The work of engaging young people with the outdoors is more important than ever. As funding cuts to 70 California State parks looms overhead, it was apropos that the season closer for the Natural History Museum's Sustainable Sundays on May 22nd was entitled "Urban Wild Parks."
"Today's about getting them in touch with their local parks and having them learn about where to go for some outdoor space....to get them excited about being outside. I think there's a real disconnect with video games and computers. Kids are spending more times indoors," said Brianna Burrows, Program Manager at the Natural History Museum.
Burrows estimated that up to 1,800 people, mostly families with kids between the ages of 3 and 12, would experience the exhibit by days end. Breathe LA had hundreds of terrarium containers that were snatched away by 3 p.m. They also created smog catchers and non-toxic cleaners. The Children's Nature Institute created portable miniature gardens. Communal art pieces decorated the walls, created in collaboration with 826LA.
(A few memorable quotes read: "I hope they never cut down the trees. I want them to get more trees for the squirrels. - Diego." And, "Then we saw some poop. It was nasty. I said, "Bummer." This is my memory of Echo Park Lake. I love Echo Park Lake. -Ximena.")
The museum goers flooding into the exhibits were greeted by Rangers from the National Park Service and LA City Department of Parks and Recreation who stood eagerly behind tables, ready to answer questions, use their instructive animal skin props, diagrams, or hand out pamphlets.
Ranger Tom Mendibles from the LA City Department of Parks and Recreation even tried to see the silver lining in the impending park closures.
"We're always sorry to see places closing, but now the city of LA is trying to create passive recreation, where now the land that they are acquiring, they'll make it more into native plants...permeable surfaces. So I think even though we're losing some of the recreation sites, we're gaining some of the native side that I think is important for us to have here in LA...You can find the negative, but we're trying to do something positive as well," Mendibles said.
Tree People further explained the need for permeable surfaces using a spray bottle, a plastic diorama, and sponges representing trees. They explained how rainfall turns into runoff on asphalt or concrete, but becomes absorbed into the ground through permeable surfaces like trees or grass.
"It's really awesome to be able to come to this event and tell people: if you want to see nature but not have to drive far away you can come and see this oasis of nature right in the middle of Los Angeles," said Torin Dunnavant, the Community Engagement Manager for Tree People.
Tree People will be holding the first annual Green City Fair on Saturday, June 4th from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sustainable Sundays at the Natural History Museum will resume in the fall.