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Academics, ecology, agriculture come together

Times Staff Writer

Today a high school, tomorrow an orchard (with a high school attached). That was sort of the idea when students from the Environmental Charter High School in Lawndale got down and dirty helping to plant some 60 fruit trees and shrubs on their small campus near Hawthorne Boulevard.

The school, now in its seventh year, has an environmental focus and a college preparatory curriculum. In September, it moved into a scruffy, unused elementary school campus that was long on bare dirt and asphalt and short on anything green. So it brought in the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation, a San Diego-based organization that -- you guessed it -- is dedicated to planting fruit trees at schools, international relief sites and wild animal preserves.

Led by the foundation’s executive director, Cem Akin, and arborist Evan Marks, the group helped students plant trees and vines that will eventually bear lemons, kumquats, pears, plums, nectarines, avocados, mandarins, grapes and pineapple guavas, among other things. The idea is to give the school a greener footprint while also giving the students an incentive to eat healthier food (although it’s worth noting that Environmental Charter already serves organic lunches).

“We’re trying to become the greenest spot on Google maps in Lawndale,” said Sara Laimon, who heads the school’s team of Green Ambassadors. “When people look down, they’ll say, ‘What is that green spot?’ ”

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Most students, it should be said, tended to have a somewhat more apathetic attitude about the whole thing. When Laimon told the kids to think about the legacy they’d be leaving behind for future generations, one boy grumbled, “Who cares what we leave behind?” And after 16-year-old Michelle Matthews helped plant a nectarine tree, she was asked if she found it inspiring to be leaving behind a green legacy. “Yeah,” she said. “Sort of.”

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mitchell.landsberg@latimes.com

For more from The Homeroom, The Times’ blog about Southern California education, go to latimes.com/thehomeroom

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