Sycamore Grove: Gaining an Understanding of a Unique Place in L.A.

When is a field trip more than just a field trip? When the students are documenting what they are seeing, feeling, and learning with the intention of gaining an understanding to then develop an artwork that will guide and facilitate the future visits of others. That is what the students from the Los Feliz Charter School for the Arts (LFCSA) did on their recent visit to the Sycamore Grove area of Highland Park.

The project stems from the school's collaboration with artist Louisa Van Leer and the Living Museum, a project designed to expose the public to the rich history of Sycamore Grove and help develop it as a community asset. The area includes Sycamore Park, the Arroyo Seco, Heritage Square, the Lummis House, and the Audubon Center at Debs Park, as well as other local treasures. Cumulatively they all help to tell the story of the area. Departures Youth Voices is a partner in this exciting endeavor, providing resources from the Youth Voices curriculum and the Departures Highland Park installment, as well as a platform for the students to share their work.

As fifth and sixth graders from LFCSA visited different locations, they wrote their observations in their Youth Voices Notebook, took photographs, and asked questions to gain an understanding of everything they were seeing. Their notes and photos can be seen here.

The next step for the students is to map the location they visited and identify the people, places, and things that stood out for them. They will also have an opportunity to meet and listen to several community residents and experts that will add to their understanding of Sycamore Grove. From this site specific research and investigation, they will begin to formulate their artwork that will be featured at Lummis Day 2014.


Below are some of the comments and questions the students wrote, and photographs taken during their field trip. To read more of their observations click here.

Heritage Square

"Are they still adding houses to Heritage Square?" -- Lukas Seklir

"I saw a neighborhood stores and artists painting." -- Isaac Leslie

"Why would no one want the house in Heritage Square?" -- Esme Chiara

"The field trip was so much fun!" -- David Valdés Redrado

"I saw so much nature, plants, and animals but my favorite was all the awesome houses." -- Vincent Johnson-Lee

"The houses were amazing (and old,) and going inside of them that was amazing too, everything in there is HANDMADE!" -- Rafael Seifu-Schmeing

"How did they move the house?" -- Gus Barden

"Who were the people who lived here?" -- Paolo Di Donato


Lummis House

"The actual house looks as if it was based on a castle. How did it hold up in the 1994 earthquake?" -- Stephen S.

"How has the House stayed in good shape for so long?" -- Wyatt Zingus

"The Lummis House is now a museum with an 'un-ancient' bathroom!" -- Daniel Coro

"Why did he [Charles Lummis] walk from Ohio to California?" -- Sarah Weisz

"Why was there a dog with black fur following Charles Lummis?" -- Roman McLennan

"Why did Mr. Lummis choose to build his own house?" -- Simone Lincoln


Audubon Center at Debs Park and the Arroyo Seco

"What did Native Americans eat? Were there poisonous plants that they would accidentally eat? Were there threatening animals? How many Native Americans lived here in the past and now?" -- Parker Metzger

"Where is the river's source?" -- Keven MacDonald

"How would you remove the concrete from the river?" -- Isaac Pavalon

"Why would they choose to empty all of the water from the river?" -- Brianne Arca

"We took a little hike to the Audubon Center an saw a lot of native plants and even got to eat a pepper." -- Danna Lopez

"When was the Audubon Center created? Why was it created? Who had the idea to create it?" -- Eva Schweber

"I though the best part of the field trip was going to the river. There was a bunch of native plants." -- Emma Calder

All photos courtesy of the Los Feliz Charter School for the Arts

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Exploration: Vanessa Cortes Field Trip Observations

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Mapping: Walking through Sycamore Grove

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