GirlMS

How to Be Like the Glaciers Melting

Guest contributor Leslie Birch, 2014-2015 LandLab Resident Artist

A few years ago I sat at my computer reading the latest on the demise of the glaciers in the Arctic. I was angry with the polluting corporations, fed up with the greed of the oil industry, disgusted by people’s consumption, and alienated by a government ruled by lobbyists. I felt frozen, as if calamity had already happened; some days I was even bleak about the future. My home thermostat was set to 69, two of my computers were on, I was surrounded by electronic parts for a project and I was getting ready to drive to Whole Foods in a Honda Element wearing a puffy NorthFace jacket picturing a tall Chai Latte. Feel free to laugh, as I’m certainly laughing now as I write this. How long did it take me to figure out that I was the problem?

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Luckily for me a a few years ago I also discovered the Schuylkill Center’s LandLab program and started an investigation of a gully that had formed from stormwater runoff on the southeastern side of the Center’s property near Port Royal Ave. This water finds its way down to Wind Dance Pond, where it eventually overflows into the stream. With the help of Stroud Water Research Center I was able to develop a monitoring system to measure the changing depths of the stream. While this was an interesting project, what is pertinent is the fact that I was forced to face climate change head on. Philly is getting hotter and wetter, and while the Center can’t stop mother nature’s waters it can encourage artists like me to communicate the problem and get involved.

ClimateDisrupted

After the project was over, the Center asked me to collaborate on two other art/education projects dealing with water issues, thanks to a grant from CUSP (Climate & Urban Systems Partnership). CUSP is working on preparing Philadelphia for the future issues brought by climate change and they work locally getting neighborhoods on board using friendly techniques. I decided to join their efforts and have become part of a team of organizations and individuals starting conversations, offering education and demonstrating mitigation techniques.Thanks to their workshops I’ve learned how to discuss this topic without scaring people, have discovered what other partner cities are doing to face the same issues and have attended lectures by experts in the field. I should mention that I don’t have a science background, but I do consider myself a citizen scientist. CUSP’s strength is its ability to bring all types of people together, and later in the year I worked with another member artist to create the first climate change art festival under their umbrella in Fishtown. It was exciting to create my own art on the topic of corn and weather, and fascinating to see how people expressed their climate concerns using mixed media, including spoken word and music. The Schuylkill Center’s fall 2016 exhibition on climate change was part of the same grant and has brought together even more artists and enabled more people to join the conversation.

PublicLab

As you can see, what started as a small project has snowballed, and I find myself looking for other ways to combine my interests to work on the problems of climate change. One of my strengths is working with electronics, so I recently joined Public Lab, a grassroots movement using DIY techniques to address environmental concerns. I attended their LeafFest gathering, which was a weekend camping trip where members demonstrated their latest environmental work including solar balloons, an Arduino modem style device and a trail cam. I learned about a project they are developing which uses a houseplant and aquarium pump to help reduce toxins in the air. They sent me home with those materials and soon I’ll be creating a tutorial for the project that can be shared around the world. It’s all part of the mission to offer open source methods to monitor and mitigate environmental issues.

So, having come from a state of being frozen like a glacier, I too am melting. There are many small changes that can help this planet,and I’m starting to make them part of my life. Nowadays I’m walking to the grocery store with my husband. It’s great exercise, less stressful and certainly kinder to the environment. I recently learned just how important it is to give feedback to our government officials about environmental matters. So, I’ve returned to my old ways of calling legislators and writing emails. Now I’m learning how to combine art and activism through free webinars from The Center for Artistic Activism. Someday I hope to engage other groups and artists in work that goes beyond education and actually encourages others to make changes.

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My story isn’t “yea, me” because there is probably a lot more I can do to serve this world. However, it is a huge thank you to the Schuylkill Center for helping me to realize that by working on one small problem I would gather the courage to do more. There is a reason for the Center’s commitment to the arts and it goes beyond appreciation for beauty; it’s another strategy for voice and change. We all have the ability to do more, whether it be to add water-loving plants to our yard, to make a roof reflective, to buy our food locally or to just have a conversation about the environment with our neighbor. Doing one small thing makes all the difference. What kind of strategy or skill can you offer to help Philadelphia prepare for the changes that are already beginning?

