2023 Grants Challenge

California Native Plant Teacher Toolkit

Theodore Payne Foundation's Teacher Toolkit will consist of teaching materials for K-12 students, to promote CA native plants in schools across the city. This program will support enhanced STEAM education and utilize experiential learning (both indoors and outdoors) to meaningful develop students' relationship with the natural world. By providing this programming, we empower young Angelenos to make choices that directly impact conservation of water, biodiversity and the overall health of Los Angeles.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

K-12 STEAM Education

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

Central LA

East LA

San Gabriel Valley

San Fernando Valley

South LA

West LA

South Bay

Antelope Valley

County of Los Angeles

City of Los Angeles


In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Pilot or new project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

Los Angeles lies within the California Floristic Province (CFP), a biodiversity hotspot recognized globally as having exceptionally unique and diverse flora and fauna under severe threat of habitat loss. However, many Los Angeles residents are unfamiliar with-or have misconceptions about-the CFP, our Mediterranean-type climate, and the remarkable wildlife surrounding us. As we face increasing threats from climate change, we urgently need to develop shared, public ecological awareness and stewardship, especially amongst future generations. Native plants are integral to addressing the challenges of carbon emissions, water scarcity, air pollution, rising temperatures, and biodiversity loss. By integrating native plant education across multiple areas of the curriculum in LA public schools, this proposal instills plant awareness, promotes ecological understanding, and empowers the youth of Los Angeles to create meaningful environmental change in our region.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

We are proposing a multi-tiered toolkit to be shared with schools across Los Angeles, which serves to shape and deepen understanding about the unique and important plants that have formed Los Angeles, culturally and ecologically. The first tier in the program is a free, bilingual plant-identification poster, entitled "The Plants Around You," to be hung in classrooms and school offices, that shares the common and important native plants of Southern California with students, educators, parents and school administrators. The poster would be provided to educators at no cost, and paired with a plant identification guide, dissolving barriers to plant recognition. Connecting to the poster, TPF will host four 90-minute webinars with up to 1,000 attendees each, which will be archived on the teacher resource page at theodorepayne.org. Each webinar will use a standards-based approach to demonstrate how to teach about California native plants across disciplines (Math and ELA for grades K-5, Science and the Arts for grades 6-12). Building off of the webinars, TPF will host a two-day, in-person cohort targeted at teachers at Title I schools via an application process. This summer training will consist of hands-on training, coaching teachers on integrating native plant knowledge into their teaching. The training aims to cultivate a community practice that sets the cohort up to support each other, as well as other interested parties after the training concludes.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

If our work is successful, students and educators across the county will be able to recognize common and important California native plants. Educators will integrate California native plants and ecology into their classrooms. Children across grades K-12 will have a foundational understanding of the vital role that native plants play in our ecosystems and how our cities, neighborhoods, schools and homes are a part of that ecosystem. Students will be better prepared to succeed in jobs in a growing California green workforce, due to this addition to their STEAM education. Our work will help meet the urgent need for young people to have a deeper understanding of native plants, as this expertise will be essential for a wide range of jobs, from land and resource management to residential landscaping. By fostering curiosity, understanding, and respect for the natural world in our youth, we will develop an ethic of environmental stewardship and biodiversity conservation throughout LA County.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

This is a pilot program to introduce native plants into schools in Los Angeles, which would be built upon in subsequent years. - The first step in success with our poster is successful delivery to all 782 LAUSD schools. - A letter in our poster package will direct participating teachers to go to theodorepayne.org, download the Teacher Toolkit, and register for corresponding webinars. - TPF staff will assess website data from theodorepayne.org with a target of at least 500 downloads of the Teacher Resources. - Pre-and post-surveys administered by TPF staff will analyze how schools are using the posters and curriculum content, and shape future iterations of the Teacher Toolkit. - By October 2024, survey responses will show at least 1,000 posters meaningfully present at schools around LA. - 20 teachers will complete the in-person Summer training event and provide feedback that will shape future iterations of the program.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 1,500

Indirect Impact: 35,000