School’s Native Plants Attract Higher Test Scores

School’s Native Plants Attract Higher Test Scores

I was out of town last week, but my husband forwarded me a Los Angeles Times article called Just Attracting, Naturally.  The front page article featured an urban LA school’s native landscaping that ended up “attracting insects, which attracted birds, which attracted students, who, fascinated by the nature unfolding before them, learned so much that their test scores in science rose sixfold” according to the article.

What a great thing! And a write-up that mirrors the experience we’ve had in our native landscaping projects at our Redlands home and our previous home in San Diego.

Briefly, Leo Politi Elementary School, just west of downtown Los Angeles, ripped out a pretty large area of concrete measuring 50 x 100 feet, and replaced it with native plants – sages (salvias), live oaks, wild roses and wildflowers like California poppies and snapdragons. All for $18,000 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, along with help from Los Angeles Audubon and other volunteers.

First came the insects – ladybugs, butterflies and dragonflies – followed by the birds that feed on them. Students became hooked, asking why some birds flocked to one plant and not others, and why migration patterns caused them to appear when they did. Altogether, the students have documented and illustrated (with the help of lessons in science illustration) 25 species of birds, including the meadowlark that came in Thanksgiving, the ash-throated flycatcher that visits each autumn and the white-crowned sparrows that migrate through.

Another exciting result is the  improvement in test scores. Three years ago, standardized test scores in science for fifth-graders showed 9% were proficient and none were advanced. Last spring, over half tested proficient or advanced.

The only negative thing about the article was the primary photo accompanying it showed a pretty barren area. Not very enticing in thinking native landscaping can be an attractive replacement to lawns or concrete. So — I need to include a few photos taken the last couple days of our landscaping – 3 years old now – mostly natives but also other wildlife-attracting low-water plants.

About Linda Richards

My goal is to educate about the science of nature in layperson speak, through my writing, science and education background. I grew up in the Chicago area, loved living in Minneapolis before gravitating to the West, which is now home.


  1. If you’re looking for grant info, my sister-in-law in the Chicago area asked me for programs in the Midwest -the schoolyard program seems to be Pacific Region only – at least on the website. but I did hear about prairie restoration projects funded by Wild Ones, called Lori Otto Seeds for Education. I’ll add it to the article. They give grants to schools to use for native plantings, etc

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