Long, long ago before Los Angeles became a major city with a high population density, there was a wide range of habitats that maintained a rich biodiversity including wildlife like coyotes, mountain lions, and bears. Over the years, settlers came in and urbanization began through the Gold Rush, agricultural production, oil discovery, channelization of rivers for flood control, housing development, and so on. Increasing urbanization decreased habitat of local flora and fauna. Now, we are in a highly urbanized city with limited green space. However, due to amazing organizations (like the LA Audubon!) there have been many conservation, restoration, and education efforts to make Los Angeles environmentally friendly towards both people and animals. One of the efforts that I’m becoming involved with is environmental education field trips for 3rd-6th grade inner-city students at Kenneth Hahn Park. Many may live close to the park but never had the opportunity to explore and learn about the urban area. In these field trips, tour leaders guide a small group (usually 7-15 students) to different stations ran by naturalists educators. Stations include watershed/vanishing habitat, native garden, wildlife habitat, and science illustration. The naturalists leading the stations engage the students into learning about the local flora and fauna of LA with hands-on activities and games . These field trips run every Friday until mid-April and so far I’ve had the opportunity to lead the science illustration station and lead a group through all the stations. I don’t necessarily have a favorite station but I do enjoy leading the walks and experiencing the enthusiasm of the students at every station. I also “put my whole self in” – something I learned at UCSC – and express enthusiasm at major teachable moments. For example, birds that forage in the open grass area are often overlooked but if I see a Western Meadowlark, a Cassins Kingbird, or an American Robin, you won’t hear me saying “And to your right, you will see a (name bird species here)”. I try to engage students as much as possible; I go, “WOAH!!! Do you guys see the bird that is on the grass to the left of the tree? What colors do you see? What size is the bill? What do you think it’s doing?” Energy is contagious. Express your inner enthusiasm for nature and the energy will passed on!
I’m excited for the future of Los Angeles as we increase our naturalists population. LA will continue to be a highly populated city but with current conservation, restoration, and education efforts, it will be habitat-friendly for local flora and fauna and environmentally friendly for everyone (especially those with minimal access to green spaces now).
To learn more about Kenneth Hahn Park, a green space in the middle of LA, go ahead and read this!: