PHOTO BY MARTINA PARADISO
Jorge Camil and his son, first grader Eli, with the trash they collected at the Topanga Beach Cleanup.
The new co-chairs of the Topanga Elementary Charter School (TECS) Science Committee have pledged to uphold the schoolâ€™s position as the â€śBeacon on the Hillâ€ť of LAUSD by using the unique canyon campus and skills of engaged parents.
TECS parents Molly Lynn and Jessica Williamson will lead the Science Committee this year, stepping into the role previously shared by Kent Hill and Alisa Land, who have devoted immeasurable hours and energy as the committeeâ€™s co-chairs since 2017.
Science, along with the arts, are the two pillars of the TECS charter, in keeping with the interests of much of Topangaâ€™s wider community. The new leaders of the Science Committee, a vital subcommittee of the schoolâ€™s fundraising booster club, Topanga Enrichment Programs (TEP), are committed to building upon the hard work that has previously established the school as a leading light for environmental science education and conservation, and engaging children with the natural world using the five acres of oak woodland and nature trails on the campus.
â€śThis year, weâ€™re excited to welcome a whole new science committee of parents that are enthusiastic about making the schoolâ€™s science program and enrichments the best they can be,â€ť said Lynn, a communications and environmental programs expert and new Science Committee co-chair. â€śA new science program, agreed upon by leadership at the end of the last school year, aims to encourage intellectual exploration, building critical thinking skills so that students can use data to solve problems, and engage in the stewardship of environmental resources,â€ť.The committee of parent volunteers will support the work of Jeffrey Esparza, the new science enrichment teacher who started at TECS in August. Esparza, whose position is funded by TEP using donations from parents, will be splitting his instructional time between lab work in his specialist science classroom, and learning through nature outdoors.
The skills of the new generation of local parents are being tapped to add additional science events to the school calendar. Longstanding highlights like the Science Fair and Raptor Day will return, along with weekly science hikes for students. Alongside these existing events, some fresh offerings being created by the new committee members include rattlesnake awareness, a stargazing evening for budding astronomers, and special excursions to explore the tide pools at Topanga Beach. Building on an existing initiative, it is also hoped that more children from inner-city schools can visit Topanga Elementary in the future to experience the campus and unique learning opportunities.
Rectifying the Loss of Oak Woodlands
The new Science Committee has been formed at a particularly critical time for the stewardship of the schoolâ€™s outside spaces, with members of the local community currently demanding that LAUSD rectify mistakes made during brush clearance at the campus ordered by the District in Spring 2020, when protected oaks and native pollinator habitats were removed.
â€śWe recognize Topanga Elementaryâ€™s potential as a â€śShining Beacon on the Hill,â€ť said Williamson, new committee co-chair and director of the environmental conservation organization, World Information Transfer. â€śWe are committed to preserving our environmental resources, creating more green spaces for children, and maintaining the capacity to create a flagship model that can have a big impact throughout LAUSD.â€ť
Williamson made proposals to LAUSD executive Mark Hovatter at Septemberâ€™s Topanga Town Council meeting to ensure the schoolâ€™s precious natural environment is protected in the future. â€śWe aim to create a conservation easement, where we put together a committee of local stakeholders who are experts in the native and environmental landscape, who LAUSD would need to consult before doing any future construction or improvements to the campus,â€ť she said.
Butterfly Day was â€śHugely Successfulâ€ť
Previous co-chairs Hill and Land, who were among the organizers of the hugely successful Butterfly Day among countless other local events and initiatives, have been passing on their wisdom and experience to this yearâ€™s committee as they hand over the reins. All proceeds from the fundraiser benefit science education at TECS and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
â€śIt is important to note that we represent just one link in a long chain of parents who brought science enrichment activities to kids of Topanga,â€ť said Hill. â€śMisty and Jared Vest, Deborah and Greg Grether, Hannah Wear, Richard Brody, Rosi Dagit are a few names of parent alumni that showed us the way. We are thus particularly happy to see a new generation of very capable parents taking the baton as engaged and enthusiastic supporters of science enrichment, and bringing science activities to children at the school.â€ť
Parents or community members with ideas for the Science Committee should email firstname.lastname@example.org.
TECS Students Tackle Topanga Beach Cleanup
TECS students and their families collected more than 150 pounds of trash from Topanga Beach to mark California Coastal Cleanup Day. Dangerous waste from tiny Styrofoam pieces to large bicycle wheels, were collected by the team of more than 100 members of the school community on September 17. The group recorded data on the trash collected using Ocean Conservancyâ€™s Clean Swell App, thanks to parent Elisa Clay, mom of fourth grader Ella and first grader Vylet.
Coming up this month are two of the schoolâ€™s flagship fundraisers. On October 7, students take part in the annual Coyote Run, where they complete sponsored laps of the school track to raise money for TEP. On October 22, the highly anticipated Halloween Carnival at the Topanga Community Center returns, featuring music, games, and plenty of frights.
Money raised by TEP goes towards paying for resources that LAUSD doesnâ€™t fund, including class aides and the Science, Art, and Physical Education teachers. To donate: topangaelementary.org/donate.