School District Partnerships Bring Outdoor Education to Classrooms

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By Damien Ruffner, School Programs Manager

One year ago, the Schuylkill Center entered a partnership with Extended School Day Care Center (ESCC), an organization in the Norristown School District that provides extracurricular programming to families in the Norristown community. This mentorship program connects Schuylkill Center educators with district students, allowing us to bring the wonders of the natural world into an afterschool setting far away from our forest.
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LARN with artists

Getting to know rivers through art

By Christina Catanese, Director of Environmental Art

An underwater video of the Brandywine River underwater, from Dylan Gauthier's highwatermarks: six ways of sensing the river, a micro level investigation of environmental issues that affect rivers and streams throughout the world

An underwater video still of the Brandywine River, from Dylan Gauthier’s highwatermarks: six ways of sensing the river, a micro level investigation of environmental issues that affect rivers and streams throughout the world

What’s in a name? It’s one of the first things we ask someone, but can be quickly forgotten. It’s often given to us by others, yet is expected to serve as a distillation of our identity. Who gets to decide a name is a question layered with power dynamics, whether it be people, places, organisms, or ecosystems.

Despite these complexities, in a 2017 New York Times op-ed, Akiko Busch wrote, “Giving something a name is the first step in taking care of it.” Thinking of bodies of water, a name is an opening, a prelude, a microcosm, a way to be knowna first step on the pathway to meaningful connections between people and nature.

This winter, the Schuylkill Center will open Learn a River’s Namea new exhibition in our art gallery. It’s a group of seven projects guided by this question: how can art help us to know a river’s name, to not only value it but know it, and therefore to seek to steward it?  With a focus on water bodies in the Mid-Atlantic region, seven artists explore rivers and streams within driving distance of the Schuylkill Center—the Schuylkill, Delaware, Brandywine, and Hudson Rivers. Continue reading

Naturalist’s Notebook: Giants of the Forest

big tree (3)By Andrew Kirkpatrick, Manager of Land Stewardship

An excerpt from this piece was published in our winter newsletter in December 2018.

Now that leaves are falling, the giants are revealing themselves in the forest. No, not the fairy tale variety—the trees. Walking the Schuylkill Center’s trails in the summer months, they remain mostly hidden from view. They’re tucked away from sight, obscured by cork trees, devil’s walking stick, and their own young. But once the crisp fall days arrive, the giants appear. Continue reading

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4,000 Wild Patients and Counting

Director of Wildlife Rehabilitation Rick Schubert examines a pileated woodpecker.

By Amy Whisenhunt, Assistant Director of Individual Giving

Being the only wildlife rehabilitation hospital around Philadelphia means the Wildlife Clinic at the Schuylkill Center stays very busy.

This past year set a record for intakes with over 4,000 orphaned and injured animals treated— Continue reading

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2018 is the Year of Water

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By Mike Weilbacher, Executive Director

“When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.”
Ben Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanac

Water is essential, both to our planet and to our programming. School groups search for living creatures in our ponds while Nature Preschoolers stomp through puddles and play in the mud kitchen. Summer campers hike along creeks, raft in whitewater, and snorkel in the ocean, while University of Nature adults discuss global water issues.

This will happen even more in the New Year, as 2018 will be the Year of Water across our programming. We’ll begin with the Richard L. James Lecture on February 8, inviting six prominent thinkers to talk about water and end next November, when the Henry Meigs Environmental Leadership Award is given to a visionary regional leader whose work revolves around water. Continue reading

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Children Need Nature: The Art of Tree Climbing

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By Alyssa Maley, Lead Preschool Teacherchildren_need_nature

Children Need Nature is a monthly blog column from our Nature Preschool program. Read more posts here.

I remember the moment during my childhood when I developed a bond with my favorite climbing tree on my front lawn—a Japanese maple. This tree was particularly challenging because it did not have lower branches. I had to jump up, grab a branch, and then swing my legs up moving my body like a monkey. Then I used my upper body strength to pull myself to begin the vertical climb. I have so many fond memories of tree climbing—I spoke to fairies, peeked into the second story of my house, and observed my world from a higher perspective. I had no adult assistance or supervision; it was just me and my tree. I learned how to listen to the branches—to assess the broken ones, and pick the safe, sturdy ones. I halted my climb when the branches moved quickly in the wind because I was able to assess the risk. I became a successful climber through practice, patience, and perseverance.

