LOS ANGELES, July 17, 2012– The fascinating world of urban ecology will welcome youthful researchers this week as English language learners from three local school districts begin a unique program that promotes environmental exploration to teach writing skills.
The program is part of a two-pronged project called “Science Teaching for English Learners – Leveraging Academic Rigor” or “Project STELLAR” for short. The first goal of the project is to develop a curriculum that will inspire students’ interest in urban ecology while they hone their writing skills. The project is supported by a $1.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
For the next two weeks, students will study the interdependence of humans and nature by investigating a creek area behind Culver City Middle School where local tree swallows are losing their traditional nesting places. The potential loss of the swallows, which survive on local insects, means increased use of pesticides by humans.
The young researchers will conduct field studies with binoculars, take notes, write reports and develop a public service video to inform the community about environmental impact of the shrinking swallow population.
The students in this pilot group are fourth- through eighth-grade students from the Wiseburn School District in Hawthorne, Lennox School District and the Culver City Unified School District.
In the other prong of the of the project, researchers will train about 150 teachers over the next five years in how to implement the program in other schools.
“This kind of program has never been done with this age group before,” said Magaly Lavadenz, principal investigator for the research and the director of LMU’s Center for Equity for English Learners, which received the grant.
“There is a national shortage of experts in science, technology, engineering and math and we have a talent pool of students who not only have the capacity to learn science, but can do it in dual languages,” Lavadenz said.
“Urban ecology is a perfect way to engage English language students because it is so accessible. You don’t have to go to a lab to do it. It’s right there in your own backyard and it’s engaging,” she said.