Nature Grows At An Urban Los Angeles School

Photo Credit: iStock

Getting Close To Nature At School!

What a powerful story!

At Leo Politi Elementary School in Los Angeles, California, they decided to rip out 5,000 square feet of concrete and planted native flora. The plants attracted insects, which attracted birds, which attracted students.

And in this diverse, economically disadvantaged area, a neighborhood chock-a-block with buildings and pavement, the 817 students at the school began to blossom. In fact, they got so caught up in the nature unfolding before them that their science test scores rose sixfold!

From The Los Angeles Times:

In the words of Leo Politi's delighted principal, Brad Rumble, "We've gone from the basement to the penthouse in science test scores."

As Rumble stood in the garden recently, 10-year-old Jacky Guevera fixed her eyes on an orb spider spinning a web near a pair of bushtits building a nest in the limbs of a crape myrtle tree. "At our school, flycatchers drink the water in the vernal pool," said Jacky, who dreams of becoming an ornithologist. "Scrub jays hang out in the oaks. The snapdragon's red flowers attract Anna's and Allen's hummingbirds."

"I can identify each of these birds when I see them," she added confidently as she sketched images of the garden's wildlife.

What a gift for these fortunate students, one they can carry with them for the rest of their lives.

Test Scores Jump From 9% Proficient, No Advanced To 53% Proficient Or Advanced

Three years ago, the school's standardized test scores in science for fifth-graders showed that 9% were proficient and none were advanced. Last spring, 53% of fifth-graders tested as proficient or advanced.

Leo Politi's garden grows where a towering apartment complex once stood. In partnership with Los Angeles Audubon, Leo Politi in 2008 became one of the first elementary schools in the city to apply for and win "schoolyard habitat" and partner's grants from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

With $18,000 from the agency, and volunteer assistance from environmental students at Dorsey High School, Leo Politi removed the concrete and grass from the forlorn corner of campus. Dorsey students wielded rakes and shovels and helped select and plant bushes, flowers and trees, including six live oaks that now shade a slope Rumble calls "our oak highlands."

Fish and Wildlife dispenses about $60,000 a year in its Pacific Southwest Region to help teachers and students create wildlife habitat on school grounds, said Carolyn Kolstad, the agency's regional schoolyard habitat coordinator. About 50 schools in the area have been helped over the last four years.

Life Benefits

Wow! How inspiring to read about this wonderful development in one of our schools! Maybe the Los Angeles Unified School District can require all schools to put in a garden. Not only is it a great vehicle for science but it breaks up the horrible concrete and asphalt environment.

And talk about connecting curriculum to real life!  Authentic, real-life, project-based learning is great, and such a better way than learning from textbooks.
Congratulations to Leo Politi Elementary School! You rock!

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