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Interdisciplinary Learning Comes to Life at ECMS


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

2015 In Review

Click each highlight to read more.

Our seniors had a 96% acceptance rate into college, including our Valedictorian, Vinh Tran, who headed to Harvard! Read the full story here.

Gardena becomes one of 193 middle schools across the state to be awarded State Superintendent of Education’s Gold Ribbon award for excellent academic programs. Read the full story here.

A big thanks to Lowe's and The Nature Conservancy who helped make this possible. Read the story here.

Four ECHS students traveled to Washington, D.C. for "Hike the Hill." Students gave presentations to legislators to advocate for environmental initiatvies within urban communities and to share their experiences on The Pacific Crest Trail. To read more, click here.

Green Ambassadors Interns took their community engagement efforts to the next level! Interns partnered with Energy Upgrade California to educate consumers, served as sustainability consultants to Dogeared Jewelry and worked with Otis College to promote waste reduction at ECS campuses. To read the full recap, click here.

The Green Ambassadors Institute (GAI) linked more than eighty educators and community leaders to learn and share best practices in environmental education. Read the recap here. Read about our other outstanding GAI event, A Watershed Moment, here.

Our student Crystal Sanchez won NFTE's 2015 National Youth Entreprenuership Challenge and a $25,000 prize for her Guardian Locket innovation, meant to help protect young woman against sexual assault. Read more here.

At Environmental Charter Schools, learning extends beyond the school hours through our dynamic after-school programming. This year, students at all of our school sites have had an even more robust selection of offerings to choose from after they finish their school day. Check out the after school highlights here.

ECS educators traveled to New Haven, CT to participate in a Teaching Our Cities Learning Exchange that allowed them to connect, share and exchange ideas about how urban environmental educators can embrace our cities as learning tools. Watch the video here.

ECS faculty and administrators created an innovative Teacher Development and Evaluation system to ensure the effective implementation of our Best Practices across all sites. Learn more here.

Our After School Programs grew significantly in 2015

[Photo]  Green Ambassadors teacher, Ms. Tashanda, at ECMS-Inglewood Winter Fest with students from the Green Ambassadors Cooking Club

This year at Environmental Charter Schools, after school programs have grown on all three of our campuses. Check out a few of the exciting after-school highlights!

Environmental Charter Middle School – Gardena

  • In the Spring, students collaborated within the areas of art, drama and dance to launch their production of West Side Story with a live band. This upcoming year, students plan to organize a production of The Lion King: A Musical.


[Photo] West Side Story Art Work

  • Students are getting healthy with a variety of after-school sports and activities! The ECMS-Gardena soccer team kicked off their season and is slated to challenge Watts, Peary, Inglewood and New Academy this upcoming year. Our 6th grade girls are “racking up” fitness points with our partners at the RAMP Tennis program at StubHub Center in Carson.










A photo posted by Enviro Charter Schools (@enviroschools) on










  • Our students relax their minds and stretch their muscles in Zumba, Yoga, swimming and Pilates thanks to our awesome partnership with the Gardena-Carson YMCA. Our students continue to bolster their academic skills through after school Math and Lit Lab classes that support students’ academic and intellectual growth.

[Photo] ECMS-Gardena students playing basketball at the Gardena-Carson YMCA

Environmental Charter Middle School – Inglewood

  • An exciting after-school partnership with Woodcraft Rangers began this year and has already delivered a groundbreaking 14% increase in attendance, which is a huge leap in engagement!
  • Several new and exciting sports opportunities are now being offered including soccer, basketball, and volleyball
  • The new Cooking Club has joined forces with the Green Ambassadors club to incorporate the delicious fruits and vegetables harvested from the gardens into their recipes! In the club, students focus on learning how to cook healthy foods.
  • Inglewood now offers free dinner for all students participating in the after-school program!












Our Harvest at ECMS-Inglewood. After a great season of planting in the fall, we begin to reap what we sowed. #greenthumb #growyourown #harvest #Autumn #greens #Inglewood #Hawthorne #SouthLA @ecsgreenambassadors

A photo posted by Enviro Charter Schools (@enviroschools) on











[Photo]  Picture of the Inglewood Winter Fest Cooking Club Display

"Our goal this year is to create a Youth Advisory Board that gives students a voice in after-school programming – the more ownership and investment the students have, the more their buy-in and participation increases.”

– Danielle Kelsick, ECMS-Inglewood Assistant Principal

Environmental Charter High School

  • The new Living Under 500 after-school club explores the burgeoning micro-living movement and designs their own imaginings of a ‘Tiny Home’.
  • Students are stoked about the new drumline and self-defense clubs, which extend their learning beyond the classroom and expand students’ opportunities to try new things.










School is back highlight #3: Drumline at ECHS is baaaack! #ECSbacktoschool

A photo posted by Enviro Charter Schools (@enviroschools) on




















Xavier and Sam rockin' out in our after school music program! #drums #music #rock #outdoorClassroom

A photo posted by Enviro Charter Schools (@enviroschools) on












To see more of the after-school experience at ECS, watch our video below:


After School – We Succeed from Environmental Charter Schools on Vimeo.