2017 Calendar january feature_Jake Beckman

Reflection of Environmental Art and Time: January

By Liz Jelsomine, Environmental Art & Pubic Relations Intern

Editor’s note: The Schuylkill Center produced a wall calendar for 2017 in celebration of the environmental art program.  Throughout the year, we’ll run a monthly post on our blog highlighting the art works featured in that month of the calendar.

Artist Jake Beckman, LandLab Resident Artist from 2014-2015, sheds light to the often over looked world of forest decomposition in his ongoing installation at the Schuylkill Center, Future Non-Object #1: Sol’s Reprise.

Beckman explored the detritus cycle of a forest and its disruption by invasive earthworms by creating sculptural installations that make these hidden processes visible to visitors. This wooden sculptural installation inoculated with local fungal spores will break down over time and enrich soil health. The piece poses questions about where the raw materials of life come from, what happens to “waste” in the forest ecosystem, and how the components of soil can affect the health of an ecosystem. The sculpture exists as a quiet meditation in the forest.

The name of the piece, Future Non-Object #1: Sol’s Reprise, can be related back to multiple sources. Sol Lewitt was an American artist linked to various movements, including Conceptual art and Minimalism. You can see these geometric and modern influences in the design of Future Non-Object #1: Sol’s Reprise. While Lewitt had created his work to last long after his time, as many artists do, Beckman intended for his sculpture to slowly disappear and eventually cease to exist. “Sol” can also play as a double meaning in the sculpture’s title, relating to its meaning in Spanish, “sun.” The sun is a major component of Beckman’s sculpture, in which it helps organisms to grow and aid in the decomposition of the piece.

It has been a year-and-a-half since Beckman’s sculpture has been installed at the Schuylkill Center, but the effects nature, the elements, and decomposition have had can already be seen. The once new and bright wood composing the sculpture is now dark and saturated. Leaves covered the sculpture in the fall, which will continue to play a large role in decomposition. Slight decomposition of the wood can already be seen, and depending on the time of year, various mushrooms of all shapes and sizes have popped up in and around the sculpture.

Beckman’s work is the featured art work for January in our environmental art calendar.  You can view the rest of the calendar and order it here.

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About the Author: Liz Jelsomine is a graduate of Bowling Green State University with a BFA focusing in fine art photography. She provides commercial photography services, is involved in several photography organizations in Philadelphia, and is currently an Environmental Art & PR intern at The Schuylkill Center.

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Children Need Nature: Teaching Peace

Children Need NatureBy Rebecca Dhondt, Sassafras Classroom Lead Teacher

This time of year tends to be full of excitement and energy.  With so much baking, decorating, and visiting going on there are many stories that Nature Preschoolers are eager to share.  Children naturally begin to compare notes, trying to understand what is happening in their own homes and wondering about the ways others might celebrate teachers in the Sassafras room heard exclamations such as: “I have a Christmas tree too!”, “What is an Elf on the Shelf?” and “How do you play dreidel?”

An early way to help introduce children to cultural inclusion is to build on this natural interest in holidays.  This year the Sassafras class has spent time exploring Hanukkah, Christmas, Winter Solstice, and Kwanzaa.  We have welcomed visitors, read books, played games, sung songs, cooked traditional treats, and had many lively discussions.    The children love learning new things, finding similarities and differences.  After learning about the seven concepts of Kwanzaa one of the preschoolers said: “We don’t celebrate Kwanzaa, but we still care about all those things!” Continue reading

Going Up Gallery Wall

Climate Change Art Spotlight:  Jill Pelto

By Christina Catanese, Director of Environmental Art

Looking back over the year of environmental art at the Schuylkill Center, one of the highlights of 2016 was our gallery show, Going Up: Climate Change + Philadelphia. Along with the work of seven other artists exploring the various facets of climate change, this show included a new work by Maine artist Jill Pelto which was created specially for this exhibition, called Philadelphia Sea Level Rise Scenarios.

