Can’t say I haven’t thrown myself into volunteering at our public school.
1) because I believe the onus is on the parents to do so
2) I’m so grateful not be paying private school tuition anymore
3) I get a chance to gaze at my kid by doing so
4) her school started right after my dad’s memorial and I found being busy, with a purpose helped me feel better.
5) because I want her school to be prettier than my public school was–wouldn’t take much.
So, I just successfully completed heading up a landscaping project at her school.
I’m sure you know that California is now near the bottom of US states (47) when it comes to funding public education. So, there certainly is no beautification budget.
One are near my daughter’s classroom was bugging me. This part of the yard looked pretty sad. Some dead plants, dirt, water pooled in ruts after the rain. It took a little investigating to figure out the culture, who do I talk to ? Who do I get permission from? Who are the allies I need to get onboard?
I also am fortunate to have an old friend, Larry, who is a great landscape gardener. He came and consulted and wrote up a design for me, suggested plants, helped me get them at a lower cost and got me a couple of workers to till the soil.
Since there is no irrigation we had to pick plants that need minimal water, which are not usually the most colorful. So I decided that some fo the kids should make mosaic stepping stones to create color and a playscape. Larry suggested adding a rock river bed. It would help with the drainage problem the area has.
Our art teacher was enthusiastic about the project. So two mornings Mark and I were stirring concrete in a plastic pan on the ground under the hot sun while poor Rex ambled around. First happily, then with a look of “are we every going home? It’s nap time people”. While 5 and 6 year olds showed up in groups and the art teacher, and I explained the process. Get in a team, create a design, place the broken china, flat marbles, broken tiles (side bar, hard to buy broken tile. Just buy tile and break it, live and learn), sea shells and beads. Then we poured, hmm, well, not poured, more like spooned the concrete over it. I used 12 inch planter saucers as the form and they worked out very well. The stepping stones popped right out the day after they were made.
In order to cut down on the expense,which we bore for the most part ( not because people aren’t givers, but I really only asked one family, who did give generously. I felt bashful about asking people especially as I know people are at different levels of prosperity) I asked for volunteers to do the install. I booked a gig the day of the install so Mark was in charge of that great group of parents. I felt like I was missing Christmas morning. The next day when I dropped off Vivien I raced to see the new landscaping. If there is one thing I love it’s before and afters. What a difference. Kids were jumping from stepping stone, to stepping stone. The rock river bed proved more costly than we had anticipated. It’s 1,500 pounds of rock. Mark and a few other parents did all of that. The children like to run in it as well. Which is cool, but I worry a little about the design being corrupted. I was out with a rake trying to keep order the other day. Yes, probably futile and I suppose it should evolve and be useful to the students. But, it’s amazing how much more they interact with that space then they did in it’s old form.
One of my CORE beliefs is that aesthetics and architecture make a great deal of difference in the life and education of a child. I know the junior high and high school I went was, physically awful. It was depressing. When I started in broadcasting it was around the time of the LA riots.I went back to my old school which now had a lot of students who lived in South Central. I interviewed some of them. They conceded that yes, probably stupid to burn down your old neighborhood. These were smart kids, none of them had partaken in that destruction, yet, they understood it and helped me to understand it.
“Our neighborhood has no trees, no grass. We have liquor stores. We don’t feel respected growing up in such a place.” Then one student said something that became the name of the radio documentary I made and it always stayed with me:
” I don’t want to be here.”
I want my daughter and other kids of Los Angeles to want to be in their school. To feel respected.
Which means I’m now the Chair of the Landscape Committee. Cool, Landscape Mom.