ECMS-Gardena Welcomes New Leadership

We are excited to announce our new leadership team at ECMS-Gardena. Mr. Robert Gloria stepped up as Principal after having served for several years as Assistant Principal at the school. Ms. Tasneem Muhammad joins ECMS-G as the new Assistant Principal. This dynamic duo brings years of experience and resources to our team. We are excited to watch the Gardena team grow under their leadership.

Robert is passionate about collaborative learning, experiential learning and authentic assessment. He is especially interested in social justice issues, and specialized in the field while he was pursuing his Master’s degree in Anthropology. Outside of work, Robert enjoys gardening, hiking, cycling and playing basketball.

Tasneem is passionate about educating urban youth. She enjoys making a difference in the lives of students who have similar backgrounds to her own. Tasneem is a product of a South Los Angeles upbringing and wants to help students in her community become productive citizens who make a difference in the world. Outside of work, she likes to go to the movies and spend time with her family.

For more information, read their full bios:

Robert’s Bio Tasneem’s Bio

Celebrating One World, Many Cultures at ECMS-Gardena

In the spirit of celebrating diversity, ECMS-Gardena welcomed more than 200 guests and community members to its 2nd Annual One World, Many Cultures Multicultural Day on Saturday, June 6, 2015. Students shared what they have learned about countries from all around the world through food, games, art and crafts. The fun-filled day included special performances of music by the ECMS-G student band along with singing, dance and spoken-word performances by ECS students.


“It was wonderful to bring together our students, families and the entire Gardena community. We look forward to this each year!”
– Ms. Lacey Harris, School Counselor

A special thanks to Stephen Leach and Nestlé USA, WendySue and Tobey’s, the ECMS-G Parent Council, parents, teachers and the After-School Programs staff for their generous support of the event.


In the spirit of celebrating community diversity, ECMS-G students shared what they have learned about countries from all…

Posted by Environmental Charter Schools on Monday, June 8, 2015

ECMS-Gardena Receives Gold Ribbon Schools Award

Environmental Charter Middle School – Gardena is proud to receive California’s new Gold Ribbon Schools Award, which recognizes schools that have made tremendous gains in implementing the new academic content and performance standards for all students, including English learners. The standards are in the areas of English Language Arts and Math, English Language Development and Science. These include California (Common Core) State Standards in English and Math, Next Generation Science standards, History, and English Language Development. Additionally, ECMS-Gardena was recognized as an Academic Achieving School for meeting the educational needs of underserved students living in low-income communities.

“These schools are academically successful, vibrant, and innovative centers of learning and teaching. They provide great examples of the things educators are doing right—embracing rigorous academic standards, providing excellence and creativity in teaching, and creating a positive school climate.”
– Tom Torlakson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction

As one of 193 middle schools and 180 high schools across California to receive the honor in 2015, ECMS-Gardena was recognized in particular for its interdisciplinary benchmark process.

Interdisciplinary Benchmark Projects are fun, challenging tasks that ask students to connect what they’ve learned in English, Math, Social Studies and Science and use their new knowledge and skills in a real-world way. Individually and in groups, students might persuade pharaohs, write business plans for investors, investigate an Aztec murder mystery, present their research findings to an Ancient Greek symposium or engineer a railroad. These projects culminate in imaginative performances and presentations that include parents and community members.


Staff and students attended a special ceremony on May 20, 2015 to accept the Gold Ribbon Schools award. At the ceremony, ECMS-G 8th graders spoke about how interdisciplinary benchmarks make learning fun, meaningful and memorable. Student, Carlos Rodriguez, explained that each benchmark is “a big group project that incorporates all four of our core classes into one project so we can get a different perspective.”

“I’m thrilled that our teachers began using the Common Core standards three years ago, and their pioneering work has paid off. They are sending students to high school with a love of learning and helping them become the dedicated problem-solvers this world needs.”
-Amy Frame, ECS Director of Curriculum & Instruction

For more info, visit the California Gold Ribbon Schools Program.


Photo courtesy of Los Angeles County Office of Education

Gold Ribbon Schools Logo

ECMS – Gardena Offers New Tennis Experience for Girls with RAMP Tennis at StubHub! Center – Carson!


The Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF), and national partner espnW, announced in April 2015 that Environmental Charter Middle School – Gardena and RAMP Tennis – Carson partnership is a 2015 recipient of a “Sports 4 Life” grant. Sports 4 Life is a national effort to increase the participation and retention of girls in youth sports programs.

The link between sports participation and the prevention of chronic diseases, like diabetes, obesity, depression and cardiovascular diseases is well-established. By making sports more accessible, Sports 4 Life gives young females the chance to learn the foundational benefits of sports, such as leadership, confidence, self-esteem, and perseverance.

