Leo Politi Elementary School is situated in the midst of the Pico-Union neighborhood, one of the densest and most devoid of parks and open space in all of Los Angeles. Yet since its construction in 1991, the school has emerged as an urban oasis for its 818 pre K-5 students, their families, the community, and hundreds of birds—some resident, some migratory.
The school’s vision is one which began with its namesake, Leo Politi, a Caldecott Award winning author of children’s books. When Leo moved to Los Angeles in the late 1920s, he embraced the city’s multiculturalism, children, history, flora and fauna. Leo focused his artistic eye on the urban parks of Los Angeles and the wonders found within them. The school seeks to fulfill Leo’s dream of making this city a peaceful, safe and happy place for its youngest citizens—a place where their imaginations can run wild and where they can explore all the wonders of the natural world.
Recently, Los Angeles Audubon has formed a partnership with Leo Politi Elementary School to expand the scope of science-based nature activities the school offers its students. The following are the education programs we are developing with Leo Politi:
School Yard Habitat - As a first step, we have successfully applied for a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Grant to install a native habitat on 6,000 square feet of underutilized school yard. The School Yard Habitat Project will boast an oak woodland upland, a vernal pool to capture rain, and a coastal sage scrub zone. Students have already conducted a base-line bird study in their school yard, and will monitor species return as the new habitat matures! The habitat will become a living laboratory providing opportunities to explore topics such as: co-evolution; pollinators; the food chain; bio-diversity; conservation; urban wildlife and more! The habitat will continue the school’s tradition of providing an oasis of calm and tranquility in a very dense neighborhood for people and wildlife alike!
Image 1: Students and parents of the Leo Politi School community prepare the site for The Schoolyard Habitat (October 17, 2009) Image 2: Using the library as a “blind”, Leo Politi students conduct their base-line bird count! (October 24, 2009)
Science Illustration School – As a companion education program to the School Yard Habitat Project, Los Angeles Audubon has developed an after school Science Illustration Program. This six-week program will engage 60 Leo Politi students, tap their powers of observation, and teach them how to commit what they see to paper! Through exploration of their new School Yard Habitat, students will observe and illustrate the natural wonders of “their own backyard”.
Conservation Outcomes - Through this program, Leo Politi students will...
- Be introduced to some of the world’s great science illustrators (Leonardo di Vinci, John James Audubon, etc)
- Be introduced to career opportunities in biology, science illustration, and art
- Explore and observe first-hand the plants and the animals (insects, birds, reptiles, etc...) attracted to those plants in their new School Yard Habitat
- Ask questions and hypothesize about wildlife diversity in the habitat
- Learn about and discuss human and wildlife requirements for living in urban areas
- Discuss concepts of biodiversity, habitat, migration, and conservation
- Receive hands-on Science Illustration instruction learning to commit observations to paper. And, the program will help launch the next generation of Angelino conservationists!