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New Engaging Library at South Los Angeles School Inspires a Love of Learning

Kaiser Permanente partners with the Los Angeles Unified School District to create a special space at Barrett Elementary School to help students succeed.

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With stunning wall murals featuring a breathtaking desert, an enchanted forest, a lively ocean, and deep outer space, Barrett Elementary School’s newly created library at the South Los Angeles campus resembles scenes that could be from a children’s adventure book.

“This isn’t your everyday reading room,” said 10-year-old Heriberto Bueno, an aspiring engineer, as he gazed in awe at the Upper Elementary Library’s new décor during the project’s unveiling on March 9. “It’s unique.”

In collaboration, the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Jordan-Locke Network, community members, and Kaiser Permanente transformed an unused Barrett Elementary classroom into an engaging space for students. The beautification project is part of a larger effort to help ensure all children in our communities can have the opportunity to learn, grow, and succeed.

“Kaiser Permanente is in schools because we know health is much more than medical care,” said Angela Coron, managing director, community benefit, Kaiser Permanente Southern California. “Wellness is about kids getting a chance in life, it’s about kids learning – and it needs to be inviting.”

Students participate in the creative process

Barrett Elementary School’s new reading room features vibrant wall murals that represent California’s distinctive range of ecosystems, as well as outer space, bringing nature indoors in an immersive, 360-degree experience.

“I painted that fish!” said student Teaka Evans, age 10, pointing excitedly to the sea wall mural. Teaka enjoys building things and is interested in pursuing a construction career.

Helene Cobb, an artist and retired Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) teacher who designed the murals, emphasized the importance of including others in the creative process.

“By making everyone a part of this, that’s where the magic happens – this is their library,” said Cobb, whose work can be seen at several schools in the Los Angeles area.

Library wall honors STEAM heroes

A library wall dedicated to the Barrett Elementary School STEAM Academy’s focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics, showcases inspiring heroes in those fields who mirror the school’s diverse population.

“STEAM is the future, it’s where the high-paying jobs are, and careers that are not even imagined yet,” said Jera Turner, principal, Barrett Elementary School. “Kaiser Permanente’s support of STEAM in the library helps advance our efforts.”

Wanda Austin, PhD, former chief executive officer of Aerospace Corporation, a leading architect for the nation’s space program – and one of the shining examples on the STEAM Heroes Wall – shared her own success story.

“When I was about the same age as you, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do yet,” said Dr. Austin to the young students in the crowd. “But my parents told me I had to do well in school, do my homework, and read – and I listened. I didn’t know in elementary school that one day the president of the United States was going to ask me to help him.”

Volunteers make project possible

The volunteer teams from Kaiser Permanente Southern California Educational Theatre and Kaiser Permanente Watts Counseling and Learning Center (WCLC), along with school staff and community members, also turned plain library desks into works of art, creating colorful, energizing work surfaces. Even an air conditioning unit hanging from the ceiling became an eye-catching space station. Additionally, drought-resistant, native California plants were planted in an outdoor play area to attract wildlife and nurture an appreciation of nature.

Most of the library’s detailed work was completed on Martin Luther King Jr. service day in January. Educational Theatre donated more than 4,000 books to the project as well. They also committed to presenting all three of their elementary health education programs at each of the 16 Jordan-Locke schools over the next three years, with follow-up support provided by the WCLC.  

“We are happy to have been invited to help create a special place that encourages a love of learning and sparks students’ curiosity about the world around them,” said Gerry Farrell, director, Educational Theatre, Kaiser Permanente Southern California. “We hope it will continue to inspire students at this school for many generations to come.”

Learn more about Kaiser Permanente Educational Theatre’s elementary health education programs to promote literacy, manage conflict and encourage healthy eating and active living.

For highlights of the Martin Luther King Jr. Service Day at Barrett Elementary School, check out this video

To learn more about Kaiser Permanente’s work in the community, visit: https://community.kp.org/