photo by Ucla90024 (Wikimedia Commons)

At Leo Politi Elementary, a public school in inner city Los Angeles, California, students learn about wildlife in a 5,000 square foot (465 square meter) oasis of native flora and fauna.

The school is located in a crowded, economically disadvantaged neighborhood – more of concrete jungle than a real jungle. But three years ago the school decided to clear a concrete area and turn it into an space for native California fauna. Soon insects and birds came to take advantage of the lush plant life.

Students have thrived in their new natural environment, with science scores rising six fold in just three years.

From the Los Angeles Times:

At our school, flycatchers drink the water in the vernal pool. Scrub jays hang out in the oaks. The snapdragon’s red flowers attract Anna’s and Allen’s hummingbirds. I can identify each of these birds when I see them.

–Jacky Guevera, age 10

Amazing what a small grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, some volunteering local high school students and help from the Los Angeles Audubon can do to transform an academically low-performing school into a beacon of science education.

In related news, next week the U.S. Department of Education will award its first ever Green Ribbon Schools award. Four California schools have been nominated.

Another L.A. Times article explains:

The award recognizes, among other things, schools that save energy, have environmentally sustainable facilities and offer environmental education. It is something of an environmentally friendly version of the U.S. Department of Education’s annual Blue Ribbon School award, which recognizes high-achieving schools.

California’s nominees are the  Lawndale charter school, Environmental Charter School, Longfellow Elementary school in Long Beach, Grand View Elementary in Manhattan Beach and The Athenian School, a private school in Danville in Contra Costa County.