Environmental Learning Takes Root at Vena Ave. Elementary

Take a minute to think about your average school playground here in LA.

Chances are what you’re envisioning more closely resembles a long-forgotten parking lot  – a barren, treeless expanse of cracked blacktop that fades into a mirage as the sun beats down upon it. This is a far cry from a welcoming and hospitable environment for children to learn.

It doesn’t need to be like this.

Study after study has shown the importance of nature and green spaces in the lives of children – from improving memory and cognition, increasing attention span and lowering aggressive behavior, to protecting their developing bodies from harmful pollutants.

For the past several months, we here at TreePeople have been working with Vena Avenue Elementary in the Northeast San Fernando Valley to help bring new green learning spaces to their campus.  

A group of teachers contacted TreePeople last school year to assist us in planting trees around our campus for shade, beautification, and for a way to engage with our families,” explains Sonia Baron, principal of Vena Avenue Elementary. “Last school year we planted a few trees around the campus, but our dream was to plant trees and native plants on the playground. (It) needed color and an area to break up the black asphalt.”

We were determined to make this dream a reality.

On a warm April morning, after months of planning and preparation, dozens of volunteers, including many of the school’s students and their families, grabbed shovels and got to work. Together we transformed a once empty section of asphalt into a learning garden filled with shade trees and native plants. For those children, it was not only an opportunity to play in the dirt with their friends; it was an opportunity to build a lasting connection with nature.

“We plan to incorporate the learning garden in science lessons for the next school year,” said Baron. “Right now, students are in charge of watering the trees, and they are enthusiastic about their role in ensuring the trees are properly nourished.”

As these trees and plants mature and take root in their new home, so too will the children whose lives are enriched by them – a lasting partnership growing together for a brighter future.

Help TreePeople continue this vital work in bringing new green spaces to LA’s youth – volunteer at our next campus planting event.

As staff photographer and videographer, Adam brings a decade long passion in telling people's stories to TreePeople. From the joy of a tree planting to the behind the scenes efforts of our policy advocacy and restoration work, Adam captures it through his lens so it can be shared with the world. When he's not behind the camera, he can most likely be found curled up with his cat Kinsella.