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Paul Hillman


By Aubrey Anaya & Elizabeth Velasquez

This article appeared in an inner city grade school Newspaper, October 1994 called "Lowell Tiger Times"

As most of you should know, we're building a habitat out in the concrete courtyard. Have you wondered who got the idea to start a habitat? Well, it was Mr. Garcia! He got the idea to start a habitat when he started a small garden with children. A group of teachers wrote a proposal and several letters asking different groups of people if they could donate supplies such as shovels, plants, trees, soil and all kinds of stuff to make our school look even nicer.

The whole school community activated this project: they participated in field trips to learn about desert environments, assisted with projects in the classroom, and served on the steering committee. The PTA sent the custodian to the University of Arizona Maricopa County Master Gardener Program to ensure the care for the habitat once it was installed.

There was a year long planning process. To ensure continued enthusiasm, an Arbor Day planting of shade trees was performed with youth adopting a tree or bush to be responsible for watering and care. Over the summer the concrete in the courtyard was removed. Irrigation was installed and holes dug for the trees.

In the fall, the entire inner courtyard was planted with desert trees, shrubs and flowers.

Over the years a ramada, an open air classroom, was built and later a riparian area was installed.

Many artists donated time and materials to tile the ramada, fence off the small pond, decorate exterior walls with a mural, and design signage and walkways.


The results of this urban wildlife habitat have provided an environment in which all of the factors in the model of "environmental literacy" can be viewed. As a result of the enthusiasm generated by this project the school has been designated as the Environmental Magnet School for the district.

What is also important to note is the response by the local community in relation to this project. Neighborhood cleanups in combination with the financial and physical assistance by persons from outside the area rallied a large effort to make the streets more tidy and green with additional trees and shrubs.

Vandalism has been minimal; and later tree plantings have also been accomplished. This program has been active for seven years under the continuing coordination of the principal, Alice Trujillo. Additional murals and science activities and projects have been generated over the years. What an exciting way to learn about the interdependence and the workings of our natural world.

Teaching children how to take responsible environmental action results in their more responsible behavior, according to their reports and their parents observations. The use of the arts as a means of instruction is a complement to any science lesson and their learning awareness. See the lesson plan.