New Maker Club and Butterflies

Topanga Elementary Charter School students unveil the newly made sign for TECS Butterfly Garden. It reads: “Butterfly Home Under Construction.”


This month we begin an exciting new enrichment at Topanga Elementary called Maker Club! Inspired by a visit this summer to the new Octavia Lab makerspace/audiovisual studio at the Los Angeles Public Library, several parents have joined forces to create our own Maker Club and have planned several upcoming afterschool events for the fall.

The first workshop will be a Documentary Filmmaking class with Amy Ruskin, a Topanga parent and Director of Classes for Young Actors at the Ruskin School, teaching students the basics of pre-production, cinematography, and interviewing.

The following week, J.B. Whittenburg, a Topanga parent and Maker educator, will be leading a coding workshop where students will use Scratch to design animations, interactive stories, and basic video games.

In December, Monica Zaidman, Designer and Founder of the Moona Star Collective, will lead a Nature-Infused Clothing Design workshop where children will create, dye, and decorate clothing, scarves, and bags to wear.


This past spring, the Science Committee of Topanga Elementary Charter School partnered with the Greener Empowerment Foundation of Topanga Canyon and successfully won an award of 1,600 plants to support monarch habitat restoration from the Xerces Society for the Conservation of Invertebrates. Of more than forty applicants, TECS was the only school to win this honor and one of only seven recipients in southern California. 

The students of Topanga know that they are incredibly fortunate to have a school that is also a wildlife habitat. “Since we are in charge of the future, we need to protect our wildlife and help the monarchs as part of this,” said fifth-grade student Rebecca Land Hill.

The vision for this project is to support native flora so that pollinators such as the Western Monarch butterfly can flourish. We believe that by engaging the school and local community as stewards of monarch habitats, we will increase the prospects for survival of this important pollinating insect. To that end, we have engaged several local businesses to plant and steward these plants as a vital habitat. 

Multiple challenges face butterflies, bees, and other critical pollinators due to climate change, pesticide use, and urbanization of native lands. Multiple invertebrate species are severely taxed and facing near-extinction events, including more than an 80 percent decline in the current population of Western monarch butterflies.

On October 27, we hosted a Monarch Butterfly Pollinator Stewardship Launch Party at the Topanga Center Courtyard next to the General Store. Greener Empowerment Foundation director Hannah Wear gave a lecture on the importance of habitat restoration at this challenging environmental moment. 

“I want to help save butterflies in this world because I love nature and butterflies help keep the flowers and plants alive,” said Kristian Land Hill, second grade.

Our timeline for this project will include several phases. We are working now to prepare several sites at the school and in the community for planting. We received our shipment of 1,600 native perennial transplants from Hedgerow Farms on October 28. Since our school’s campus is within five miles of the coast as the monarch flies, our plant kit will include plants adapted for coastal regions including: Salvia Mellifera (Black sage), Solidago velutina ssp. californica (California goldenrod), Symphyotrichum chilense (Pacific aster), and Verbena Iasiostachys (Western vervain). 

We have identified four sites on the elementary campus for planting: The Butterfly Hillside Garden, the Fifth Grade Legacy Project Restoration Garden, the Girl Scouts Native Garden, and the meadow within the five acres of oak woodlands on our campus. 

November 12-15Jointly, we are working to organize a wide team of volunteers to plant during a series of days from at Topanga Elementary School. School students will plant during the school day and other community members will be able to plant in the afternoons after school. Please consider joining us. We have created several opportunities to support this Topanga-wide Monarch Butterfly Pollinator Stewardship program and welcome all community agencies, businesses, and individuals to join us. 

We also ask businesses to provide space for a small plaque to state that the plants are part of this project in exchange for plants for your site. If you are a private citizen, you may also receive plants in exchange for either time assisting in planting or a modest financial gift to support the costs of this installation. 

Our team will do our best to help with technical support as you raise your habitat plants. Please contact Hannah Wear from Greener Empowerment Foundation,; Alisa Land (Hill), MD at; or Elisa Clay at, all from Topanga Elementary Charter School Science Committee, for information on how to get involved. The butterflies need our stewardship. We hope you will join us in this special opportunity to make a difference. 

November 16 from 2-5 p.m.We’ll also be planting around the community at several sites on Saturday, starting in the Topanga Creek Center Courtyard. Our current partners include Topanga Elementary Charter School, the Greener Empowerment Foundation, Manzanita School, Sassafras Shoppe, the Topanga General Store, Flower Power, and the Topanga Library. We hope to engage more community partners in the coming weeks.


By TECS News Team


No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.