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Redefining School

by Nicole Brin, Assistant Director of Early Childhood Education

Preface: The past 7 years teaching young children have taught me more about myself, our education system, and human nature as a whole than I could ever have imagined when starting out. The most recent 4 years spent teaching with the Schuylkill Center Nature Preschool have broadened my views of what is possible in the world of education and led me to the next step in my professional journey. As I move out of the classroom and into the role of Assistant Director of Early Childhood Education, I hope to learn, share, and advocate as much as I can for progressive, “out of the box” education. Demonstrating that quality learning can happen in a variety of different ways.

As many have said before – in order to build a better future society that so many people desperately want, we must start with what we are teaching our children.

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I was good at school. In fact, I might even go as far as to say I was an ideal student. I sat quietly, paid attention, and spoke when I had the answer to the question being asked. I did my homework and tested pretty well. My grades showed that I was a hard worker who stayed out of trouble. It seems unlikely that many of my teachers would remember who I was, and I’m not sure I remember all of their names either.

Now let’s think about this in a slightly different way…

I was good at “school.” In fact, I might even go as far as to say I fit the mold perfectly. I understood that adults knew more than me, tried hard to comprehend everything, and didn’t mind keeping most of my thoughts in my head. I had limited free time and was able to memorize and repeat the information deemed important.  My personal identity was not yet developed. It seems that my teachers prepared me with the work ethic and compliance needed to succeed later in life.

This is not entirely a bad thing…

I learned to read quite well, write intelligently, and do enough math to get by day-to-day. I was aware of the many uneducated in our world and knew that I was fortunate to receive the education that I did. I was and continue to be, thankful.

However, shortly after finishing my 17th year of formal schooling, I was amidst a personal crisis. Feeling rather stagnant, I was lacking true passion. I was unsure how I fit into the adult world and was struggling to find a career that was a good match. I was educated by modern society’s standards, but I wasn’t truly happy.

Little by little change is coming. I work to understand more about who I am as a person and what parts of this incredible world interest me. This is still ongoing, but my overall happiness is a direct testament to its success. And so, I began thinking; What if we could get today’s children to this place a little quicker? How could this benefit the wellbeing of society?

What if today’s education looked a bit more like this…

discovery_nb_4-21-16I am good at learning. In fact, I might even go as far as to say it is an ongoing discovery process. I figure things out, consider many different perspectives, and question everything while looking deeply into why. I’m finding my passion and sharing it with others. I am going to make the world better because of it. It seems that embodying these qualities in pursuit of knowledge may be one of the truest keys to life.

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Why I Marched

By Mike Weilbacher, Executive Director

Today I’m writing as a neighbor and friend, and I’m writing about something personal. On Saturday, under a brutal April sun, itself both oxymoron and bad omen, my wife and I joined more than 200,000 people in Washington, D.C. for the People’s Climate March. It was an extraordinary event, witnessing a rainbow coalition of people from every corner of the country and in every walk of life coming together for action on climate change.

We walked alongside a nurses union from New York, behind the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, themselves just behind the Service Employees International Union.  Grandparents marched alongside their grandchildren.  A Jewish group paraded just ahead of a Catholic organization carrying banners of Pope Francis quotes, the Quakers right behind them.  “The seas are rising, and so are we,” said the Unitarian banner. Continue reading

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Children Need Nature: Fort building as a way to connect

By Alyssa Maley, Nature Preschool Teacher

When you think back on your childhood memories what stands out to you? Perhaps it was a less complicated life where you spent most of your day playing outside, when you were not bombarded with technology at the end of your fingertips. More and more parents are actively seeking out educational programs that match this outside nature component of their childhood memories. They are quickly becoming aware of technology, and the sedentary life it provides for their children through interacting with iPads, computers, and gaming systems. The excessive use of technology in the home drives a disconnection between both children and parents on a socially. As a new parent myself, I am concerned with the amount of screen time that my child may encounter daily. I want my daughter to appreciate the wonders of nature and all of the unique play opportunities it provides. It saddens my heart that the concept of building forts has been successfully buried under the accessibility of technology. So what can be done to connect parents and children in a more authentic way and while simultaneously bringing playing out in nature back into the fold? Continue reading

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Reflection of Environmental Art and Time: January

By Liz Jelsomine, Environmental Art & Public 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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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

Dear Mayor: Schuylkill Center Members Write to Jim Kenney

By Mike Weilbacher, Executive Director

Dear Mayor Kenney,

Congratulations on being sworn in as the 99th mayor of Philadelphia.  While you’ve got your hands full with a number of things—schools, public safety, jobs—your environmental agenda is crucial.  Your predecessor, Michael Nutter, smartly advanced a strong environmental agenda, famously declaring that Philadelphia would emerge as the greenest city in the country—and took us a long way there.  Last year, City Council happily decided to permanently retain the Office of Sustainability, and your choice of Christine Knapp to run the office signals that this momentum will continue.

