In partnership with Enrich LA, LAUSD, Ryan Drnek of Sodder Studio, and others, Walgrove Elementary School is creating a schoolyard habitat encompassing 25,000 square feet of its campus: land formerly occupied by six bungalows and covered with an asphalted hardscape.
A scheduled bungalow removal provided the opportunity, a coalition of parents, teachers, and community-based organizations rose to the challenge, and now the Los Angeles Unified School District is providing funds for the removal of approximately 25,000 sq. ft. of asphalt and debris, as well as for a bare bones irrigation system to bring us closer to our goal of building the Walgrove Wildlands.
Our goal is to create a schoolyard habitat built on sound ecological principles for habitat restoration and on innovative educational programming. Our schoolyard habitat design and curriculum are being developed in concert with teachers, ecologists, as well as community-based environmental nonprofit groups who will provide continued oversight and expertise as this project continues to grow and develop.
This schoolyard habitat will offer an opportunity for all Walgrove students to become stewards of their landscape and to engage directly with nature. Schoolyard habitats create an opportunity for on-campus curriculum-based science learning. The students will not only be part of the work day when we build the Wildlands, but will be part of its upkeep. Over time, the Wildlands will become a natural extension of their classroom.
This kind of transformative learning supported by a schoolyard habitat is already happening at Leo Politi Elementary School in Pico Union: it is their secret to increased academic performance in the sciences, as well as to the kids’ heightened engagement in all of their academic subjects. (See http://articles.latimes.com/2012/apr/16/local/la-me-bird-school-20120416 )
In close collaboration with landscape architect Astrid Diehl of Mia Lehrer and Associates, to design a schoolyard habitat with the following guiding principles:
- Create a schoolyard habitat that restores native species and works towards recreating a native ecosystem on campus.
- Create a hands-on, outdoor laboratory in which students learn about science, ecology, and environmental stewardship.
- Pursue a joint-use agreement to make greened area available to the community after school hours.
- Encourage the community to take ownership of the habitat and to participate actively in its maintenance through regularly scheduled (monthly) work days.
Schoolyard Greening in Los Angeles and Beyond:
The Walgrove Wildlands has been inspired by so many successful models of schoolyard habitats and gardens across the Los Angeles Unified School District: from Leo Politi to Calvert, as well as from Brentwood Science Magnet to Main Street Elementary School—to name just a handful of the numerous examples of green schoolyards in the District.
The Walgrove Wildlands team has also worked closely with the First/20 Network—a coalition of organizations and stakeholders whose goal is to green the LAUSD and to install a garden—native or edible—on each of its 800+ campuses.
We are excited to be part of a larger movement of school and community-based organizations across CA, the US, and world who see schoolyard habitats as powerful educational tools for enriching school landscapes and, in the process, creating exciting hands-on learning opportunities for students. See the sidebar (above right) for links to some of our favorites.