Field Study Experiences connect students to science

by Jon Hetman, Director of External Relations & Communications
June 29, 2018

Hemlock Hill exploration

Field Study Experiences connect students to science

Hemlock Hill exploration

Students gather data on organisms living among the trees on Hemlock Hill, as part of the Ecosystems Field Study for fourth through sixth graders.

As spring passes into summer, we wrap up another remarkable school year of Field Study Experiences at the Arnold Arboretum, a period marked by vigorous growth and enthusiastic reception of our programs for elementary life science. We are delighted to report that more students from Boston Public Schools visited to learn in the Arboretum landscape this school year than ever before. Our success this year was made possible by a bumper crop of new, energetic, and motivated volunteer guides, enhancing the experience of students by providing interactions with a smaller ratio of adults to students. It is rare for young children to receive the level of focused attention enjoyed by students on field trips to the Arboretum—equally rare is the opportunity for kids to study nature, in the outdoors, uninterrupted over a two-hour period. These qualities characterize every Field Study Experience in our landscape, and give students the ability and tools to work for a morning as scientists do.

Endowed by Arboretum friends Nod and Henry Meyer in the 1990s, the Arnold Arboretum’s Field Study Experiences are a rare combination of the most fortuitous opportunities for learning. The diversity of plants and habitats creates multiple settings for discovery. Nearing its thirty-fifth year of serving Boston area schools, the free programs continue to follow a longstanding philosophy emphasizing depth over breadth and small group dynamics to open the doors of discovery to elementary scientists. Our Field Study guides learn a great deal about life science to share with visiting students, and their commitment to excellence extends to learning how to engage children with diverse learning needs. With additional funding from the Clinton H. & Wilma T. Shattuck Charitable Trust, the Arboretum also offers free bus transportation to BPS classrooms, eliminating the financial barrier to high-quality science study in the outdoors. As a rare museum that is open daily, free of charge, the Arboretum offers Field Study participants the added benefit of returning anytime they wish to continue their explorations and enjoyment of the natural world.

Volunteer Guides

Volunteer guides in our Field Study Experiences program gather at the Hunnewell Building for spring training.

This spring, the Arboretum welcomed several new schools and new teachers to the Field Study Experiences. Fifth graders from Roslindale’s Phineas Bates School attended our Ecosystems Field Study on Hemlock Hill. The Curley School in Jamaica Plain and Tobin School in Roxbury brought their third and fourth graders to learn about flower anatomy and function, a program we also piloted with second graders from the Pauline A. Shaw School in Dorchester as part of their study of pollinators. We also welcomed several new classes from Gardner Pilot Academy in Allston, Mildred Avenue School in Mattapan, McKay School in East Boston, and Tobin School for programs aligned with first and second grade life science study, introducing our programs to teachers and students who had never visited the Arboretum before. All tallied this spring, we offered 34 programs to some 1100 students from 60 individual classrooms in Boston Public Schools, all with free bus transportation to and from our landscape.

The completion of our spring school programs means we are preparing in earnest for the 2018-19 school year, as well as ramping up training opportunities for Boston Public School Teachers. In August, we look forward to bringing local educators together for our third Summer Institute, our professional development opportunity for BPS teachers designed to boost their own familiarity with life science and teaching kids in the outdoors. This year’s four-day workshop focuses on field work to examine the relationships between organisms in forest and meadow ecosystems. This fall, the Arboretum will also recruit more volunteers to join our intrepid and experienced corps of Field Study guides. Scheduling for fall programs begins in August. For more information on teacher training opportunities, scheduling school visits for fall, or volunteering as a Field Study Experiences guide, please contact Nancy Sableski, Manager of Children’s Education.

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