And your promotion of Michael DiBerardinis from deputy mayor and director of Parks & Rec to managing director is another signal sustainability retains prominence.

As you get started, I asked the Schuylkill Center’s members to pass along their environmental recommendations to you.  What do some of your environmentally concerned citizens want to see you do?

“The most important thing,” wrote Valerie Keller from your own South Philadelphia, “is to expand upon the stormwater management and river protection work of the groundbreaking ‘Green City, Clean Waters’ program.  This plan put Philadelphia on the map for green solutions to basic urban infrastructure problems, and the enormous coordination of various organizations with incredibly inventive, creative ideas for ways to add rain gardens, retention basins, porous paving, and many other green infrastructures to the city should be used as a springboard for other ecologically relevant projects.  Keeping the momentum going on this will make good use of everything that has been learned so far… and serve as a solid foundation from which other ecological programs can grow.”

A big hot-button issue for our members is fracking and the push for the city to become a hub for the transport of fracking gas.  Many members had strong feelings here.

Like John Margerum of East Falls: “I am firmly opposed to Philadelphia developing as an energy hub. We will assume all the risks of an environmental disaster to enable the connected few to make excess profits.  Philadelphia’s future must be envisioned as an opportunity to recover from the damages of past industrial development and a commitment to a greener, sustainable way of living.”

Walter Tsou of West Mt. Airy says he is “opposed to the energy hub simply because fossil fuels will be phased out in the next 30 years, and investing in an energy hub is like opening Blockbuster video on the dawn of the Internet.  The Mayor can begin by purchasing 100% of the city’s energy from renewable sources, and installing electric chargers in all (public) garages.”

East Mt Airy’s Kathy Lopez was blunter: “We should have NOTHING to do with fracked natural gas and we should NOT have carbon-based fuels transported through our city, or any city as far as I’m concerned!”

Valerie Keller also commented on energy, offering that “I would like to see Philadelphia lead the country in alternative sources of energy.  I don’t see fracking as a long-term sustainable answer to our continuing energy needs, and the long-term problems are not worth the short-term gains.”

Open spaces, green spaces, and cleaning abandoned lots were noted by lots of writers.  “While I’m not a Philly resident anymore,” says Robin Eisman, “I suggest that… literal green space be added to as much as possible (converting lots to pocket parks, community gardens, etc).  Mayor Kenney, I’d remind you of the studies linking greenery and nature with reduced crime, higher home values, and other benefits, which I’m sure you’re familiar with.”  Dick Wexelblat, another former city resident, said his “two priorities would be open space and the aggressive cleanup of abandoned and run-down properties.”  Kitty Stokes of Newtown Square has “grandchildren living in Philadelphia and for them I would like to see the greening and vacant lot work continued.  Preserving open space is (the) most important (goal); once it’s gone, it’s gone!”

Continuing this thread, Roxborough’s Michelle Havens, also our gift shop manager, writes that “as a candidate, you were vocal on both environmental issues and education.  You speak of saving green space and reducing litter and of helping our schools and our students.  Is there a plan to blend the two?  Too often… our youth are separated from green space, or have access to very little.  And much of that consists of a community garden put together by neighbors in their vicinity or a playground with limited clean green space.  How will you assist the youth of our city, the very future you represent, in becoming more aware of their part in the world around them?  How will you make sure that all children in the city have access to green space and lessons explaining the significance and importance of such space?  Because saving green space… will be a moot point if the youth we hope to one day take care of and respect it are ignorant of its importance.”

And Mayor Kenney, all of us at the Schuylkill Center and in the city look forward to working with you to advance these important concerns.

And come for a walk here anytime.  Love to give you a tour.

