EcoVoices is a hands-on scientific inquiry adventure program at Whittier Narrows–right where the San Gabriel River and Rio Hondo watersheds meet. Since its launch in 2012, EcoVoices has brought more than 7,000 K-12 students out on the river trails and worked with thousands more with the City of Los Angeles Summer Night Lights program to engage youth in scientific methods and teach environmental stewardship skills. Most of the EcoVoices students are from the highly urbanized San Gabriel Valley and south and east Los Angeles areas where opportunities to connect with a live ecosystem are limited.

EcoVoices opens the door to environmental engagement and cultivates scientific curiosity.

Science inquiry coaches lead each expedition. Students hike the trails, collect water samples and fill journals with their observations of the animal and plant life—all the while acquiring science fluency by learning the vocabulary of environmental science, data gathering and how to use microscopes, binoculars and other equipment.

EcoVoices took the show on the road in the summer of 2015, traveling to 32 parks throughout Los Angeles as part of the Summer Night Lights program in collaboration with the City of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation. Inquiry coaches deftly guided more than 3,500 students as they peered through microscopes, created miniature watersheds to learn about water ecosystems, marveled at geologic exhibits and participated in eco-theater productions.

The vision behind EcoVoices: environmental education access and inspiration for students who live far from the coast where Southern California’s water education facilities are concentrated and inspiration.

In a few short years EcoVoices has touched the lives of 10,000 young participants. The San Gabriel River Discovery Center now under development at the San Gabriel River watershed will create the capacity to invite thousands more into the EcoVoices program and provide state-of-the-art exhibits and facilities to teach and inspire the future stewards and scientists who can support and protect our environment.