Environmental Charter Middle School – Gardena provides the ECMS Tennis: RAMP IT UP GIRL program to girls ages 11-14 in the Los Angeles area. Their goal is to expose young, underserved African-American and Latina girls to the sport of tennis in the hopes that they will adopt tennis as a life-long sport. ECMS also stresses the importance of academics and supports their young girls’ education through a Girls Mentor program. ECMS truly fosters the four pillars of Sports 4 Life through their support of academics and fostering of a healthy, positive environment where girls can improve upon their confidence and self-esteem.

“The Foundation believes in the transformative power of sports, be it learning how to live a healthy life, how to be a leader or how to work in a team, and is committed to expanding access to sports for girls in diverse communities.”

– Angela Hucles, WSF president and two-time Olympic and World Cup medalist in soccer

About The Women’s Sports Foundation

The Women’s Sports Foundation — the leading authority on the participation of women and girls in sports — is dedicated to creating leaders by ensuring girls access to sports. Founded by Billie Jean King in 1974, our work shapes public attitude about women’s sports and athletes, builds capacities for organizations that get girls active, ensures equal opportunities for girls and women, and supports physically and emotionally healthy lifestyles. The Women’s Sports Foundation has relationships with more than 1,000 of the world’s elite female athletes and is recognized globally for its leadership, vision, expertise and influence. For more information, visit

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Weingart Foundation donates $200K towards ECMS Gardena Renovation

(Photo above: ECS is transforming this space into a community village that will be open to all)

We are so thankful for the Weingart Foundation‘s continued support and look forward to our unveiling of the new building.

In 2013, ECS completed phase one of a building project to create 12 classrooms, a play space and offices for for our about 300 middle schools students in Gardena. During the 2013-14 year, ECS raised the additional funds needed to complete the restoration and renovation of the formerly abandoned property, which is now home now home to Environmental Charter Middle School-Gardena.

In this second phase, ECS will convert a second blighted building on the property into the ECS Community Village – a much needed resource to be used by the existing middle school during the day and for after-school programs and community workshops on the weekends and evenings. The 4,575 square foot single story building will be converted into a two story building that will house two large student project areas, community office space, and a large multipurpose assembly area. In addition, two 500 square foot green houses will be added to the second floor of the academic building and 7,500 square feet of outdoor learning spaces will be designed and engineered to provide hands-on instructional resources and features, such as green walls, a solar demonstration, a bicycle-powered audio system, raised bed gardens, and a living stream.

The ECS Community Village will be open to all middle school youth in the Gardena/Harbor Gateway neighborhood for after-school and summer programs, in addition to outdoor recreation on the new playground and outdoor learning centers. ECS will collaborate with select organizations to create the Village including EmpowHer Institute, Social Justice Learning Institute, MESA, YMCA Gardena Carson and the Boys and Girls Club. These partnerships will result in a “collective impact” to improve the lives of the children served by addressing the continuum of educational and social needs. The ECS Community Village will also be home to ECS’ award-winning Green Ambassadors Program, a youth empowerment and leadership program. The space will be used to train students, host student-led community workshops, and for professional development courses for educators.

The completed facility will meet LEED certification – an internationally recognized standard of excellence for building and design strategies aimed at achieving high performance in human and environmental health – and thus will serve as a model school and demonstration site, providing the community with an asset and source of pride.


First Annual Heritage Festival @ ECMS-Gardena [PHOTO GALLERY]

ECMS-G hosted it’s first Heritage Festival to celebrate the diversity of our community through food, games, performances, and fellowship. It was a great turnout with over 100 participants and the money raised from the event will go towards each grade level for future events. A huge THANK YOU for the donations from Food 4 Less, Costco, Windy Sue and Tobey Bakery, and Jason from GES for the stage for our performances! We had great parent volunteers and ECMS staff that came to numerous evening meetings and were up early to get the festival together, you were amazing! Thank you to Gardena City Councilman Dan Medina and Mrs. Medina for attending the event and supporting our community. It truly takes a village, and it was truly beautiful to see everyone come together for a great cause!



ECMS-G Student Speaker Shines at “Girls to Greatness” Luncheon

Daphne Lima, a 7th grade student at Environmental Charter Middle School – Gardena, charmed and inspired more than 300 guests at the Girls to Greatness Luncheon in April – an event hosted by our partner EmpowHer Institute. Daphne spoke eloquently of her experience in EmpowHer classes at ECMS-G.  In Daphne’s words, “I wish other girls in other schools had the same type of help and could experience the feeling of knowing that someone really cares for them. But most of all, I believe something that I didn’t believe before, that I am beautiful on the inside and out!” Daphne’s long-term goal is to be an immigration attorney so she can help people become U.S. citizens and obtain their dreams of a better life.  We are proud of Daphne and honored to have her represent ECS students in the community. We hope that Daphne will continue to “dream big, and reach higher” as was the theme of luncheon where she shined.