Students and volunteers build a drought-tolerant garden with California native plants at Nathaniel Narbonne High School.

By Amanda Kirkpatrick
Nature Conservancy

Five dozen students from Nathaniel Narbonne High School in Harbor City teamed up last week with community volunteers, digging in and taking action to improve the local environment.

Students worked hand in hand with more than 40 Lowe’s Heroes employee volunteers and staff from The Nature Conservancy and the California-based nonprofit Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers and Native Plants to create a native habitat garden. Students learned from environmental professionals about how building a garden using drought-tolerant plants native to California uses up to 80 percent less water than conventional non-native gardens, and supports biodiversity by providing important habitat for wildlife like birds, insects and pollinators such as butterflies and bees.

The students and volunteers planted more than 200 drought-tolerant plants native to California, and made other improvements to the large garden space, including installing a pond, mulching and weeding to ensure that the new garden would thrive.

The students and volunteers also contributed to the sustainability goals of the L.A. Unified School District, which has stated goals to be the greenest and most sustainable large urban school district in the nation, while providing experiential learning, preparing students for the green economy, and creating a culture of environmental stewardship.

“I am very proud of our students at Narbonne High School for being leaders in promoting environmental sustainability, and for doing their part to make the Los Angeles Unified School District the greenest and most sustainable large urban school district in the nation,” said school board member Dr. Richard Vladovic, who represents the campus.


Students mulch and weed the community garden to ensure the new drought-tolerant plants will thrive.

Narbonne High School’s garden was revitalized during the 2015-16 school year under the expert guidance of horticultural teacher Tina Perry. When Tina was hired by Narbonne, the 1-1/2-acre space had been neglected and ignored for over 10 years. With Tina’s expertise and the ingenuity of her students, the space has thrived in the last year with support from The Nature Conservancy.

“Narbonne High School prides itself on interactive learning,” Perry said. “With this garden, we’ve created living green classroom to provide our students an enriching and beautiful outdoor space to learn in and enjoy. The garden provides students a natural environment to experience hands-on science as well as engage in many other learning concepts for their other courses.”

The garden work day was made possible through The Nature Conservancy’s Nature Works Everywhere school grant program, with generous support from Lowe’s. The Nature Works Everywhere program provides small grants to schools around the country to build or amend school gardens or other green spaces on school campuses, and provides engaging curriculum and lesson plans to help teachers utilize the campus gardens or other green spaces as living learning laboratories to teach science.

About 55 Nature Works Everywhere school grants will be awarded in the 2016-17 school year to schools across the nation. To learn more about the many standards-aligned curriculum resources and offerings from Nature Works Everywhere, visit