Pelto herself is both an artist and a scientist, and uses her watercolor paintings to communicate scientific data in a more visually compelling way.  Starting with data and charts as the framework for her paintings, she creates landscapes that enliven environmental information. For example, in Landscape of Change, Pelto uses the form of a line graph of declining glacier mass to depict a glacier, while a graph of rising sea levels is represented by deep blue water. Jagged red and orange imagery takes its shape from data on increasing forest fires, and increased atmospheric CO2 is shown as a gray sky. Continue reading

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Call for Art: Community

Jenny Ryder, Environmental Art & PR Intern

With the dawn of a new year approaching, it’s as good a time as ever to commit or re-commit yourself to new year resolutions and opportunities for the future.

At the Schuylkill Center, we are committed to using our various platforms and resources to help inspire meaningful connections between people and nature—whether that be through our Nature Preschool, here on the blog, in our gallery, or just a simple retweet. As we renew our commitment to the planet and our ecosystem this year, we must necessarily renew our commitment to all of those who help us to keep our doors open and programs running: you!

Community, the next gallery show at the Schuylkill Center, will celebrate local artists across different themes and media. The show will be a non-juried, salon-style exhibit open to members and non-members alike, featuring Schuylkill Center staff members, visitors, volunteers, and friends. Works from every artist who submits will be included—find all the details here and submit your work by December 15.

Enquiry Into Plants

Stephanie Jones, Enquiry Into Plants (Historia Plantarum), after Theophrastus: Maturation

 

Anna, Manager of Communications & Digital Strategy at the Schuylkill Center, is looking forward to seeing a snapshot of our community as a whole, “This show is all about creating in community; from all these different crowd-sourced works, something beautiful comes together, something that paints a portrait of who we are.” With only a week left to submit work, we are already so excited about the wide range of submissions we’ve received over the last month.

Last year, volunteers logged over 14,000 hours at the Schuylkill Center, most of them spent keeping our wildlife clinic up and running. Volunteers do everything from watching our front desk during staff meetings, preparing and throwing our many seasonal events, and saving the toads every spring during our ever-growing Toad Detour, among other various duties. We are lucky to have such an involved group of community members, and look forward to being able to showcase some of our friends’ and neighbors’ work on our gallery walls.

Urban Jungle

Elisa Sarantschin, Urban Jungle


 
“This gallery show excites me more than most others because of one thing: perspective.” Elisa, coordinator of our NaturePHL program (more on that in the spring), and longtime former volunteer, is excited to witness the multitude of ways our friends and neighbors see and experience life in our upcoming show. “Giving people space to share their perspective on art, nature, and the Schuylkill Center in any and all ways is phenomenal.” In an aesthetic sense, Elisa’s photographs capture intricate as well as expansive and dynamic elements of the native wildlife in and around the Schuylkill Center. She is interested in seeing the other artistic perspectives by which people find a way to connect back to the natural world.

Cassandra Petruchyk,a volunteer at the wildlife clinic, has memorialized Zelda, the Clinic’s beloved and longtime turkey friend, in a portrait for the show. We’ve received some beautiful botanical depictions of the growth and maturation of local flora, photography of local landscapes and animals, and more.

Not all work will revolve around what we traditionally refer to as “nature.” We’ll encounter themes of memory, time, and all sorts of explorations into the realm of human experience, from poetic engravings to modern dance.

Help us ring in the new year as we renew our commitment to the land and open our doors to art from our local community. Whether or not you plan to submit to the show, thank you for all your support, as we could not do what we do without you.

Community will be accepting submissions until December 15th. There is no submission fee and all artists who submit will be shown in the gallery. The show will open with a reception January 26th at 6pm.

Northern Red Oak

Field Guide: Fallen Leaves

By Jenny Ryder, Environmental Art and PR Intern

Enjoy our mobile field guide as you walk, hike and play in the fall forests. Take in the beauty of crunchy fallen leaves in the city and the forest and easily identify the trees from whence they came.

See other Field Guide posts here.

Tulip trees (Liriodendron tulipifera)

tuliptree.gifTulip trees (Liriodendron tulipifera), commonly referred to as Tulip Poplar, are abundant in the forest at the Schuylkill Center, and their mostly-yellow turning leaves roughly resemble the shape of a cat’s head or—as you might have noticed—a tulip! Another mark of a Tulip tree leaf is their glossy texture and symmetry.

Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra/Quercus borealis)

Northern Red Oak

Querecus means “beautiful tree,” rubra “red,” and borealis, “north” in Latin. As opposed to white oaks, the lobes of the Red Oak’s leaves are pointed instead of round. Red Oak leaves have 7-11 lobes and extend clearly off the center vein. You can find Red Oaks on the streets of Philadelphia, too, as they are able to resist salty sidewalks in the winter time. If the squirrels or deer haven’t eaten them up yet, you can also find bitter acorns among the crunchy Red Oak leaf piles.

Big-tooth Aspen (Populus grandidentata)

Bigtooth Aspen

Big-tooth Aspen can be identified by their easy-to-spot “teeth” on the edges of their simple and relatively round leaf shape, coming to a point at the top. They are usually yellow in the forests this time of year, like many other native leaves. You know you’ve found an Aspen leaf, though, if its stem (petiole) is flattened and perpendicular to the surface of the leaf (see below). The flat stem makes the leaves quake at even the slightest breeze, hence the name of this leaf’s smooth-edged cousin, Quaking Aspen.

Flat stem of Bigtooth Aspen

Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)

SCEE6175 Sassafras

Sassafras is a quick one to identify—with their iconic two or three-lobed shape, sometimes they mimic the shape of a mitten, with one lopsided thumblike lobe and a larger one. Either they’re mitten-like, or they resemble something like a three-toed dinosaur footprint, with three distinctly deep lobes. Catch them in any number of their swiftly changing color palettes—from red-brown to yellow-green.

Red Maple (Acer rubrum)

Red Maple

I’m not usually one to play favorites, but… this might just be my favorite fall leaf. The colors on the leaves of the Red Maple this time of year could be likened to a paint-splattered canvas, blending gorgeous shades of yellow, rich reds, and orange. Sometimes, they’ll have three gentle lobes and other times, two more will tooth out at the bottom for a more recognizable maple shape. They range about 2 to 4 inches wide and tall, and are quite flexible and soft in texture—great for pressing in a book and saving for a dreary winter day. You might recognize the Red Maple’s silhouette from our Schuylkill Center logo at the top of the page!

American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)

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Here on the trails at the Schuylkill Center, the biggest leaf you’ll find likely fell from a Sycamore tree. These look a lot like the familiar shape of a maple leaf, with 3-5 lobes, but with bigger teeth around the edges. Although they normally range from 4 to 9 inches long, staff at the Center have found ones much larger than our faces—up to fourteen inches! Their stems are noticeably enlarged at the end, too, which encase the buds when still attached to the mother tree. Sycamores, also commonly known as buttonwood trees, and are proud members of one of the oldest tree families, Platanaceae, which dates back over 100 million years.

Happy crunching!

Jill Pelto climate change indicator data in Philadelphia

Climate Change: Making the Global Personal Through Art

 By Christina Catanese, Director of Environmental Art

What does climate change mean for Philadelphia?  As a large, complex, global process, it’s not an easy concept to wrap our minds around.

As you might expect, climate models project pretty clearly that Philly will face a future that is hotter and wetter.

According to CUSP – the Climate & Urban Systems Partnership , scientists predict that in our region we could experience as many as three additional weeks of days over 90° by the 2020s. All that heat not only is unpleasant, but can also lead to serious health risks.  CUSP also found that the Northeastern US has been experiencing more frequent extreme precipitation events than any other region in the country. Not only will we get more total rain, projections say that climate change will cause heavy downpours to become even more common and intense.  Philly’s tidal rivers are also impacted by projections of sea level rise, and the combination of more rain and rising sea levels is concerning for low-lying homes and infrastructure, like the airport.

It definitely helps to have localized data about climate change to understand the impacts, but even so, we can still not fully understand the implications of climate change, or worse, feel powerless to do anything about it. Art about climate change has a unique potential to make these problems personal and relevant – just what the Schuylkill Center’s latest gallery show strives to do.  As part of the Center’s Year of Climate Change in 2016 and our ongoing effort to talk about climate change in new, relevant ways, our gallery show this fall unpacks what climate change means for our region.  Continue reading

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All about our staff vegan challenge

By Anna Lehr Mueser, Public Relations Manager

Michelle Wilson’s Carbon Corpus, in our fall gallery show Going Up, explores food and carbon – for this conceptual art piece Wilson ate vegan for each week that participants sponsored, essentially selling credits for the carbon saved by eating vegan (estimate at 35 kg of carbon per week of veganism).

