Spring flowers and new leaves at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University signal the return of schoolchildren for outdoor field study experiences. For three decades, the Arboretum has reached out to students from Boston Schools to participate in structured explorations of the collections, life science instruction, and engaging interactions with the natural world. This season the Arboretum welcomes hundreds of science students from pre-school through primary grades with new programs, an enhanced partnership for in-class instruction at a neighborhood elementary school, and six additional volunteer guides.
Beginning in April, young explorers delve into the landscape through five educational programs designed for hands-on learning. The youngest participants—pre-schoolers from Head Start and kindergarten students—discover plants, animals, and habitats in the Explorations program. Boston’s first grade students explore living things and their habitats in the Organisms program, and second grade students compare plants grown in the classroom with the Arboretum’s mature tree specimens in Old Plants. Upper elementary school grades investigate how flowers make seeds in Flowers Change, and compare evergreen conifers and deciduous flowering trees and their cultural uses in Native Trees/Native Peoples.
Over the past five years, the Arboretum has enhanced the value of its Field Studies experiences for local students through partnerships for in-class science instruction. Arboretum educators will continue to visit classrooms at the Boston Teachers Union (BTU) School in Jamaica Plain this spring, supporting teachers and helping facilitate science instruction on a weekly basis. Science Specialist Ana Maria Caballero will also visit classrooms of a pre-school partner, ABCD South Side Head Start, to lead activities focused on plants that include observation, drawing, collage, and painting.
The Arboretum’s programs for schoolchildren depend on the dynamic participation of volunteer guides, and with the addition of six new recruits this spring, the corps now comprises 40 individuals. Training commenced in March and provided an opportunity for seasoned guides to help mentor their new colleagues. Trainees learned the curricula and practiced techniques for teaching children in outdoor settings, working in groups to explore the living collections and build cohesion as a team.
As a fundamental part of the institution’s public mission, programs for children’s education initiate a continuum for lifetime learning at the Arnold Arboretum. In celebration of the scope and accomplishments of these programs and specifically its partnership for in-class instruction, the Arboretum will mount an exhibition of observational drawings of plants and other organisms by students at the BTU School. “Through a Child’s Eye” will be on view in the Hunnewell Building Lecture Hall from June 15 through September 1, 2013.