Putting LA Teens on the Front Line of Coastal Sage Scrub Restoration
With a 2009 Innovation Grant, Los Angeles Audubon Society invested in the futures of Dorsey High School students, training them in habitat restoration and education. Through the Greenhouse Internship and Restoration Leadership programs, Dorsey students served as researchers, volunteer leaders, and recruiters in restoring coastal sage scrub habitat in the Baldwin Hills area of Los Angeles.
Students converted part of an unused playground in the urban core into new habitat, enhanced the quality of existing habitat in two urban parks and at the beach nesting colony of an endangered species, developed and implemented curricula (to California State Science Standards) for elementary school students, and successfully led volunteers from Toyota and Sony Pictures Entertainment in hands-on habitat restoration events.
L.A. Audubon made sure to provide participating students with hands-on, science-based, resume-building experiences. Their Greenhouse interns each worked 150-200 hours, produced outstanding research posters, and published their work in the Los Angeles Audubon newsletter. High school participants received stipends for their work in the program, demonstrating to them, their families, and the community that their efforts were valuable.
The student-to-student mentorship aspect of the program was a runaway success. High school students in the Baldwin Hills Greenhouse Academy were put in positions of leadership and had to learn complex ecological concepts and habitat restoration techniques well enough to teach them to younger students. The elementary school students were completely captivated by the high school students. During a habitat restoration event at Leo Politi Elementary School, one student said to another, “This is better than video games!”