Memory Mapping Los Angeles @ Leo Politi Elementary

June 6, 2013

This Sunday our brand new Nature Lab opens for every Angeleno to enjoy. Aside from all the other fun stuff that will be in the exhibit — live animals, camera trap footage, awesome taxidermy — it's going to be a place to tell stories about L.A.'s surprising biodiversity. During the development of the Nature Lab we would often find ourselves sitting around a table telling stories of the crazy nature encounters we'd had. Like the time my friend Kristin left her favorite bar in downtown and saw a deer walking down the street! Seriously. Kristin's L.A. nature memory illustrated by Martha Rich:

To encourage visitors to recount their own L.A. nature memories we captured 16 unique stories (including Kristin's) and had six amazing illustrators (Brian Rea, Mark Todd, Martha Rich, Liz Burrill, Lizzie Swift, and Anne Field) draw memory maps for them. My favorite of all the memory maps, tells the story of 17 students from Leo Politi Elementary school and the wildlife they have experienced in their super-urban schoolyard habitat. To make sure the school, the students, and their principal, Brad Rumble were properly represented in this memory map, I had to take a field trip. I like field trips! First, I got to see their amazing habitat. Did I mention they were able to do this because of L.A. Audubon and that you can almost throw a rock at the skyscrapers in downtown?

Then, I got to hang out with the kids in their special Scientific Illustration classroom!

In the classroom, I led the kids through an activity so they could create their own memory maps of their school yard habitat. Here's an example by 5th grader Marlon:

I really liked Marlon's memory map because of the mental images it evoked. I can picture the kids getting excited the day a hummingbird got stuck in their classroom. I can also imagine how the kids must have reacted when they saw a Red-tailed Hawk eat a pigeon in the Big Yard! I brought all 17 of the carefully drawn memory maps back to the Museum and shared them with illustrator Liz Burrill. She worked her illustrative magic and created this:

I really can't wait to see the kid's reactions when they see their memories on display in the Nature Lab, when they see their school, their principal, their habitat, their memories, and their illustrated selves in the exhibit! Come by to check out the rest of the stories and then take some time to share your own memories with us.  

(Posted by: Lila Higgins)

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