By Sue Pascoe
City officials can thank students at Palisades High School for beautifying the median that divides Bowdoin Street. The upper median planting took place on Saturday morning, Jan. 28, along with a dedication ceremony.
“When I used to come to school, there were clumps of ivy and rock-solid dirt on this median,” said PaliHi teacher Steve Engelmann. “I thought it never reflected that well on the high school, even though it was not school property.”
Under Engelmann’s leadership, students in his EAST (Environmental and Spatial Technology) class decided to beautify the property with drought-tolerant landscaping. Aileen Figueroa (class of 2016), who now attends Whittier College, told the News, “Mr. Engelmann brought it up and I thought if a couple of kids could do this and show sustainability, it could inspire others.”
Students met with Palisadian Doug Suisman, an internationally-recognized urban designer, who helped with his city contacts. The students assessed the soil and determined what plants needed to be removed and what new vegetation would be appropriate. They determined the cost of the mulch and plants, and drew up a presentation for the PaliHi Booster Club.
“I made a virtual 3D flyby and we made a brochure,” Figueroa said. “Greg Gladkov [now a freshman at Berkeley] grew 200 of the plants at home.”
The booster club gave $10,000, which paid for the lower median (between the school entrance and the football stadium). “We still wanted to do the upper median, but we were out of money,” Figueroa said.
Booster club members Ivy Greene and Susie Newman spoke to Sony Pictures Executive Director James Brennan about additional funding.
“We have a Greener World Grant program” that targets reducing the carbon footprint, Brennan said. “The kids did a beautiful 3D and showed how their project immediately saves water, as well as permanently. This project shows the community that water saving can be beautiful.”
Sony also has an employee volunteer program that works with schools and beautification. Ten employees helped with the planting on Saturday. “The students did the legwork and outreach,” Brennan said. “We joined forces to make it happen.”
TreePeople’s Amanda Bagley was also at the site. It is a non-profit environmental organization based in Beverly Hills.
“TreePeople was started 40 years ago by a youth,” she said. “We believe in the power of youth.” Her nonprofit supplied gloves and garden implements, while Bagley gave planting tips.
Although the city was supposed to have have a drip-irrigation system working at the lower median in August, it was not. During the fall semester, three students from Engelmann’s class (Karina Cruz, Ichrak Ekhalouti and Valerie Cifuentes) hauled buckets of water from the school to the median two times a week to water plants.
The water source is now promised for early February, but until then Connie and Curt Sobel are allowing students to use water from their home for the upper median.
The Larry Newman Brass Quintet of Sue Edwards (French horn), Newman (trumpet), Robert Musto (trumpet), David Edwards (trombone) and Mark Geiger (trombone) provided “planting” music.
PaliHi teacher Karyn Newbill’s knitting class provided blue-and-white “yarn bombing” on the trees. The knitting will be repurposed for healing blankets to be given to assisted living residents.