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Rain Yard through the years

By Christina Catanese, Director of Environmental Art and Liz Jelsomine, Exhibitions Coordinator

Rain Yard by Stacy Levy at The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education

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.

Rain Yard is an interactive artwork by Stacy Levy that has been on display in the Schuylkill Center’s Sensory Garden since October 2013. Rain Yard provides a function of mitigating stormwater runoff from our building, while highlighting the critical role soil and plants play in the water cycle. Its open steel platform allows rain to filter down, plants to grow up, and people to hover somewhere in between. Continue reading

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Children Need Nature: Joining State Standards with Natural Learning

childrenneednature-01-300x212By Nicole Brin, Assistant Director of Early Childhood Education

Children Need Nature is a monthly blog column from our Nature Preschool program. Read more posts here.

pumpkinseedcounting_nb_10-30-17 (1)The inaugural Kindergarten class here at Nature Preschool is deep into its third month of school. If you walk into the classroom you will notice the book corner, art studio, block area, science and math manipulatives, and many other learning centers typical to an Early Childhood classroom. pumpkinseedcounting_nb_10-30-17More likely however, you will be drawn to the more homey aspects of the room–the number line made from acorns and sticks, the wall of photographed discoveries, or the shelf of beetles, millipedes, and other nature treasures. Just like the preschool classes, the (self-proclaimed) Mighty Oak kindergarteners operate on an emergent and inquiry-based curriculum and spend a large portion of their day outside. Kindergarten at the Schuylkill Center is designed to be an extension of the Nature Preschool experience, while integrating the skills and concepts being taught in kindergartens all over Pennsylvania.

So… how does that work? How do the Mighty Oaks enjoy these experiences while still being ready for first grade come June? A large part comes from the way in which the program is approaching the learning standards. Recognizing that the most meaningful learning happens organically and from natural interests, the teachers first take note of which developmental areas are being met as a result of their study of interest. Continue reading

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Elemental powers

By Christina Catanese, Director of Environmental Art and Liz Jelsomine, Exhibitions Coordinator

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.

Tim Prentice, Yellow Zinger 2-925x616“I imagine a line in space. I build it straight and true and offer it to the wind.

The wind plays with it like a cat with a length of yarn. The wind is the artist.”

Yellow Zinger, Tim Prentice

Tim Prentice’s Yellow Zinger was part of an outdoor exhibition at The Schuylkill Center in 2010 called Elemental Energy: Art Powered by Nature. 

Elemental Energy brought six artists/teams from around the country to present outdoor sculptural installations that engaged a natural element – wind, water, sun – to create a dynamic or kinetic artwork. Each piece created sound, movement, or both, using only the energy they harness from nature.  Continue reading

Susan Beard Photography

Roxborough’s Kay Sykora is the 2017 Meigs Leadership Awardee

By Mike Weilbacher, Executive Director

On Thursday, November 16 at 7 pm, the Schuylkill Center presents our highest honor, the Henry Meigs Award for Environmental Leadership, to an old friend and Roxborough neighbor, Kay Sykora.

Susan Beard PhotographyFounder of the incredibly successful Manayunk Development Corporation in the early 1980s, Kay has over the last 30 years pioneered and tirelessly championed the Schuylkill River Trail through Manayunk and Roxborough, leading the effort to transform the canal towpath into the River Trail, now one of Manayunk’s most-loved amenities. She played a key role in the planning efforts that led to the Manayunk Bridge’s reinvention as a multi-modal trail beloved by thousands of bikers, runners, and walkers.

She also founded Destination Schuylkill River to re-connect Manayunk to its river, has been involved in restoring the canal, and is equally passionate about making the towpath a more vibrant and enticing community amenity. She has been a leader in the Central Roxborough Civic Association and co-founded Roxborough Green, a community tree planting and gardening project.

Susan Beard Photography“I am deeply honored by the recognition for the work we all have done,” Kay said.  “I say this because I feel that I am more a facilitator for the people who care about trails, nature, and greening.  If people didn’t care the work never would have succeeded.” Continue reading