out in the wake of the Florida shooting to spur stricter gun laws. At ECS while we value self-expression and political participation, we neither condone nor condemn students’ right to exercise that self-expression by walking out. Although, when students leave campus, school site administrators do not have a legal obligation to protect the safety and welfare of the students. We will attempt to support our students before, during, and after the walkout; we want to assist in creating a space for our students to be heard.

We ask for your continued support as we foster safe and positive learning environments for ECS students and families.

If you have any other further safety concerns, please call or email me to discuss further.

Yours Truly,

Alison Diaz
Executive Director and Founder
Environmental Charter Schools
310-989-1990
Alison@ecsonline.org

Environmental Charter Middle School Receives Funding from The Riordan Foundation

Environmental Charter Schools is proud to receive funding from The Riordan Foundation to support the integration of Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) into the interdisciplinary, project-based curriculum at Environmental Charter Middle Schools by building teacher capacity.

Through the Instructional Innovation Grant Initiative, Environmental Charter Middle School-Gardena will enhance its ongoing work to integrate STEM (with an emphasis on science) into classroom learning and build teachers’ capacity to teach NGSS. At Environmental Charter Middle School-Inglewood, the awarded initial Instructional Innovation grant will support the professional development of teachers, guide the integration of NGSS into curricular units and develop interim assessments to gauge student understanding.

Environmental Charter Schools focuses on college preparation and environmental and community engagement through interdisciplinary instruction, small learning communities and community partnerships. These best practices inform every element of the ECS experience. The Instructional Innovation Grant is a program that provides up to 50-75% of the funding for one year of a project related to improving instruction. Funding through this program is available for consultants, professional development, technology, or almost any other item relating to instructional innovation.

“We are proud to continue our relationship with The Riordan Foundation’s grantee network,” says Founder & Executive Director Alison Diaz. “This funding support will enable us to further prepare our teachers in NGSS which is ideally suited to our project-based, interdisciplinary instruction and assessment. This allows students to interact with content and skills in a deep and meaningful way, leading to greater motivation and effort, and thus, greater student achievement.”

About the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

Based on the Framework for K–12 Science Education and developed by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, the new NGSS were created in a collaborative state-led process. The standards arrange content in a coherent manner across grades and provide all students access to challenging science experiences. Each NGSS standard has three components: disciplinary core ideas, scientific/engineering practices, and crosscutting concepts, all of which integrate math and writing and require special attention to language learning needs. The interdisciplinary integration of rigorous content and application reflects how science is practiced in the real world. These standards will reinvigorate science teaching and introduce our diverse student body to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) practices and principles.

You can learn more about The Riordan Foundation at http://www.riordanfoundation.org. We encourage you to follow @RiordanFDN on Twitter or like TRF’s page on Facebook

Environmental Charter Schools Statement on the Repeal of DACA

Dear ECS Students, Families and Community,

We at Environmental Charter Schools understand the concern and fear felt by our families and communities regarding the Trump administration’s recent decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Environmental Charter Schools is deeply disappointed in this action, which places hundreds of thousands of immigrant students benefiting from our public education system in jeopardy. Many DACA recipients are attending, have graduated from, or are employed in California charter schools like ours.

Environmental Charter Schools reaffirms our commitment to providing all school-aged students access to an excellent education and the opportunities that education provides without regard to their immigration status or the immigration status of their parents. We believe that public education is a fundamental right that all young people are entitled to in our state and in our country, and any discontinuation of the DACA program puts at risk that fundamental right.

We are providing information to our students, families and individuals who are seeking immediate support. The following resources may be helpful to families facing immigration issues and anyone seeking additional information. If you are unable to access these sites, please come to our school offices and ask for assistance with these websites.

How To Protect You and Your Family as DACA Ends
Link: https://tinyurl.com/y7aleqzf

United We Dream has launched a new site focused on DACA at We Are Here To Stay Link: http://weareheretostay.org/

What Do I Need to Know About the End of DACA (ILRC Community Advisor)
Link: https://tinyurl.com/y8rmmydz

Undocumented Students and Families: The Facts, a guidance sheet to give you answers to key legal questions related to undocumented students (ACSA)
Link: https://tinyurl.com/yax4fnqy

If DACA ends here is what recipients should know about their rights
Link: https://tinyurl.com/y8v88odj

National Immigration Law Center
Link: https://www.nilc.org/

The Latino Legal Voice for Civil Rights in America
Link: http://www.maldef.org/

Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles
Link: http://www.chirla.org/

What to Know and Next Steps after September 5, 2017


From: https://advancingjustice-la.org/sites/default/files/daca-factsheet-sept-2017.pdf

1. Your DACA and work authorization will remain valid until their expiration date. If you currently have DACA, it will remain in effect until the expiration date listed on your work permit (employment authorization document) and your DACA approval notice. If your work permit is lost or stolen before it expires, you will be able to get a replacement. In California, your employer does not have the right to ask you to produce proof of work authorization before the expiration date on your work permit that you provided when you last submitted proof of work authorization.

2. No new DACA applications will be accepted. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will only accept first-time DACA applications if they were filed on or before September 5, 2017. All initial DACA applications that are submitted after September 5, 2017 will be rejected.

3. DACA approvals and work permits that expire between September 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018 must be accepted for renewal by October 5, 2017. If you have a grant of DACA and a work permit that will expire between now and March 5, 2018, you must apply for a two-year renewal of your DACA by October 5, 2017. Unfortunately, people whose DACA expired before September 5, 2017, and did not submit a renewal application, will no longer be eligible for renewal. If you are eligible to renew under the above guidelines, you should do so immediately. Renewal applications must be accepted by USCIS, not just postmarked, by October 5, 2017 to ensure that your application is processed.

4. Advance Parole to travel abroad is no longer available for DACA recipients. As of September 5, 2017, DACA recipients will no longer be eligible to travel abroad through Advance Parole. Any pending applications for advance parole will not be processed and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will refund any associated fees.

5. Your Social Security Number is still valid. The Social Security Number (SSN) that you received through your DACA is valid for life, even once your work permit and grant of DACA expire. You can and should continue to use the SSN that you got under DACA as your SSN even after your work permit expires. You can use your SSN for education, banking, housing and other purposes. Your SSN contains a condition on it that requires a valid work permit to use if for employment purposes.

6. If possible, renew driver’s licenses and other identification cards while your DACA is valid. Eligibility and requirements for a driver’s license depend on the state in which you live. If you have not already done so, you can still apply for a driver’s license or state identification card if your DACA is valid and your DACA makes you eligible for a driver’s license or state-issued identification card in your state.

7. Know your rights and learn about your other immigration options. Talk to an immigration services provider to learn whether you might be eligible for another immigration benefit, and to know your rights in case you are ever stopped or questioned by ICE.
You can find a national directory to immigration nonprofits here:
https://www.immigrationlawhelp.org/
You can find a Know Your Rights guide for immigrants here:
https://www.nilc.org/get-involved/community-education-resources/know-your-rights/

Environmental Charter Schools remains committed to protecting the educational rights of our students and honoring our community with mutual respect, dignity, trust and fairness, regardless of immigration status, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religion, disability or sexual orientation. We continue to offer equity and access to an excellent education to ALL students.

In solidarity,
Alison Diaz
Founder & Executive Director
Environmental Charter Schools

DACA is a program established by President Barack Obama in 2012 that grants a form of temporary protection from deportation known as “deferred action” to undocumented immigrants who came to the United States before the age of 16, have resided here since 2007 and meet other requirements. The Trump administration’s announcement leaves Congress with a six-month window to possibly save the policy.

Bright Beginnings for ECMS-Gardena’s Solar Panels!

Photo: These solar panels will create an energy offset of 91% at our Gardena campus

The new solar panels atop Environmental Charter Middle School – Gardena mark two firsts for both Environmental Charter Schools and ReGreen Corp. The Gardena campus is the ECS family’s second location for solar installation and it is the first charter school installation for ReGreen.

ReGreen, based in El Segundo, CA, specializes in lighting, solar and intelligent building controls. They have provided commercial lighting and solar design, installations, assessments and analysis for companies such as: Whole Foods, Double Tree Hotels and Santa Monica College, and for large scale commercial, multi-family residential, and low-income housing projects. ReGreen is the leading provider for local school districts’ lighting and control systems.

For ECS and ReGreen, this project is the beginning of a systematic, holistic approach to sustainability. This fall, solar system, lighting and controls projects are kicking off at ECMS-Inglewood and will be completed at ECMS-Gardena. ECHS Lawndale is currently exploring upgrading their lighting and controls. The aggregation of projects at all locations will make a significant impact in cost-savings, energy-efficiency and our carbon emissions – and make a powerful and demonstrative statement in line with our organizational commitment to environmental stewardship. The environmental thread that runs through ECS’s curriculum is enhanced and demonstrated in our commitment to healthy and green campuses.

Currently, the solar panels in Gardena are awaiting finishing touches and will be operational in a few weeks. Luke Creamer, Project Manager at ReGreen, explains, “the utility cost savings of these new solar panels will be approximately $10,204.00 a year and will create an energy offset of 91%. This system will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 199 metric tons of CO2 each year which is equivalent to taking 11 gas vehicles off the road, powering 21 homes and planting more than 5,153 trees!


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Photo: Our new solar panels collect the energy and good vibes as ECS staff celebrate the beginning of more energy efficiency upgrades at each of our school sites

On our path to energy efficiency and sustainable buildings, ECS is proud of our recent Inglewood campus expansion. The new classroom buildings are LEED Certified and the expansion features 10 new classrooms and 35,000 square feet of outdoor learning space. The expansion will enable ECMS-I to serve 360 students in the 2018-2019 school year.

“The solar and lighting projects are a great step toward self-reliance and stewardship. These projects will also provide ECS students and staff an additional avenue to understand our impact on the environment.”
– Alayna Santos, ECS Facilities and Sustainability Manager.

Check out photo updates of our ECMS-Inglewood classroom expansion and consider donating to our campus greening efforts. Plus, learn more about how ReGreen is partnering with businesses and organizations in Southern California communities to implement energy solutions.

ECS and ReGreen share a commitment to environmental stewardship and to contributing to the South Bay and South LA communities. Check out photo updates of our ECMS-Inglewod classroom expansion and consider donating to our campus greening efforts. Plus, learn more about how ReGreen is partnering with businesses and organizations in Southern California communities to implement energy solutions.

First Day Butterflies Turn into Lasting Bonds During ECS Summer Bridge

Photo: 6th graders at ECMS-I have fun while learning the importance of supporting each other during a Games & Movement class.

First Day Butterflies Be Gone

Take a second to recall how you felt on your first day of Middle or High School. Awkward, excited, a little nervous? The transition from elementary school to middle school, or middle school to high school, can be downright daunting for a lot of students. At ECS, however, students have an opportunity during Summer Bridge to get those first-day butterflies out as meet their peers and get a sneak peek at what their time at ECS will look like weeks before they have to face their first day.

At ECS, our new 6th and 9th graders have just completed two weeks of Summer Bridge, an active and immersive experience during which “veteran students,” aka mentors, guide them through a variety of activities that introduce them to their classmates, teachers and new campus in an effort to help them start their new school year powerfully.

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Photo: ECHS Mentors at Summer Bridge at ECMS-G getting their “tribes” together.

Community at the Center of It All

Through activities ranging from icebreakers to field trips, students are introduced our best practice of small learning communities in the form of tribes, which emphasizes team building, communication, and trust. Students meet the peers that will soon become their advisory, a group with whom they will meet with regularly for support for the remainder of their time at ECS.

Bridges Stretch Beyond Our School Walls

In addition to getting exposure to the open and accepting culture of ECS, students learn quickly that our campus extends far beyond our school walls as they embark upon field trips that expose them to culture, history and the environment. 9th graders participated in a scavenger hunt on LMU’s campus, in an effort to expose and excite them to the possibilities that exist after their life at ECS. They also attended the “No Justice, No Peace: 1992” exhibit at the California African American Museum where they examined an old police cruiser and recalled, through first-hand documentation, the LA Uprising and the socio-political climate of the city we call our home.

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Photo: 6th graders at ECMS-G partnered with Heal the Bay to clean up Dockweiler Beach.

Students at ECMS-Inglewood toured the USC campus and visited the California Science Center. Exploring the possibilities of higher education, students learned about college life while also learning how everything in our world is connected through ecosystems. At ECMS-Gardena, in partnership with Heal the Bay, students visited Dockweiler Beach to better understand ocean pollution and its impact on the health of the beach through a waste clean-up and survey. The field trips during Summer Bridge are just a taste of the urban and outdoor adventures that await them at ECS.

Summer Bridge is vital to the ECS culture in supporting the transition for all incoming 6th and 9th graders. It takes the anxiety and pressures out of feeling alone at a new school.

A Big Thank You

ECS’ Summer Bridge offering is an extensive and collaborative effort that we are very proud to provide for our students. A big thank you to all staff, students and partners who take the additional three weeks of their summer to make Summer Bridge an extraordinary experience. “It makes it all worth it,” says Wintor McNeel, one of our counselors and an organizer of Summer Bridge, “when you overhear a student telling their mentor they wish they could spend another week in Summer Bridge.”

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ECMS-Gardena Grads are Empowered and Ready for Action

The Class of 2017 from ECMS-Gardena is, in a word, empowered. These bright, young minds seated proudly in the Hawthorne Memorial Center among family, friends and their teachers and staff seemed more than ready for high school. The culmination ceremony focused on the middle schoolers’ accomplishments.

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School counselor, Daniella Torrecilla, congratulated the almost-freshmen on all that they were able to achieve at ECMS-Gardena. But she was right in saying that “it’s only the beginning.” These students have accomplished much in middle school including maintaining impressive GPAs, speaking at various community events, and experiencing field and camping trips – a first for many. As high-achieving as these students are, they are modest and kind as student speakers thank their teachers for changing their lives in the best way. Salutatorian Mely Sosa gave a touching speech about the impact that Environmental Charter Schools had on her and her classmates. She said, “I will always keep a space in my heart open for this place,” and she thanked her teachers saying “they truly make a difference.” The students at ECMS-Gardena are successful in their own right but are grateful for the support they received from their dedicated teachers and families.

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Their achievement is embodied in valedictorian Jennefer Vivar who struggled with her weight at the beginning of her middle school experience, but through the support of her teachers at ECMS-Gardena and her own resolve and hard work, she achieved a healthy weight and maintained good lifestyle habits. Now she will continue on to high school a healthy, confident young woman. Vivar, like the rest of her class, is empowered and she knows it as she declared, “I can achieve anything and I will.”

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These students are considerate, compassionate and have an understanding outside of themselves. They feel grateful and share this gratitude with those who have supported them in achieving their goals so far. As inspirational speaker Angeline Granados reminded her fellow students, “You should never give up, because the reason why we’re celebrating today is that we did it.”

Congratulations to the ECMS-Gardena Class of 2017! Good luck to all of you in high school and beyond! We hope that you will continue to achieve and strive for excellence in all that you do.

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Interdisciplinary Learning Comes to Life at ECMS

ECMS STUDENTS BECOME POLICY-MAKERS, HISTORIANS AND PHILOSOPHERS AS THEY EXPLORE SOCIAL CHANGE SOLUTIONS

At Environmental Charter Middle Schools, the culminating integration of each quarters' learning is an interdisciplinary assessment called an “interdisciplinary benchmark.” This assessment challenges students to combine the material they have learned across subjects in a way that stretches their thinking and empowers their academic growth.

This year, interdisciplinary benchmarks at both ECMS-Inglewood and ECMS-Gardena were rigorous and exciting. Each grade level took on a different project. Students became historians, philosophers, mathematicians and artisans to complete their projects.

Seventh graders created a ‘perfect’ society - a utopia. They built societies with utopian political, social and cultural systems... and of course, in a utopia, communities are environmentally sustainable.

[PHOTO]: Seventh graders created utopias with ideal political, social and cultural systems… and of course, in a utopia, communities are environmentally sustainable.

To complete the seventh grade "utopia" project, students used their math skills to solve equations determining the amount of water and electricity needed for their sustainable energy systems. They also built 3D models of their communities and constructed websites to display their utopias in a museum exhibition. Lastly, they used their writing skills to share information with their community about their utopia.

This creatively designed, highly-integrated learning experience is just one example of our benchmarks, which are the result of the hard work and planning of all of our ECMS teachers. IBMs allow students to grow academically while also making connections between their subject matter and real-world issues.

With these types of learning experiences, an ECMS education prepares students for high school, college and career experiences that are as rich, sophisticated and varied as the IBM projects themselves