Over the Winter Break, Biocitizen Los Angeles had 18 students for their New Year’s classes! Lead Teacher Michael Galano welcomed students grades K-5 for a three day session. Read about what the Biocitizen students’ learned on their walks in Michael’s Field Notes below:
“This group of Biocitizens was unique and energetic! We had 5 first-time students, which always adds a great dynamic. We were also joined by first-time assistant teacher Nicholas Hess. Nicholas is a high school junior who last summer interned with the Arroyos and Foothills Conservancy of the San Gabriel Mountains. Nick really impressed us all with his foraging for insects, reptiles, and amphibians. Thanks to his skills in the field, we were treated to close encounters with the Diabolic Ironclad Beetle, California Slender Salamander, and the Jerusalem Cricket (Potato Bug).
On Monday, Biocitizens started at our homeroom class – Echo Park Lake. We talked about the meaning of the word “biocitizen,” focusing on the Greek root bios. We noticed the different kinds of life that surrounded us in the urban oasis and spent some time noting the subtle interspecies differences between closely related flora. We learned about the lake’s historical arroyo tributaries and the original industrialization of the lake as a source of hydropower for a downtown wool mill.
To downtown via the 704 bus to Union Station, we stopped to consider the important role that the train station played in the growth and development of Los Angeles during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Yes, there was a Los Angeles before LAX!
At Olvera Street, we visited the statue of El Rey Carlos III as we took time to appreciate that this land was once Spanish, was once Mexican, was once Tongva, and undeveloped and natural. But, why did people choose this location?
The answer had to wait until Day 2 when we would scale up into the heights of Elysian Park. In this historic plot of land, first people and later settlers established their homes to avoid the high waters of the sporadic but reliable floods of the Los Angeles River. High above the flood plains, the class discussed the ignorance of the later European settlers of the 19th century who were unaware of the potential power that was hiding in the river’s typically docile waters. Such potential that docile often turned deadly, and after too many American deaths in 1938, led to the ultimate concretization of the river to protect the encroaching communities.
So down to the river we descended to explore the soft-bottom Glendale Narrows – a section of the river that, despite the best attempts by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was too lush to fully suppress and concretize. There we were jolted by the stark contrasts we found. Flowing water and green trees surrounded by steep concrete banks. Osprey swirling overhead, hunting for their dinner as they fought off bombarding Ravens.
We embraced the river’s unique beauty amongst the trash that had washed down to the riverbed in force after recent rains. We reflected on our impact and imagined, hoped, for a cleaner future for Our Place on the LA River.
On Friday, Biocitizen students learned the meaning of geology and how the Earth is composed of massive floating puzzle pieces. We thought of these puzzle pieces as extremely slow motion bumper cars that collide to create mountains. Then we headed up the mountain. The main takeaway for the day was the importance of pushing through difficult situations that we might not be comfortable with because by persevering, we succeed.
Friday’s reward was a stunning panoramic view of Los Angeles atop the 1,600-ft peak of Mount Hollywood. We were treated to a beautifully clear day and saw all of the previous days’ classrooms: from downtown’s skyline to the waters of the Los Angeles River, running parallel and disturbingly adjacent to Interstate-5. To complete the fantastic visuals was the ability to spot two snow-capped mountains out to our southeast (Mt. Baldy and San Gorgonio Mountain) and the shimmering Pacific Ocean to our northwest.
What a wonderful week, immersed in the city’s ecology and energized by the communal appreciation for our environments and the enthusiastic sharing of knowledge. The year 2019 is off to a promising start for Biocitizen with such mindful, unique, and engaged students. They truly are inspiring and if they are any indicator – the future is bright!
Special thank you to our Field Docents – Daniela Zepeda and Jennifer Lessnau!!! Our students are having amazing experiences that would not be possible without your guidance at every crosswalk, slippery slope, steep climb, or sunblock application. Thank you, thank you for your amazing help!”
We cannot wait for our upcoming Spring Break Classes! If you are interested in having your student attend, please: