A connection to nature may not be what people think of first when they think of Highland Park but it was what a group of student producers had in mind on a recent visit to the Audubon Center at Debs Park. A few of the students had purposely identified parks in their neighborhood as their hot spots in order to showcase the accessibility of open green space in their community.
The Audubon Center was opened in 2003 inside the fourth largest park in the city of Los Angeles, Debs Park. It was designed to be an environmental education and conservation center for the communities of northeast Los Angeles. The Center, which is surrounded by predominately Latino neighborhoods (Highland Park, Lincoln Heights, Hermon), is a unique gathering place and dynamic focal point for outdoor recreation. The center is key part of the Audubon's national outreach initiative to engage the Latino community.
The students who took part in the field trip were able to tour the center, take pictures and interview Ximena Gil, a Franklin High School alumni, who works with the Center's educational programs. She talked about being a regular visitor to the park as a little girl and her initial excitement when the Center first opened.
Ximena elaborated on the Center's mission and the many educational and outreach activities the Audubon Center has developed and implemented to encourage local residents to learn about and take advantage of the hiking trails, vegetation, bird and animal life, all just a few streets away.
The students also learned about the history of the Center and how the design of the buildings and grounds focuses on a number of key environmental issues that are at the heart of sustainable building, including renewable energy sources, water conservation, recycled building materials, and native landscaping. The 5,023 square-foot building is powered by on-site solar systems - functioning entirely "off the grid." Inspiring students to ask, "why aren't more buildings built this way?"