On Thursday, October 15, about 35 seventh graders from the Hon. Luis Muñoz Marín School in North Philadelphia visited Bartram’s Garden for a day of outdoor education and connecting with nature. Teacher Dan Symonds asked for a lesson that would hopefully get his students excited about learning and essentially “set the tone” for the school year. It was also a chance to get these urban young people a chance to connect with the Schuylkill River as never before.
A Science Lesson
Symonds noted in advance that his students are “energetic,” prompting Education manager Leslie Gale to use her Invertebrate Lesson to get them outside and moving around. Among the topics covered were a discussion of the Bartram family as early American scientists and how they used the concept of classification to better understand the wonders they observed in nature.
The next step was getting the students outside and searching for creepy, crawly creatures in the garden. Peering under rocks and leaf piles, the middle-schoolers found beetles, grubs, worms, spiders, centipedes and, much to their delight, even a little brown snake! These critters proved a fine jumping-off point to teach the students about nature’s life cycles, habitat, and “who eats who” in order to survive. The kids were also able to touch and hold various insects, allowing them to connect with nature and, in a few cases, conquer fears about touching and handling bugs.
A River Adventure
Next, the staff brought the Luis Muñoz Marín School students to the Bartram’s Garden Community Boathouse to get them on the Schuylkill River. Most of the students excitedly got into rowboats to paddle this stretch of water, some of them for the very first time in their lives. Staff answered their interesting questions about tides, aquatic life, and the history of the waterway.
A few days later, we received a note from teacher Dan Symonds, summing up the experience of the Luis Muñoz Marín class. Dan wrote, “Our trip to Bartram’s Garden set things off in the right direction for our seventh graders. There’s nothing like ‘meaningful’ digging around the compost pile and paddling in the Schuylkill River to get them excited about learning and exploring the world around them. It was a great time and you created some truly memorable experiences for our students. Thank you.”