Inspired by this, eight of our staff gave veganism a try. Here, they reflect on learning to eat without animal products for a week.

Emily, Public Programs Coordinator

Having been vegetarian in the past, I was not at all worried about missing meat.  I was terribly surprised how much I did miss it once I started (I having gotten used to eating meat again)!  However, about three days in I was very much back on the bean-over-meat train.  I had been most worried about yogurt, egg, and cheese.  Egg and cheese I did surprisingly okay without! In terms of yogurt, I explored both the almond and coconut substitute, and they were both pretty good (albeit expensive).

For recipes, I reverted to my vegetarian go-to:  Quinoa, black bean (or any bean), and sautéed greens.  I spice up the greens with oil, salt, pepper, cayenne, cumin, and ginger.  Quick, easy, cheap, and good for making in big batches. I also really enjoyed making butternut squash soup again, especially this time of year.

Emily’s Butternut Squash Soup
  1. Cut and de-seed squash.  Sprinkle inside with salt, pepper, oil, and bake until almost fully cooked.  Not done completely, but enough to where peeling is easy (425 or so for about 30-35 min – I like to let it finish cooking with the other ingredients).
  2. Peel the squash and cut into about one inch cubes.  In a big pot, sauté shallots (or onion, you can also add garlic) in oil until caramelized.
  3. Add squash and enough vegetable stock to cover squash (you have to kind of eyeball this-how thick do you want the soup).
  4. I then add more pepper, and cayenne or nutmeg/dash of cinnamon depending on my mood.
  5. Let it all simmer together until the squash is soft, then I use an immersion blender to blend into soup.
Elisabeth, Manager of Public Programs

I was consciously aware of the treatment of animals after trying the vegan challenge. This is something that’s frequently in the back of my mind. To me, being vegan is a very delicate balance between what’s good for humans, animals, and the environment. And a lot of those things compete with each other. So I did make a conscious decision to shop at a store that, while I know is not perfect, is one where I can at least be more broadly knowledgeable about where the food is coming from.

I found that transitioning to a plant-based diet takes time, money, planning, and also failures. You can re-contextualize your commitment through your failures and reflection on those failures. For me, I’m trying vegetarianism. Veganism was too much of a challenge for me in my current lifestyle.

Christina, Director of Environmental Art

I’ve given up meat for Lent a few times, and one time both meat and cheese, but this is my first time going without any animal products at all. I always find that restricting my diet in some small way helps me make healthier choices about what I am eating in general – it’s a heightened consciousness of eating:  I can’t eat meat, hmm, I should eat a salad.  Just an extra beat to make a more mindful choice.  Overall, I feel like it is helpful and productive to realize how much my diet relies on animal products, and how unnecessary that is.

Besides the fact of not eating cheese (which as a person of Italian descent I think I am just not equipped to do) and having cream in my coffee, what I didn’t like about eating vegan was that it sometimes forced me to make choices that felt less healthy for reasons that felt somewhat arbitrary.  For example, an otherwise healthy breakfast of (non-dairy) yogurt, berries, and honey is off the table, so if I want to take the edge off the unsweetened yogurt, more refined sugar it is.  Getting enough protein has been a little bit of a challenge also, without being overly reliant on soy and other super processed synthetic proteins.

In terms of meals, I enjoyed Mollie Katzen’s Curried Squash and Mushroom Soup (I always skip the yogurt topping) and came up with my own soba noodle salad recipe. I also found an amazing chocolate peanut butter pudding recipe which I had to share.

I’ve come out of this vegan journey with a renewed sense of balance and moderation in my approach to eating – I think I’ll reduce the portion of my diet coming from animal products, but not to a strict degree.

Christina’s soba noodle salad:

Peanut sauce:

1/3 C vegetable stock

4 Tbsp peanut butter (could use another nut butter)

4 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari

2 Tbsp red wine vinegar

1 Tbsp Sesame oil

Scallions to taste.

