The Great Outdoors: Environmental Stewardship in Urban Landscapes


South Tower - Terrace (end of the hall)

  • Primary Core Competencies: Design of Educational Facilities
  • AIA CEU: 1.0 LU HSW
  • Secondary Core Competencies: Ethics / Professionalism


"It's so important to raise a generation of young people who have a relationship with nature, because then they will want to protect it." Laurel Chor, Conservationist and National Geographic Explorer. Increasingly, individuals and communities are becoming aware of the relationship between quality of life and environmental literacy. Research has shown the importance of introducing children to nature and land stewardship at an early age, especially under-served, inner city children with less opportunities to access natural settings. Following a pedagogy of culturally relevant and responsive teaching, LAUSD's Office of Outdoor and Environmental Education offers students real world field studies at their outdoor education centers. High academic rigor, excellent instructional practice and a deliberately executed human relations and team building curriculum lead to expected the outcome: creating an emotional connection to learning and the outdoors. In partnership with community-based organizations, such as the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center, the Office of Outdoor and Environmental Education increased student participation in outdoor education programs from 4,800 to 18,700 in the last 5 years. The goal of the program is to provide every LAUSD fourth and fifth grader the opportunity to experience quality, natural world-based science at no cost to schools or families. Enhancing the outdoor environment has long been the practice of Landscape Architecture firm AHBE. Their practice explores the latest challenges and opportunities in implementing drought tolerant and native plants in high pedestrian areas such as school campuses. We will cover resiliency, maintenance and operations, and promoting healthy plant growth. We'll look at the challenges faced by facility maintenance staff and administrators on the paradigm shift to native and drought-tolerant planting from historical ornamental planting. We will discuss how we can make our schools more resilient for future generations by instilling the value of water conservation throughout the school district; from the district office administrators to the maintenance gardener. We will present examples from our projects-- Playa Vista Elementary, Jordan High School and Mount San Antonio College-- on the impact of how design maintenance operations affect the long-term success on the planting design and how it can be improved through education and better communication.

Learning Objectives

OBJ #1  Participants will learn strategies to utilize nature in culturally relevant and responsive teaching pedagogues.

OBJ #2  Using two Outdoor Education Center programs as case study examples, participants will identify inclusive education strategies to encourage positive attitudes toward science and to foster communication and collaboration skills.

OBJ #3  Participants will explore various methods to employ, and educate users on how to care for, native and drought resistant plants in their landscape designs.

OBJ #4  Participants will examine techniques of incorporating sustainability into school site design and the importance of instilling students with the value of water conservation.

Leona Ketterl, AIA, ALEP, LEED AP BD+C, Senior Architect, Rainforth Grau Architects

Gary Lai, RLA, ASLA, LEED AP BD+C, Principal, AHBE Landscape Architects

Gerardo (Jerry) Salazar, Outdoor and Environmental Education Administrator, Los Angeles Unified School District