The Biggest Day in 50 Years

By Mike Weilbacher, Executive Director

This piece was originally published in the Roxborough Review on Thursday, September 10 in the column Natural Selections

Saturday, September 27 might just be the biggest day in the Schuylkill Center’s storied 50-year history.  On that day, we’re offering the first bird seed sale of the year, the last native plant sale of the year, and launching the University of Nature, a full day of outdoor learning for adults.  We’re beginning the day by presenting the ninth annual Henry Meigs Award for environmental leadership to Ann Fowler Rhoads, and ending the day by unveiling a new show in our environmental art gallery.

One big day.

The University of Nature is the latest in a series of new programming thrusts the Schuylkill Center is rolling out.  We’re offering university-level expertise in a one-day outdoor setting.  Over the course of the day there are nine workshops and walks from which to choose, and you’ll leave at day’s end graduating to a higher level of environmental understanding.

Botanist Ann Rhoads, a Penn professor, leads you on a walk through the “future of forests.”  Columbia’s Ethan Coffel shares the climate risks facing Philadelphia—you’ve heard what might happen to global temperatures or to sea levels, but what specifically happens right here in Roxborough?  You’ll be surprised.  Drexel’s Dan Duran introduces you to beetles, ecologist Chris Farmer shares raptor migration ecology with you, and naturalist Jane Ruffin shares the extraordinary world of butterflies.

To kick off the University of Nature, the Center presents Ann Rhoads with our Meigs Award, named for Henry Meigs, one of the Schuylkill Center’s founders. It was Henry who approached his mother and aunt, descendants of the legendary Henry Howard Houston, to donate the land that became the Schuylkill Center in 1965.  Given in honor of a long career of service to and leadership in environmental protection, Ann Rhoads is honored for decades of groundbreaking work in botany.  Ann has authored numerous books and articles, including Trees of Pennsylvania, has named numerous species of plants, has catalogued endangered plants in many, many places, and recently retired from a long career at the Morris Arboretum.

The award will be presented by Binney Meigs, Henry’s son, a sculptor who is currently a trustee at the Schuylkill Center.

After the University of Nature’s workshops and field trips are over, we’ll gather in our art gallery to open LandLab: Process & Progress, the newest show in our environmental art gallery.  Four teams of artists have been using the 340 acres of the Schuylkill Center’s fields and forests for residencies, creating art projects and experiences that repair ecological issues on our property.  One of the artists, Leslie Birch, will be presenting a workshop at the University of Nature earlier in the day.  The artists will present an indoor show that provides examples of their past work while offering insights into what their research and explorations have uncovered so far on the site.  At the opening, you’ll meet the artists and hear their stories.

In between all of this, come to the center anytime during the day to buy gorgeous native plants to weave into your front- and backyards, and bring home high-quality birdseed to begin feeding to our avian friends.

That’s the Meigs Award at 10:00 am over coffee; the University of Nature between 10:30 am and 4:00 pm, and the LandLab opening reception with beer and wine at 4:00 pm. An action-packed day of environmental learning: come spend September 27 with us.

And leave a much richer person.