Environmental Quality / 2013
Heal the Bays Healthy Neighborhoods Healthy Environment Initiative
Most human health issues prevalent in urban areas have at their root an environmental component. Whether it is air pollution and asthma, water pollution and infectious diseases, urban blight and psycho-social disorders, or poor planning (no parks and lots of junk food outlets) and obesity, there is a nexus between the built environment and human health, between environmental health and community health. Since 2005, Heal the Bay has served as an educational and advocacy resource for those residing within the Compton Creek Watershed, an impaired 42-square mile sub-watershed of the Los Angeles River Watershed. The region is historically underserved, park-poor, severely economically challenged, suffers from chronic litter problems, and is also home to one of California’s most polluted waterbodies - Compton Creek. The Creek, which is on the State's list of impaired waterbodies, drains portions of the City of Los Angeles (Watts, Vermont Knolls), South Gate, Lynwood, Compton, and Los Angeles County (Florence/Firestone, Willowbrook, Athens), before discharging into the Los Angeles River and San Pedro Bay. Through our work in the Compton Creek Watershed, we have witnessed for ourselves this lack of understanding regarding the relationship of the environment in students’, residents’, and policymakers’ lives. As such, it is impossible to affect behavioral change for a healthier environment if the agents of the change do not know the issues, see themselves as having a role, or the tools to make it happen. For this grant, Heal the Bay intends to target the next generation through our Healthy Neighborhoods, Healthy Environment Initiative (HNHE), specifically through our Environmental Corps campaign. We will target the scholastic youth of a specific unified school district in the South Los Angeles area; we will develop new leaders who have an understanding of the nexus between environmental and community health through the lens of water. The HNHE’s programs are designed to provide participants a holistic approach to understanding, addressing, and ultimately changing their environment. The Environment Corps has nine educational and action-oriented programming elements to engage a majority, if not all, grade levels (K-12) in a unified school district. The program takes into consideration EEI (Education and the Environment) essential principles and concepts, state and national academic content standards, as well as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) principles, and steeps them in local social, cultural, and economic conditions when implemented. The Environment Corps consists of: Speakers Bureau, Santa Monica Pier Aquarium’s Youth Environmental Education Program, Aqua Explorers, Lunch n’ Learn, Coastal Cleanup Education Day, “The Story of Water,” Creek 101, Youth/Teacher Summits, and Digi-Green. By inundating a school district over a five-month period with environmental programming, students, teachers, parents and district officials are all simultaneously experiencing a similar environmental literacy campaign at the same time. In addition, this targeted population will possess a level of understanding between environment and community to begin making informed decisions about follow through with behavioral changes. In today’s economic climate, we often have a difficult time justifying spending money on environmental projects, no matter how critical, when money is so desperately needed to fund our schools. We would embrace this grant as an opportunity to close that gap, and bestow much-needed funds and resources to a school district, while moving the marker forward on environmental change. Through our Healthy Neighborhoods, Healthy Environment Initiative (HN/HE) Environment Corps, we are committed to: Working with a specific school district to foster on-the-ground environmental improvement projects (e.g. campus and neighborhood cleanups, campus gardens); Providing high-quality, standards-aligned environmental education curriculum for thousands of students and their teachers through our partnerships with schools (prek-12th grade), colleges and youth-serving organizations; Coordinating presentations about environmental issues and solutions where students live, attend school, and recreate; Creating opportunities to participate in capacity-building workshops (e.g. how to communicate with policymakers), team-building summits (e.g. the power of networking and community organizing); and hands-on stewardship activities (e.g. removing trash from the banks of Compton Creek); Strengthening civic engagement outcomes by mobilizing students in a specific school district; Grooming the next generation of environmental leaders tasked with leading the charge in 10 years, 2050, and beyond. These programs working together in a focused manner will increase student access to parks and local open spaces, allowing them to participate in programs that benefit the local watershed.
What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?
Founded in 1985, Heal the Bay is a nonprofit environmental organization making Southern California coastal waters and watersheds, including Santa Monica Bay, safe, healthy and clean. We use science, education, community action and advocacy to fulfill our mission.
Heal the Bay’s first major challenge as a grassroots organization was taking on the Los Angeles’ Hyperion Sewage Treatment Plant. At the time, Hyperion was breaking the law on several counts, including the dumping of sewage sludge into the Bay. Heal the Bay attacked on many fronts: holding rallies at the beach, informing the media and the public about what was happening, packing hearing rooms, testifying before regulatory agencies, and signing up members along the coast. Due in large part to Heal the Bay’s efforts, the City of Los Angeles was forced to rebuild Hyperion and stop dumping sludge into the Bay. In the years since, Heal the Bay has been overjoyed to see the return of plant and animal life to the former “dead” zone in the Bay, and to know that ocean users are much less likely to become ill from swimming in contaminated coastal waters.
The Education and Environment Initiative (EEI) As a co-author of AB1548, more commonly known as the Education and the Environment Initiative (EEI), Heal the Bay has helped bring environmental education to classrooms throughout the state and at all grade levels. Staff continues to work closely with National Geographic and local school districts to ensure that the new curriculum is accessible to classroom educators and their students.
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) Due in large part to Heal the Bay’s efforts, new MPAs have been established along the Southern California coastline. These underwater “safe havens” allow marine life, especially those fish stocks suffering from the great decline, to replenish and thrive. Heal the Bay will continue to educate ocean users, including anglers, about the benefits of MPA and monitor activities through our citizen-led MPA Watch program.
Combating Plastic Pollution Heal the Bay continues to lead the charge on banning environmentally harmful and fiscally wasteful single-use plastic bags throughout the state. Staff is gearing up to work closely with policymakers and additional stakeholders to facilitate the adoption of a bag ban in the City of Los Angeles.
