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Association for Environmental & Outdoor education

AEOE strengthens environmental education in California by connecting providers, building professional expertise, and championing environmental literacy and outdoor learning.

Riverside-Corona Resource Conservation District Receives Organization of the Year Award

May 17, 2024 4:44 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Riverside-Corona Resource Conservation District Receives Organization of the Year Award

(Berkeley, Calif.) May 18, 2024 – Riverside-Corona Resource Conservation District (RCRCD) received the 2024 Organization of the Year Award at the California Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education (AEOE)’s Annual Statewide Conference. Diana Ruiz, Public Affairs Manager for the District, accepted the award on behalf of her team in front of 250 environmental educators from around the state. 

The Organization of the Year Award is given to outstanding organizations that advance the impact of environmental and outdoor education in California by offering innovative programs, following research-based best practices, and promoting equitable access to environmental learning. AEOE, in partnership with Ten Strands and the California Environmental Literacy Initiative (CAELI), recognized the RCRCD for engaging the community through strategic partnerships and equitable programming. RCRCD aims to sustain natural resources and help others conserve resources so that high-quality water, land, soil, wildlife, air and plant life will be abundant in today’s changing environmental landscape. The district advocates that each acre of land be managed according to its needs. District programs foster the sustainable use of natural resources for each land use, including native habitats, urban/suburban areas, and agriculture. 

Diana Ruiz and her successor, Jennifer Iyer, pictured here with AEOE Board President and Executive Director. From left: Ryan Mayeda, Jennifer Iyer, Diana Ruiz, and Estrella Risinger at the Statewide Conference for Environmental and Outdoor Education in Orange, CA.

One such program is the Land Use Learning Center, a remarkable 3-acre plot of land that demonstrates sustainable practices in agriculture, urban areas, and native habitats. This demonstration garden is an educational tool for the community, with accessible trails, interpretive signs, and plant and animal treasure hunts. Visitors can check out a “community science backpack” for free from the center to enhance their experience. There is also a Seed Library on-site for free seeds and a Little Free Library full of natural history and gardening books. Ruiz said, “We've created a community that's more sustainable, that understands how they can be stewards. We've empowered our community to be good stewards of natural resources in a variety of ways and applications, whether it be by supporting local agriculture with our Fresh and Local Food Guide or [learning] how to plant and take care of urban trees.”

The RCRCD education team at the Land Use Learning Center. From left: Michele Felix-Derbarmdiker, Erin Snyder, Jenny Iyer, and Diana Ruiz.

RCRCD’s impact on the community is thoughtful and far-reaching, with an over 40-year history of outreach to the deaf community and the diverse cultures in their jurisdiction. The district is also intentional about acknowledging indigenous stewardship of the unceded land and building deeper connections with the local tribal leaders. They are updating their signage to include plant identification and use information in Spanish, Tongva, and Cahuilla, in addition to English. 

Diana Ruiz accepted the Organization of the Year Award on behalf of the education team at RCRCD. Ruiz is retiring this year after nearly 50 years as a conservation specialist. During her tenure with RCRCD, she developed publications on local birds and native plants, and secured partnerships with several other organizations including Inland Urban Forest Council, CalFire, and UC Riverside. These partnerships have transformed RCRCD into a local hub for learning and leadership and a model for sustainable practices in the region. Ruiz shared, “Everything we do on our site, we try to do it with the intention of demonstrating a conservation practice. Instead of paving our parking lot, we have a permeable material to allow water to percolate into the underground water basins.” 

“Riverside-Corona Resource Conservation District does incredible work in their community and the surrounding region. I’ve had the great pleasure of getting to know several members of their team through involvement with the Environmental Education Collaborative and their participation in AEOE’s Environmental Educator Certification Program. Their dedication and commitment to providing engaging, relevant, and high-quality programming is evident,” said Estrella Risinger, Executive Director AEOE. 

“We’re thrilled to continue to support AEOE's Organization of the Year Award and especially to honor RCRCD this year,” said Ten Strands CEO Karen Cowe.

To learn more about the Riverside-Corona Resource Conservation District, please visit 

RCRCD serves the local community through field trips, public visits 7-days a week, and community events. Here, Erin Snyder shares about the local watershed.


About the Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education (AEOE)

For seven decades, AEOE has served as the professional association for environmental and outdoor educators in California. AEOE strengthens environmental education in California by connecting providers, building professional expertise, and championing environmental literacy and outdoor learning. For more information on AEOE, visit

About Ten Strands

Ten Strands is a California–based nonprofit established in 2012. Their mission is to strengthen the partnerships and strategies to bring climate and environmental literacy to all of California’s TK–12 students. They operate with a small, diverse, and nimble staff and strategic partners throughout the state. Ten Strands utilizes the largest and most diverse institution in California—the public school system—to impact 58 county offices of education, more than 1,000 school districts, approximately 10,000 individual schools, over 300,000 teachers, and 5.8 million children. For more information, visit


The California Environmental Literacy Initiative (CAELI), led by Ten Strands, works statewide with guidance from a leadership council to create systems change to support environmental literacy with a focus on access, equity, and cultural relevance for all students. For more information, visit


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