PaliHi Students Replant Bowdoin Median

By Sue Pascoe
Editor

For decades, people have driven past the median that separates the four lanes of Bowdoin in front of Palisades High School. The median runs from about Temescal Canyon Boulevard to the top of the hill where it intersects with Northfield Street.

To say it was ugly—packed with hard dirt, dead plants and a few trees—would be an understatement.

During the 2015 school year, students Aileen Figueroa, Sangeet Dhandwar, Maggie Thompson, Esther Galvez and Greg Gladkov in Steven Engelmann’s EAST class (Environmental and Spatial Technology) took steps to landscape the median.

This was the median before the students (left to right) Aileen Figueroa, Sangeet Dhandwar, Maggie Thompson, Esther Galvez, and Sean Barnett did soil preparation and planting. Photo: Steve Engelmann

This was the median before the students (left to right) Aileen Figueroa, Sangeet Dhandwar, Maggie Thompson, Esther Galvez, and
Sean Barnett did soil preparation and planting.
Photo: Steve Engelmann

Calling themselves the Pali Median Team, they first checked the soil to determine what kind of plants would grow well in that narrow space.

“They determined drainage was not good and the soil had a great deal of clay,” Engelmann said.

Next, the group visited the Theodore Payne Foundation for wildflowers and native plants in Sun Valley (theodorepayne.org or (818) 768-1802).

Planting the median—one plant at a time—are Maggie Thompson (bottom) and Esther Galvez. Photo: Steve Engelmann

Planting the median—one plant at a time—are Maggie Thompson (bottom) and Esther Galvez. Photo: Steve Engelmann

Established in 1960, the foundation operates a retail nursery that offers hundreds of different species, many of which are drought tolerant and low maintenance. The Median Team spoke to experts to determine which plants would do best in the school’s coastal climate.

The team then went to the PaliHi Booster Club for funding. Internationally-recognized architect Doug Suisman, who is heading the Gateway Beautification Project at the school, was at the meeting when the students presented.

Afterwards he wrote to the team, “I wanted to congratulate all of you for your energetic, clear and persuasive presentation at the Booster Club on Tuesday night, and for the wonderful job you have done of turning the median landscaping improvements from merely a laudable idea into a real and compelling environmental project.

“I was so impressed with all your efforts: doing the scientific legwork, getting up to speed on plant selection, soil, and irrigation, establishing a detailed budget, and navigating the city bureaucracy to find support and get approvals. And even more, by your exceptional efforts to try and show your ideas through a variety of visual means, from photographs of existing conditions, to a lovely watercolor rendering, to a stunning 3D model with a fly-through video.

“You guys should be very proud of your work, and the Gateway team is very proud to be able to include the median as a featured element of our project. I hope the Booster Club granted your funding request, and that you are successful in your other fundraising efforts.”

Members of Steve Engelmann’s class are filling water cans in order to water the plants on the median by hand. Photo: Steve Engelmann

Members of Steve Engelmann’s class are filling water cans in order to water the plants on the median by hand. Photo: Steve Engelmann

The boosters gave the students $10,000.

Some of the money went to a landscaping crew that had to loosen the cement-like dirt to make planting possible. The students also discovered that the existing irrigation pipes were broken and this required them to lobby the DWP to replace them—still a work in progress. Although the selected plants were drought tolerant once estab- lished, they needed water initially.

Meanwhile, Greg Gladkov collected sunflower seeds and planted 200 pots, providing 6-inch seedlings when the median was ready to be planted.

All five students graduated last June, but they came back over the summer to put in drought-tolerant plants. Wood chips were placed around the plantings to help retain moisture.

Three new students from Engelmann’s EAST class taking over the next phase of the project, including the watering of the plants, are Valerie Cifuentes, Karina Cruz and Ichrak El Halouti.

“The more kids are involved, the more they take on ownership,” Engelmann said. “The new students feel it’s their median now.” Even in October, the original Pali Median Team members were still texting their teacher to ask him, “How are the plants doing?”

Engelmann, whose Envirothon team took third in the nation this past summer, attended the fall semester’s first Booster Club meeting. He told the News, “One of the parents stood up and said, “There were five kids who presented last year. I’ve worked my whole career in a Fortune 500 company. They were so professional; we’d hire them on the spot,” referring to the Median team.

The median has been completed as far as the entrance to the stadium, and the EAST class will now tackle the top half. The students have received partial funding but will soon need to reach out to the community.

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