Environmental Stewardship and Volunteerism An astounding 36,400 volunteers participated in Heal the Bay-coordinated beach cleanups in Los Angeles County from November 2011-September 2012 (includes Coastal Cleanup Day 2012).
The WAYS Reading & Fitness Park In partnership with Wisdom Academy for Young Scientists (a charter elementary school in South Los Angeles), Heal the Bay is developing a multi-use park, which will serve as an outdoor classroom, community green space, fitness area, and water-quality improvement project in a community that is already underserved and disproportionately lacking park space.
Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.
Heal the Bay plans on targeting one unified school district in order to implement Environmental Corps.
There are two unified school districts we are currently evaluating: Lynwood and Inglewood. Based on district considerations and fit with other Heal the Bay programs and interest, we will make a decision prior to the grant award—if selected.
Our partners for the respective school districts would be: Lynwood: 12 elementary schools, 3 middle schools, 3 high schools, district administration, district board members, local PTA, and Booster Clubs.
Inglewood: 11 elementary, 2 middle schools, 4 high schools, district administration, district board members, local PTA and Booster Clubs.
Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?
In order to evaluate the success of our Environment Corp programs, we will measure the following:
Results of a pre- and post- environmental literacy surveys that we will conduct;
On the-ground environmental improvement projects and policies throughout the school district’s high schools (e.g. campus and neighborhood cleanups, increasing permeable campus space through the use of learning gardens);
Participation in public policy events (testifying, letter writing, or social media);
Participation in Heal the Bay-sponsored events (Coastal Cleanup Day, Day Without A Bag, and policy issue);
Total number of participants and those who state that they will matriculate into more-advanced programs;
The number of followers and/or participants related to our social media components over the grant period: Twitter parties, Instagram contests, Facebook posts, and Youtube posts.
Each of the nine programs includes qualitative analysis of knowledge learned, skills gained, and attitude/perspective change (one of the best indicators of behavior change). The specific evaluation technique changes from activity to activity. For example, Creek 101 uses simple pre- and post- test measures to evaluate base knowledge and acquired knowledge.
In addition to the above metrics for evaluation, Heal the Bay uses an internal ‘logic’ model to quantify program effectiveness. Finally, feedback from program participants and the community at large also helps us shape our programs, refine our messages and goals, and better communicate with our target audiences.
How will your project benefit Los Angeles?
Our Healthy Neighborhoods, Healthy Environment Initiative’s Environmental Corps campaign will benefit our fellow Angelenos by creating an entire community of educated and empowered individuals working to increase the amount of safe, clean, and healthy open space in the region, while also benefiting local waters and watersheds.
We will work throughout the targeted district from kindergarten through high school, as well as working with parents and district staff, to ensure that they are all receiving consistent message points.
Most people are unaware of how they impact the environment both in negative and positive ways. Our programs will increase understanding of basic scientific concepts as they relate to the environment, issues of pollution, and methods of conservation and stewardship. We will then take it a step further and work with the community and implement effective strategies of conservation such as community and school cleanups; creating learning gardens on campuses that increase permeable space; and provide students with easy access to green space, organizing campus recycling programs.
Additionally, we will work with the communities to empower them to take on projects that they are passionate about as they relate to creating a healthier environment, providing access to experts, funds and volunteers to implement these projects.
Our Speakers Bureau program is the easiest access point into our programs, providing information and conservation strategies to students and adults of all ages through assemblies at the schools. Elementary and middle school students will benefit from the Youth Environmental Education Program at Heal the Bay’s Santa Monica Pier Aquarium (SMPA), which provides hands-on, standards-based classroom field and lab-based programs.
We will target elementary school students through our Aqua Explorers program (a multi-class lesson for 3rd/4th graders in partnership with LA Neighborhood Land Trust, Children’s Nature Institute and reDiscover; Lunch n’ Learn (a combination classroom presentation with an educational beach field trip); and Coastal Cleanup Education Day (which takes 2nd-5th graders through an intense day of exploration, education, and stewardship at the beach).
We will target 8th grade students with the Story of Water 4-week program, leading to a school-wide behavioral change project. Creek 101 will work with 6th-12th grade students in a 3-part class and field based education and stewardship program.
Youth/Teacher Summits will provide in-depth focused training to students and adults throughout the district. Our new Digi-Green program will use social media and digital technologies to share ideas, experiences, and generate civic engagement and stewardship opportunities to all ages.
What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?
In the year 2050, Los Angeles will be a healthy, thriving, and desirable place to live.
Los Angeles will be a model green city with some of the best air and water quality in the nation due in large part to the invention and implementation of innovative green technologies at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach; the popularity of low-emission cars and LEED certified buildings;, solar-powered public transportation; strict, enforceable water quality standards; and fully implemented stormwater reclamation and reuse technologies (to address water supply needs).
Neighborhoods and waterways will be free of single-use plastic bags and bottles, polystyrene, and products treated with Phthalates, including Bisphenol A, a chemical believed to be harmful for humans and marine life.
High-quality environmental education curriculum will be taught at all Los Angeles area schools (K-12th grade) and will include ongoing stewardship opportunities.
Environmental stewardship, neighborhood beautification efforts and coastal cleanups will be a key component of ongoing civic engagement.
Overall, our Healthy Neighborhoods, Healthy Environment Initiative’s Environmental Corps campaign will work to create a Los Angeles 2050 where people have access to parks and local open spaces, individuals and families would be able to interact with local waters without fear of infection or sickness, and all of the connections between environmental and community health will be positive ones.