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learn Winner / 2020

Los Angeles Audubon - Urban Nature Network

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by Los Angeles Audubon Society

Urban Nature Network will grow the next generation of environmental stewards by providing a pathway for higher learning opportunities, internships, and career development. A single student has access to a support structure that could serve them from third grade on through their first few years as a recent college graduate, providing them with opportunities to gain valuable experience in E-STEAM fields and hands-on experience in environmental research, habitat restoration, conservation and community action.

Has your proposal changed due to COVID-19?

Los Angeles Audubon Society (LAAS) has increased its organizational capacity by adapting existing programming into online environmental education activities that provide ways for students, teachers, and community members to stay connected to nature and STEAM learning during the Covid-19 crisis. Capitalizing on our new foundation of logistical know-how, we plan to further expand our online learning opportunities in the coming school year, blending guided science and art activities that promote a connection to nature at school, at home, and in local neighborhoods. LAAS’s staff members can channel their creativity, knowledge, and leadership skills into online formats, such as videos, webinars, and interactive Zoom sessions, that meet a high professional standard through collaboration with media experts at Catchafire (a service that provides professional skill-based volunteers). Once schools re-open we will also initiate “LA Audubon On-Campus” as an alternative to field trips. LAAS staff will visit schools multiple times a year with STEAM learning activities on campus and provide teachers with materials that further inquiry once the visit is over.

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • Central LA
  • South LA
  • Westside
  • LAUSD (please select only if you have a district-wide partnership or project)

In what stage of innovation is this project?

Expand existing program

If you are submitting a collaborative proposal, please describe the specific role of partner organizations in the project.

The Los Angeles Audubon education staff is leading this program. However, the program’s growth and access to outdoor nature sites is made possible through our decades-long relationships with park and beach management agencies within LA County and through our long-standing relationships with the Los Angeles Unified School District educators.

What is the need you’re responding to?

Many youth in the urban core have little access to nature. The program aims to empower youth from elementary school through their early professional years to become stewards of their community via hands-on environmental education and to have a voice in their environmental future. Science-based nature education takes place at schoolyard habitats, parks, and beaches where students study nature up-close. Network alumni in their college years are highly effective docents in our elementary and middle school field trip programs and also help mentor high school students entering our paid internship program. The Nature Network serves a diverse group including children and adults with developmental, learning, and emotional disabilities through our connection with the Exceptional Children’s Foundation (ECF).

Why is this project important to the work of your organization?

Nature demands action! We must provide today’s youth with the knowledge and leadership skills necessary to meet the environmental challenges that lie ahead. The program serves more than 5,000 urban students each year at schoolyard habitats, after-school outdoor learning labs, and science-based field trips. We are uniquely positioned to reach urban youth through our long-standing relationships with LA County schools, parks and beaches. The majority of students we serve come from economically disadvantaged families.

By offering under-served youth early access to nature education and paid internships that provide hands-on experience in environmental research, habitat restoration, conservation and community action, we will be able to further our mission by inspiring and empowering the next generation of environmental stewards to pursue higher education and career goals that they may not have known existed.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this proposal?

Direct impact
Indirect impact

Please describe the broader impact of your proposal.

Los Angeles Audubon believes that engaging under-represented urban communities are a key component to achieving long-term conservation success. Creating a workforce in the fields of natural resource management, environmental science, urban planning, and environmental education that reflects a true diversity of communities will be key to keeping these fields relevant, innovative, and effective. Students participate in public land management meetings (Baldwin Hills Conservancy), assist CA Parks with volunteer training, and alumni and young staff members attend nature advocacy day in Sacramento. We also engage 1,000 community members in habitat restoration events at parks and beaches and aim to inspire widespread environmental stewardship.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.

The Nature Network program will:

Engage approximately 5,000 students in grades 3 to college in environmental education activities. We scaffold programs to provide increasing opportunities for greater involvement in nature as students get older. For example, a single student could participate in all of our nature education programs - beginning with a third-grade field trip to Ballona Wetlands, a middle school session at Kenneth Hahn Park, then as a high school intern at Baldwin Hills, and upon graduation become a community leader and paid LA Audubon intern.

Provide bus transportation for under-resourced schools to participate in educational field trips to Ballona Wetlands, parks and beaches.

Empower high-school students via after-school paid internships that will include mentoring elementary students at parks and schoolyard habitats where intergenerational learning leads to life-long stewardship awareness.

Support high school students with college-prep workshops (many are first-generation college applicants.) Over the past decade, we’ve helped students who’ve received acceptance letters from 71 different colleges, including Amherst, Brown, Cornell, UC Berkeley, Santa Monica, West LA, CSLB.

Offer the possibility of full-time employment opportunities for college graduates who’ve come through our program and have returned to give back to their LA community.

Which of the learn metrics will your submission impact?​

  • Enrollment in afterschool programs
  • College matriculation
  • Opportunity youth (“Disengaged youth” 16-24 not working or in school)

Are there any other LA2050 goal categories that your proposal will impact?

  • LA is the best place to PLAY
  • LA is the healthiest place to LIVE

Which of LA2050’s resources will be of the most value to you?

  • Access to the LA2050 community
  • Host public events or gatherings
  • Communications support
  • Office space for meetings, events, or for staff
  • Capacity, including staff
  • Strategy assistance and implementation