YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

East Valley Focus

SYLMAR : Schoolchildren Turning Lot Into Garden

August 19, 1993|CARMEN VALENCIA

After standing at the corner of El Casco Street and De Santis Avenue for 18 months, forced to look at a weed-choked dirt lot, school crossing guard Joan Tschaeche decided to improve her work environment.

Tschaeche asked El Dorado Elementary School Principal Dolores Palacio for permission to plow up the 27-by-37-foot lot on school property.

On Wednesday, Tschaeche, joined by half a dozen students of her alma mater, watched as a cactus garden took shape.

After shoveling dirt and raking leaves, the El Dorado students tackled the fun part of building a garden on campus. They got to play in the dirt--digging holes and carefully embedding tiny cactus plants.

"It's nice and fuzzy," 8-year-old Jessica Castro said as she softly stroked a half-moon with a yellow flower. "It's not like the other ones. You can touch it."

Nearly every morning since late July, students and a handful of parents have volunteered to transform the former plot of dirt into a slice of the California desert.

When completed in October, the cactus garden will serve as a nature walk for the school's 700 students.

Palacio jokingly refers to the garden as "Tschaeche's Desert."

From the outset, Tschaeche enlisted the aid of students at the school including her 7-year-old daughter, Petra, to give them a sense of ownership. "They can see the hard work it took to get it the way it is, so they can take care of it," she said.

The volunteers usually work on the garden in the morning before it gets too hot. The tiny desert oasis will eventually boast a birdbath and feeder, a park bench and identification signs next to the plants, which will include aloe vera, prickly pears and yucca trees.

Los Angeles Times Articles