Editor’s note: a version of this blog post was published in the Roxborough Review on Wednesday, January 13, 2016

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Dear 2040: Riverbend Environmental Education Center Imagines the future

By the staff of the Riverbend Environmental Education Center

RB Staff FullSizeRenderDear Friends of 2040,

We at Riverbend Environmental Education Center in Gladwyne, PA, hope the future finds you well. Living in 2015, we hear reports of melting polar ice caps and experience an increasing number of violent storms. Perspiration trickles down our necks as we work through higher summer temperatures. Climate scientists tells us that global climate change will have accelerated over 25 years. While the Western United States and many parts of the world are projected to be drier and hotter, we imagine our already very-green corner of Southeastern Pennsylvania will be even warmer and wetter.

Yet we like to think positively. After all – we’re in the business of investing in children and our future. Riverbend’s mission is to teach children environmental principles through a direct connection with nature. Our goal is to inspire respect for the natural world and action as aware, responsible, and caring citizens. In 2014, our center had nearly 20,000 visits from and to school students — 65% of whom were from underserved communities in Norristown, Philadelphia, and nearby communities. If we did our work well, we will have inspired a lifetime passion in others for protecting the natural world. It is our hope that many of our diverse young learners are now diverse young leaders — actively working to solve the environmental problems of 2040. Environmental educators, scientists, and policy advocates are predominantly white in 2015. Yet at Riverbend we believe that increasing this movement’s diversity will strengthen it and give us the wider perspectives needed to tackle tough problems affecting all of us.

With fossil fuel used for transportation at a premium and with global issues of water scarcity and food costs likely to be of even greater concern in 2040, we imagine that environmental education may now be a requirement in schools. Those of us who deliver this education well will be called upon to provide expertise and proven education methods to all children in the region with in-school curriculum and teacher training complemented by on-site visits for experiential learning. Outside of school, environmental education centers and nature centers, will be sought-after havens for the many families who long for authentic nature experiences and who seek respite from an increasingly artificial world.

In 2015 Riverbend launched our Aquaponics Program, the first of its kind in the region.  Aquaponics is the science of growing food crops and fish in an integrated, self-sustaining system. Perhaps we don’t need to explain to you what aquaponics is. Perhaps it is as common as gas stations are in 2015. It is our dream that our aquaponics program, aimed at facilitating scientific inquiry, has inspired the implementation of larger-scale projects that address food security. Aquaponics, for example, uses only 10% of the water used by traditional agriculture and it can be done in compact, indoor growing spaces. This makes aquaponics practical for urban and suburban farming. It is our hope that growing food locally on a much larger scale will reduce high transportation costs and negative environmental impacts.

As we zoom out from our corner, we imagine that abundant water resources will make Pennsylvania attractive to businesses and employees. Perhaps some of you relocated to this region in order to benefit from lower costs associated with plentiful water and compact, walkable communities. We imagine public transit and zoning laws will need to keep pace with increased population density – and dense it will be. Most new developments will consist of apartment-style housing with electric car hookups, green roofs, geothermal heating, trail connections, and public courtyards with native plantings. The current trend of spending less time on yard work and more time in public spaces will increase the use of public parks, nature centers, and environmental education centers.

Blessed with water and even more abundant vegetation, the population will grow in the city center and Philadelphia will be celebrated and visited for all things green and water-related including the Water Works, Fairmount Park, Wissahickon Valley Park, and the canals of Manayunk and Mont Clare.

We hope you are enjoying expanded parks, creeks for kayaking, and an extensive network of trails. They were already pretty good in 2015, a year when Pennsylvania has the second highest number of trails in the U.S. We are third in fly fishing waters, ninth in kayaking arenas, and fifth in the number of national parks. The Schuylkill River Trail was voted the number one urban trail in the U.S. We hope you are enjoying its completed route from Philadelphia to Pottsville, with spur trails taking travelers to parks, cafes, and best of all — to environmental education centers.

Best wishes to all,

Riverbend Environmental Education Center

Editor’s Note: Dear 2040 is a series of blog posts containing some of the letters included in our 50th anniversary time capsule, buried in October 2015.  Throughout the rest of 2015 we’ll be posting some of those letters, sharing what our leaders, thinkers, artists, and Schuylkill Center staff are thinking about the year 2040.  You can read all the posts here.

