Our High School students have lost no time in rolling up their sleeves and digging into the complex topic of the revitalization of the LA River. We began the LA river design challenge back in October at City Hall, with a presentation by Carol Armstrong and Chris Piña in the LA Riverworks office. They described how the revitalization of the LA River fits into Mayor Garcetti's Sustainable City Plan. Since that first off-campus site visit, our SIP teams have fanned out over Los Angeles, covering quite a bit of ground visiting the Bowtie Parcel, River LA, the Rio Vistas in the Elysian Valley, Sunnynook Park with the Nature Conservancy, Friends of the LA River (FOLAR), the River Project, Arroyo Seco Foundation, and LA Más.
At the beginning of this design challenge, several of our students had never been to the LA River; many more had been there before but had never seen any flowing water in it. At this point in their investigation, all students have visited the river and their first hand observations are informing their understanding of the river's importance to the development of LA. In one early site visit, one of our community partners asked the students, "What makes a river a river?," which happens to be an important question for a city that only gets 35 average rainy days per year.
Other topics include what makes a watershed, how certain areas of the river have higher levels of groundwater contamination, why the soft-bottomed section of the LA River was never channelized, how increased interest in revitalizing the River neighborhoods may affect long-time residents, and how different types of public-private partnerships have created a platform for art and community events along the river. We are still very much in the beginning phase of our LA River design challenge. Over the next few MODS, students will narrow their focus to design a strategy that addresses a particular issue.