Veggies: thinly sliced/grated kohlrabi, bell peppers, carrots.

Seitan

Soba noodles

Mix together the peanut sauce and combine with veggies, seitan, and noodles.

Donna, Director of Finance and Administration

I knew I loved cheese but I don’t think I realized just how much I love cheese.  This was by far my biggest challenge.  Non-dairy coconut creamer made a nice addition to coffee; an addition I may continue in the future.  I did miss my yogurt but, again, cheese was harder.

I went into the week striving for a 90 to 95% success rate and made it to around 85%.  I showed up at my 84-year-old mom’s house to take her out to lunch and she had food on the table that she wanted to “use up” so she didn’t wish to go out…food consisting of eggs, cheese, turkey… I couldn’t turn her food down but went heavy on tomato and light on other ingredients.

In summary, as I was hoping, this challenge raised my consciousness for the foods I consume.  While I certainly am promising no one I will give up cheese and dairy forever, I will be more mindful of my choices in the future, and continue to strive to support ethical and responsible food suppliers.

Jenny, Environmental Art & PR Intern

Vegan week was a little challenging but I went really hard on lentils and chickpeas, and had to cave for pizza one time but it felt good to abstain from dairy for the most part, especially with allergies and seasonal colds going around. I made pumpkin oats in a crockpot and a vegan “tuna” salad out of chickpeas which was pretty great and lasted all week for lunches. I ate it on toast with greens all week (sometimes with sriracha). Really good with some sliced avocado, too, and if you’re really hungry, a veggie burger layered on top.

Jenny’s Chickpea “tuna” Salad:

1 can chickpeas

Big scoop of veganaise (vegan mayo)

Pinch salt

Pinch pepper

Some garlic powder

~1/4 of an large yellow onion, diced

Tiny bit of olive oil

All you do is mush it all up in one bowl and enjoy!

Jenny’s Pumpkin Oats in a Crockpot

2 cups steel cut oats

7 cups water

2 cups pumpkin puree

2 tsp vanilla extract

½ tsp table salt

2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

½ cup dark organic maple syrup

2 tsp ground cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in your slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours. 1 cup serving size.

Optional: ½ cup honey, peanut butter for a layer of protein and deliciousness!

Seven of eight staff joining in the vegan challenge stand inside Michelle Wilson's "Carbon Corpus." Left to right: Mike Weilbacher, Jenny Ryder, Michelle Havens, Patty Boyle, Donna Struck, Emily Harkness, Elisabeth Zafiris. Not pictured: Christina Catanese

Seven of eight staff joining in the vegan challenge stand inside Michelle Wilson’s “Carbon Corpus.” Left to right: Mike Weilbacher, Jenny Ryder, Michelle Havens, Patty Boyle, Donna Struck, Emily Harkness, Elisabeth Zafiris. Not pictured: Christina Catanese

Leaf storting activity

Children Need Nature: Getting Ready for Kindergarten

Leaf storting activityBy Shannon Wise, Nature Preschool Manager

Children Need NatureIf you walk along the trails with a Nature Preschool class, you might think you are just out for a breath of fresh air, to run and let go of some extra energy. Yes – it is that and so much more. You might notice children gathering leaves, counting as they go. Their teacher furthers the experience as she takes out four colored pieces of construction paper to allow the children to sort by shades of fall. Soon, the children are discussing the attributes of each leaf as they categorize these natural objects. Expanding vocabulary can be heard as each child describes the shape or what makes the leaf they are holding unique. Throughout the experience, they are navigating space, taking turns in conversation, learning to wait to place their leaf until their friend is finished – all important social skills needed for the next step in their school journey. They are all a crucial piece of that term: readiness. Readiness for kindergarten, or the step after preschool, does not just mean knowing your letters and numbers. It is so much more and the transition can seem so overwhelming.

In Philadelphia and the surrounding area, there are many options for kindergarten. From public to charter, private to progressive, the choices can seem endless. This is great but is scary for a first-time parent or even a caregiver who is unsure of what type might be best for their child. When the door is opened up to the wide range of kindergarten schools out there, there are many aspects of readiness to consider; most importantly, are all of the players involved ready: the child, the family, the school, and even the community.

For us at Nature Preschool, we prepare children for kindergarten by starting with social and emotional skills. By supporting children in becoming critical thinkers, creative problem solvers, emotional regulators, and risk-takers, we are helping them build skills that will benefit them in kindergarten (and life beyond).  However, being ready for kindergarten takes the whole family.

So how can families be prepared? Start by visiting schools, researching options and identifying what type of learning environment matches the way in which your child learns best. Local kindergartens can (and should) identify the preschools from which their children are coming to be able to meet them where they are and build upon the foundation that has already been set. As for the community, different aspects of a neighborhood such as playgrounds, libraries, and other communal areas where families can gather  as they learn more about local schools and talk with one another.

Noticing this need amongst our parents and families, we are excited to introduce our coming Kindergarten Readiness 101 event on Thursday, November 10 from 6:30 – 7:30 pm, open to anyone who wants to hear more about making this transition. A panel of local teachers will talk about preparing for kindergarten and supporting children through the change – details on that here.

We’ll also use this event as an opportunity to make a special announcement – but shh, more on that on November 10!

Sorghastrum nutans4

Field Guide: Fall in Bloom

By Jenny Ryder, Environmental Art and Public Relations Intern

Enjoy our mobile field guide as you walk, hike, and play in the fall meadows. See other Field Guide posts here.

Flat-top goldenrod (Solidage graminifolia)

Solidago graminifoliaFlat-top goldenrod provides nectar for many types of pollinators such as butterflies, wasps, both long- and short-tongue bees, flies, moths and beetles. One particularly interested beetle is named after the plant itself—the Goldenrod Soldier Beetle! Many people mistakenly believe they’re allergic to goldenrod , but in fact, what little pollen it has is too sticky to be blown around by the wind! Wherever you are, it is likely you will be able to find a few different kinds of goldenrod in the fall, all of which are suitable for medicinal purposes. After the Boston Tea Party, goldenrod tea replaced black tea in the States– “liberty tea,” and was used  to boost the immune system before the  winter months.

 Yellow indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans)

Sorghastrum nutans4

More commonly known as yellow indiangrass, Sorghastrum nutans is a tall native grass that can be identified by its blue-green blades and the almost metallic yellow-gold sheen of its flowering heads. Standing at about three to five feet tall, Indiangrass is an excellent snack for deer, birds and other wildlife.

Spotted Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis)

Jewelweed

Spotted jewelweed is an annual flowering plant that can be found growing along creek banks, and lives right along the edge of the Schuylkill Center’s own Springhouse Pond. One can easily identify this plant by submerging its leaves in the surface of a nearby water body—if they shimmer with a silvery dust, it’s jewelweed! Despite their misleading nickname— touch-me-not— the innards of jewelweed’s succulent stems can be used to treat poison ivy, bug bites, or other skin irritations on the trail. Jewelweed is also known as touch-me-not because, if the seed pods are ripe when touched, the seeds will pop out of their dangling pendant pods. You’re safe to touch these pretty creekside blooms, but be wary of their common neighbors, stinging nettle and poison ivy!

Roundleaf thoroughwort (Eupatorium rotundifolium)

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If you get out on the trails soon, you’ll still be able to catch the beautiful white blooms of roundleaf thoroughwort, a perennial plant with bundles of delicate white flowers. A member of the aster family, roundleaf thoroughwort has many porcelain flowers in each of the small floral heads. Eupatorium rotundifolium stands at about three to four feet tall this time of year, fully matured before it crawls back to the soil in wintertime.

Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum)

Panicum virgatum

Much like Indiangrass above, switchgrass is another important native tallgrass, reaching up to five feet tall. Generally, Switchgrass is not quite as tall as Indiangrass, but due to its rhizomatic root structure, its roots can extend up to 10 feet underground! It can be found in dry soils, in prairies, open woods, or growing by train tracks in large clumps. Switchgrass is known for its particularly sturdy vertical growth structure, and is also referred to as panic grass, thatchgrass, and wild redtop, due to the pinkish tinge of their tufted panicle blooms.