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Interview with Deenah Loeb: Art in the Open

By Christina Catanese, Director of Environmental Art

Editor’s note: Deenah Loeb is a Schuylkill Center trustee who also serves as the Executive Director of the City Parks Association and was on the founding creative team for Art in the Open, a citywide event in which artists create their work outdoors on the Schuylkill Banks for three days in May. This summer, nine artists from Art in the Open 2014 will present their work in the Schuylkill Center gallery and on the trails this summer in the show Open SpacesDirector of Environmental Art Christina Catanese recently sat down with Loeb to get her insights about Art in the Open, and its extension to the Schuylkill Center context. Open Spaces features work by Nancy Agati, Harry Bower, Ellen Brooks, Josh Harris, Aaron Lish, Pazia Mannella, Sandy Sorlien, Susan Wilson, and Wendy Wolf.

Christina Catanese: When and how did Art in the Open (AiO) get its start?  How did the idea come about?
Deenah Loeb: The original idea came from local artist Ed Bronstein, who wanted to create a plein air festival in Philadelphia.  He reached out to Mary Salvante [EN: Schuylkill Center Environmental Art program founder], who brought me into the process.  We began to think beyond only painters’ engagement to a program that created an outdoor studio space for artists working in all mediums.  It was also important that the program be integrally linked with the environment– it was an interesting opportunity for artists to work with the river within the public realm, as a source of inspiration, recognizing the power of the urban river and urban context, and enhancing public access to the river. Continue reading

Wildlife Clinic Rescues Owl Tangled in Net

By Ezra Tischler, Public Relations and Environmental Art Intern

As the seasons transition from winter to spring we are fortunate enough to witness the flora and fauna of our region busily prepare for warmer weather and new beginnings. This time of year also brings many patients to the Schuylkill Center’s Wildlife Clinic, sometimes harshly illuminating the clash between our own activities and those of the natural world. Over the weekend the Wildlife Clinic dealt with one of those clashes when a great horned owl was brought in after being tangled in a soccer net.

Michelle with the distressed patient.

Michele with the distressed patient.

The owl was rescued from the net by Springfield Police, but they could only cut the net around him. When the owl arrived at the clinic he remained bound by the net’s string, wrapped around his neck, legs, and wings preventing him from flying. Michele Wellard, assistant wildlife rehabilitator at the clinic, doesn’t know how long the owl was trapped, but due to its level of dehydration she can only assume it was ensnared for quite some time.

Michele, along with clinic volunteer Dan Featherston, worked to cut the string from the owl’s body and administer subcutaneous fluids to treat the dehydration. Needless to say, the owl was not happy with these entirely foreign circumstances and the apparent indignity of being kept from flight. But, by Monday morning the great horned owl was in better spirits. He was getting more fluids, perching, and enjoying the mice provided by the clinic. His treatment means a swift and successful release back into the wild.

Unfortunately soccer nets are a constant hazard for these nocturnal hunters. A quick Google search turns up numerous results with videos and news articles detailing instances like this. In spring many owls may be expecting the arrival of eggs and new chicks, leading them to increase their hunting activity and furthering the risk of a run-in with a soccer net. Simple precautions like taking down nets when not in use could mean a great difference for these animals.

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Weaving Art into Nature

By Ezra Tischler, Public Relations and Environmental Art Intern

LandLab resident artists Kaitlin Pomerantz and Zya Levy, of WE THE WEEDS, have been busy collecting invasive plants like oriental bittersweet, mile-a-minute, wisteria, Japanese stiltgrass, and bush honeysuckle at the Schuylkill Center. These gathered vines are then woven together using hand-built looms, creating beautiful tapestries of varying color and texture. Be sure to check out their guest blog post detailing the process and progress of their botanical weaving project.

Zya, taking full advantage of her resident artist title, recently spent some time exploring the Schuylkill Center’s property. Her exploration resulted in some impromptu land art capturing the transitory nature of autumn. Dried grasses and fallen vines clumped together in mounds may not catch the eye of most meadow visitors. Zya, however, saw the mounds as an opportunity to create temporary nests. Here is a gallery of some of the nests, but they won’t last long and are certainly worth seeing in person:

Zya also met with visiting groups from Nature Preschool, inviting the children to try their hand at botanical weaving: