At Hooper Elementary, we are a large urban elementary school serving 1,000 students, grades 1-5 in a high-poverty, high-crime area. We are the first elementary school in the Los Angeles Unified School District to receive a certified Nature Explore Classroom.
Students, teachers, and parents desired a greener school site. From the youngest of our first graders through our leaders in fifth grade, they worked towards building the muddy patch of struggling grass in front of our main office into an inviting outdoor classroom—a classroom with a welcoming garden in which all have the opportunity to gain love and respect for the natural world.
Our program includes a Nature Explore classroom schedule for all students and teachers to have the opportunity to plant seeds, respectfully care and nurture our garden, log in journal observations of growth and changes, responsibly share and explore with our Nature Explore equipment, and much more.
Mrs. Torres' 2nd grade students draw, paint, and sketch observations with direct connections to nature and the enriched environment we share. Students proudly post their findings and display them on their bulletin board. Mr. Ochoa's 2nd graders were learning about life cycles and planted red bean plants to observe the progress of this plant's life cycle. The students then planted their individual plants and included them as an extended part of the garden. He was also able to make direct connections with their “Growing and Changing” unit in Language Arts, in which his students read the story, "The Tiny Seed."
Ms. Yani's first grade class had the opportunity to use this outdoor space for expressive dance lessons with our drama teacher, as well as observing animals (bees, birds, and ants) that worked together, as part of their ''Teaming Up" unit. Ms. Abramyan's fifth grade class enjoyed the enriched experience for their engineer day lesson, and were truly engaged in this different setting. These first-hand learning opportunities were enhanced by this addition to our classrooms.
Proactive teachers like Mr. Ochoa have created signs throughout the year reminding users to maintain respect for our shared space and for each other, as well as for the equipment we are fortunate to have. Teachers Ms. Freedman, Ms. Renteria and our wonderful parent center coordinator, Ms. Lopez, along with volunteer parents, clean and weed our outdoor classroom. Teachers Ms. Yani, Mr. Martinez, and Ms. Abramyan coordinate their efforts to supervise our nature classroom and make sure that our area equipment is locked up to ensure continued enjoyment of our resources. Our committee has made suggestions of ways to meet standards by incorporating the use of our Foss Kit Science Program.
It is a team effort, and the enjoyment of this enriched space we are so fortunate to have is worth the community effort we all put forth.