MONROVIA, Calif. — Local public schools are cutting the concrete and adding more green spaces to their campuses as part of a larger initiative to make schools more climate friendly.
Santa Fe Middle School in Monrovia recently underwent a green space transformation. Sixth grader Elianna Cortez Wiley sat in the new spaces to talk with her BFF, Mea.
“I can look up and I can see the birds flying and I can see all these little cute baby moths and plants. It’s so calming,” Elianna said.
Eighth grader Tony Aguirre sat and read in the spaces loaded with rocky seats and native plants. He remembers what it used to look like.
"It was mostly just pure cement, it was just darkness,” Tony said. “It wasn’t even gray. It was black here.”
A lot of the black has turned green at their school. Santa Fe is the latest school to undergo a green space transformation.
Nonprofit Amigos De Los Rios has raised $2.9 million thanks to state and local grants to cut the concrete and beautify schools in the San Gabriel Valley.
Founder Claire Robinson has been turning schools green for 18 years to introduce nature where students learn.
“It is absolutely critical that we bring nature to our public school system,” Robinson said. “Whether it be elementary, middle or high school, every student needs nature. Mental health benefits, physical fitness, academic performance, all of these are linked to the presence of nature on campus.”
The rocks aren't just a gathering place but a perfect space for outdoor classrooms during the pandemic. The green spaces have underground infrastructure that replenish water supply.
“It used to run out to the street, the storm water, and now it’s infiltrated and captured for our municipal water supply,” Robinson said.
Elianna loves that green spaces have infiltrated her school.
“It’s just amazing how much plant life is here and I think there should be more plant life at all schools,” she said.
Amigos De Los Rios transforms schools and parks and community spaces around the San Gabriel Valley.