In northeast Los Angeles, predominantly Latino neighborhoods surround a natural gem. Debs Park is the third largest park in the City, and remnants of the native habitats that once characterized the Los Angeles Basin can be found there, including walnut-oak woodland, grassland, and coastal sage scrub. Native wildlife depends on these little pockets of habitat, but they’re dwindling in size, even in the park. Thanks to area middle-school students, though, wildlife has been getting a boost.
With a 2010 TogetherGreen Innovation Grant, The Audubon Center at Debs Park built upon their “Arroyo Green Team” program, in which middle-school students take part in ecological research, habitat restoration, and environmental education. The 17 Green Team members, all from the community surrounding the park, helped restore coastal sage scrub habitat. In a plant nursery constructed with help from the Los Angeles Conservation Corps, they learned new plant cultivation techniques, propagating almost 200 native plants from seeds and cuttings. They expanded their habitat restoration site from a half to a full acre, and hosted four volunteer events throughout the year, teaching almost 200 local volunteers how to pull weeds and tend to the site. Some of those volunteers were students from California State University at Los Angeles. As their professor said, “Several of [the students] told me that this was the first time they had ever been in nature and that they had no idea Los Angeles could be so beautiful; they said they wanted to return to hike and see the results of their labors. Our experience was powerful and wonderful.” A powerful and wonderful experience, too, for the middle school kids on the Arroyo Green Team to host and teach college students!
Finally, the Green Team members didn’t just work at educating college students and adult volunteers; they also gained valuable experience educating younger kids, volunteering during the Audubon Center’s Summer Day Camp program and serving as junior mentors to the campers.
From getting their hands dirty propagating and planting native plants, to teaching ecology to fellow community members, the Arroyo Green Team is making a difference. They’re learning about science, contributing to conservation, and educating others—producing a win for the students for the park, and a win for the community!
(Update: Check out the Arroyo Green Team's hilarious and award-winning video parodying LMFAO with "We're Nature Freaks and We Know It