Nature And Test Scores Blooming At This Urban L.A. School!

What an awesome story!

At Leo Politi Elementary School in Los Angeles, California, workers ripped out 5,000 square feet of concrete and planted native flora. The plants attracted insects, which attracted birds, which attracted students.

And look what happened at the school, home to 817 students in an economically disadvantaged area, a neighborhood chock-a-block with buildings and pavement:

The students got so caught up in the nature unfolding before them that their science test scores rose sixfold!

Many of us educators are passionate about getting kids outdoors, knowing all the benefits it can bring, and here’s a downtown grade school doing just that.

“We’ve Gone From The Basement To The Penthouse”

From The Los Angeles Times:

In the words of Leo Politi’s delighted principal, Brad Rumble, “We’ve gone from the basement to the penthouse in science test scores.”

As Rumble stood in the garden recently, 10-year-old Jacky Guevera fixed her eyes on an orb spider spinning a web near a pair of bushtits building a nest in the limbs of a crape myrtle tree.

“At our school, flycatchers drink the water in the vernal pool,” said Jacky, who dreams of becoming an ornithologist. “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,” she added confidently as she sketched images of the garden’s wildlife.

What a gift for these fortunate students, one they can carry with them for the rest of their lives.

Test Scores Jump From 9% Proficient, No Advanced To 53% Proficient Or Advanced

Three years ago, the school’s standardized test scores in science for fifth-graders showed that 9% were proficient and none were advanced. Last spring, 53% of fifth-graders tested as proficient or advanced.

Leo Politi’s garden grows where a towering apartment complex once stood. In partnership with Los Angeles Audubon, Leo Politi in 2008 became one of the first elementary schools in the city to apply for and win “schoolyard habitat” and partner’s grants from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

With $18,000 from the agency, and volunteer assistance from environmental students at Dorsey High School, Leo Politi removed the concrete and grass from the forlorn corner of campus. Dorsey students wielded rakes and shovels and helped select and plant bushes, flowers and trees, including six live oaks that now shade a slope Rumble calls “our oak highlands.”

Fish and Wildlife dispenses about $60,000 a year in its Pacific Southwest Region to help teachers and students create wildlife habitat on school grounds, said Carolyn Kolstad, the agency’s regional schoolyard habitat coordinator. About 50 schools in the area have been helped over the last four years.

Life Benefits

Wow! How inspiring to read about this wonderful development in one of our schools! Maybe the Los Angeles Unified School District can require all schools to put in a garden. Not only is it a great vehicle for science but it breaks up the horrible concrete and asphalt environment.

And talk about connecting curriculum to real life!  Authentic, real-life, project-based learning is great, and such a better way than learning from textbooks.

Congratulations to Leo Politi Elementary School! You rock!

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Photo Credit: aviatorviv

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Abbe A.
Azaima A.3 years ago


Deborah F.
Deborah F.3 years ago


Vicky Pitchford
Vicky P.3 years ago


Lin Penrose
Lin Penrose3 years ago

Great news, though I'm not surprised. As a former teacher of the Natural Sciences, I often was impressed with the excitement children expressed being outside and interacting with the natural world. One of the main reasons I truly enjoyed teaching!

Luvenia V.
Luvenia V.3 years ago

It saddens me to see a few people bringing up race in their post. How about getting involved instead of complaining. Check out what is happening in the schools close to you. Suggest something like this first at the PTA meetings and move UP from there.

Finland has the BEST school system and the children get OUT more than once every single day. We need to do what is best for the children and stop padding the bank accounts of the people at the top in the district. We spend a great deal of money on our education but very little of it makes it down to the teachers and the students.

Duane B.
.3 years ago

This is great!

Kamryn M.
Kay M.3 years ago


Kim D.
Kimberly D.3 years ago

I hope this success story is copied at other schools all over our country. Children need to learn how to respect nature - something their parents may or may not do. This is a great example of children seeing nature at work and learning from it. Keep up the great work Politi School!!

eusebio vestias
vestias3 years ago

Bom trabalho eu espero que outras escolas sigam o mesmo

aj M.
aj E.3 years ago

good idea!