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Exploration: Students Visit the L.A. River's Bowtie Parcel

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LFCSA Students visiting the Bowtie Parcel for the 1st time | Photo: Evelyn Serrano
LFCSA Students visiting the Bowtie Parcel for the 1st time | Photo: Evelyn Serrano

Students from the Los Feliz Charter School for the Arts are re-imagining the Bowtie Parcel along the Los Angeles River as part of a project entitled, the L.A. River Design Project. Youth Voices is highlighting the student's work and creative process as it connects to our civic engagement and digital media curriculum.

The Los Angeles River is the longest paved waterway in the world, running through thirteen different cities as it winds its way from Canoga Park to the Pacific Ocean. The 51 miles provide a home to two-hundred species of birds and nineteen species of reptiles and amphibians. The waterway has also appeared in dozens of movies, but remains largely invisible even to people who pass by several times a day.

The Los Feliz Charter School for the Arts (LFCSA) is located near the L.A. River, just north of the area known as the Bowtie Parcel. Although restricted from accessing the River by railroad tracks and fences, the school community nonetheless feels a strong connection to the River. Third grade students from the school are currently on a journey to learn more about the River and envision it's future. The L.A. River Design Project is an opportunity for these students to participate in a process of re-imaging what the Bowtie Parcel could become, and for city planners to benefit from the unique insight that children can provide.

The L.A. River Design Project is a product of the Arts for L.A. ACTIVATE program. The Design Project was imagined by ACTIVATE program member and LFCSA parent, Sonny Calderon, who proposed a project that would be replicable in other schools, and would have at its core the focus on youth as active participants in the life of their city.

For their project the LFCSA students will design a public use plan for the space, and create models that could be used by city officials as inspiration for the actual planning of the parcel. This allows the students to delve deeper into our understanding and stewardship of the river, while developing a sense of civic agency as full participants in the life of their city.

In April, students took a short field trip onto the lot and learned about preservation and exploration of the river's ecosystem with representatives from California State Parks, which owns the Bowtie Parcel, and staff from Clockshop, a multifaceted arts organization based in Elysian Valley.

Photo by Charlie L., Student
Photo by Charlie L., Student

Armed with a discovery worksheet and digital cameras, students set out to capture their observations of what they saw, smelled, and felt alongside the L.A. River. Guided by questions such as "What information can you gather using your senses?" and "What could be improved about this place?" students saw this unique space with wonder and potential.

Charlie's Worksheet
Charlie's Worksheet
Linus' Worksheet
Linus' Worksheet

Other students used their digital cameras to capture images of the native and non-native plants, and the animal life that thrives alongside the riverbank.

Photo by Simon B., Student
Photo by Simon B., Student
Photo by Simon B., Student
Photo by Simon B., Student
Photo by Simon B., Student
Photo by Simon B., Student
Photo by Charlie L., Student
Photo by Charlie L., Student

Students also explored and learned about "The Unfinished Obelisk," a temporary installation by artist Michael Parker located on the Bowtie Parcel as part of The Bowtie Project, a collaboration between California State Parks and Clockshop to activate the unused parcel. The horizontal 137-foot monolith is a smaller scale replica of an Ancient Egyptian archaeological site.

Photo by Charlie L., Student
Photo by Charlie L., Student

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