September 29, 2014

High School Eco-Challenge Matches Students with Scientists

by Melissa Harding

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Last week, over 150 middle and high school students from local schools came to Phipps to participate in the Eco-Challenge, a multidisciplinary environmental outreach event co-run by Phipps and the Allegheny Intermediate Unit 3. Students worked in teams of four to learn about sustainability over the course of three challenges. In the first, students learned about the benefits of upcycling, or reusing materials to create a product of higher value or quality than the original materials. Students used “trash”, donated by local salvage non-profit Construction Junction, to create temporary mosaics. In the next, they took a scavenger hunt around the Conservatory with the help of our wonderful, volunteer docents to learn about the ecology of the landscape and greenhouses. Finally, students got the chance to work with our visiting Botany in Action Fellows, interviewing them on their work and career paths.

This challenge is always a favorite every year; students love meeting real scientists and are always affected by the passion and excitement that our Fellows exude when they talk about their work.

See more photos from the day in the slideshow below:

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This event also serves as a kick-off for the Fairchild Challenge, a year-long environmental education program for both middle and high school students sponsored through the Fairchild Tropical and Botanic Gardens in Miami, Florida. In this multidisciplinary program, older students participate in a variety of sustainability-based “challenges” that focus on art, writing, music, and more. Schools choose to participate in one or all of seven challenges that take place over the course of the school year. At the end of the spring, monetary awards are given to the winning schools for use in their environmental science departments.

The above photos were taken by Science Education Staff and volunteers.

September 29, 2014

Biophilia: Pittsburgh, October 2 – “Connection with Nature: Foundation for Behavior Change”

by Melissa Harding

 Emily

Biophilia: Pittsburgh

Thursday, October 2, 2014 – 5:30 p.m.
Free to attend – RSVP required.

The Oct. 2 Biophilia: Pittsburgh meeting will feature Dr. Emily Kalnicky, Phipps’ director of science education and research, who will introduce the discussion topic, “Connection with Nature: Foundation for Behavior Change.”

Dr. Kalnicky will discuss research she conducted at Brookfield Zoo in Brookfield, Il., focused on an informal environmental education program designed to get kids to care about nature. She will talk about the role connection with nature plays in behavior change and the importance of including the opportunity to interact with nature for both adults and children.

About Biophilia: Pittsburgh
Biophilia: Pittsburgh is the pilot chapter for a Biophilia Network dedicated to strengthening the bond between people and the natural world through education, discussion and action. The group meets monthly at the Center for Sustainable Landscapes classroom at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens where, over delicious small-plate food and a happy-hour cash bar, a discipline or behavior will be identified — often by an expert guest speaker — and discussed among the participants in the interest of sharing ideas and identifying opportunities. Join the conversation!

RSVP by sending an email or signing up at the group’s Meetup page.

What is Biophilia?
The term “biophilia,” stemming from the Greek roots meaning “love of life,” was coined by the social psychologist Erich Fromm. It came into use in the 1980s when Harvard University biologist E.O. Wilson defined biophilia as “the innately emotional affiliation of human beings to other living organisms.”

In the last twenty years, studies examining human attraction to nature have yielded convincing evidence that links interactions with nature with positive gains in productivity, increased healing rates, and even enhanced learning comprehension in a wide range of sectors.

Biophilia Pittsburgh

The top image was taken by Science Education and Research staff.

September 25, 2014

Middle School Eco-Challenge: Students Think About Food, Trash and Sustainability

by Melissa Harding

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This morning over 180 middle school students from a variety of local schools came to Phipps to participate in the Eco-Challenge, a multidisciplinary environmental outreach event co-run by Phipps and the Allegheny Intermediate Unit 3. Students worked in teams of four, learning about their “food carbon footprint”, creating beautiful mosaics out of repurposed “junk” materials, and going on a sustainability scavenger hunt through the Conservatory. The weather was beautiful and students had a great time working and learning both indoors and out.

One of the most popular challenges involved using trash materials donated by local salvage non-profit Construction Junction. To see some of the gorgeous artwork that students made, check out the slideshow below!

 

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This event also serves as a kick-off for the Fairchild Challenge, a year-long environmental education program for both middle and high school students sponsored through the Fairchild Tropical and Botanic Gardens in Miami, Florida. In this multidisciplinary program, students participate in a variety of sustainability-based “challenges” that focus on art, writing, music, and more. Schools choose to participate in one or all of seven challenges that take place over the course of the school year. At the end of the spring, monetary awards are given to the winning schools for use in their environmental science departments.

Friday we welcome a mix of middle and high school students to Phipps for a second day of the Eco-Challenge for its fourth year. It is a pleasure hosting these great kids every year and we are so excited to see the program grow!

The above photos were taken by Science Education and Research staff and volunteers.

September 24, 2014

Save the Dates: Meet Botany in Action Research Fellows at Phipps this Month!

by Melissa Harding

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Meet Phipps’ Botany in Action (BIA) Fellows and enjoy presentations about their adventures as global field scientists studying the relationships between people, plants, health and the planet at this special one-day event, free with Conservatory admission.

Members Only: Peek Behind the Petals
Saturday, Sept. 27:  9:30-10:15 a.m.
 The upcoming installment of Peek Behind the Petals will highlight the work of our Botany in Action Fellows, emerging scientists who are conducting plant-focused field research around the globe and sharing their findings with the public through educational outreach efforts.

Meet the Scientists
Saturday, Sept. 27:  1 – 2:30 p.m.
Tropical Forest Conservatory
BIA Fellows will be stationed throughout Tropical Forest India to display their research tools, answer your questions and offer intriguing details about the work of field scientists.

Visiting Botany in Action Fellows:

aurelie jacquet  Phipps Botany in Action science education researchAurélie de Rus Jacquet
Purdue University, Indiana
Geographic Focus: Nepal
Research Focus: Neuroprotective effects of Nepalese traditional medicine on Parkinson’s disease models

anna johnson  Phipps Botany in Action science education researchAnna Johnson
University of Maryland Baltimore County, Maryland
Geographic Focus: Maryland
Research Focus: Novel urban plant communities: causes and consequences of diversity

jessica turner  Phipps Botany in Action science education researchJessica Turner
West Virginia University, West Virginia
Geographic Focus: West Virginia
Research Focus: The root of sustainability: Understanding and implementing medicinal plant conservation strategies in the face of land-use change in Appalachia

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Chelsie Romulo
George Mason University, Virginia
Geographic Focus: Peru
Research Focus: Working to conserve and sustainably manage the ecologically, culturally, and economically important palm tree Mauritia flexuosa (aguaje) in the Peruvian Amazon (Peru).

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Stephen J. Murphy
Ohio State University, Ohio
Geographic Focus: Pennsylvania
Research Focus: Forest landscape change in southwestern Pennsylvania

Read previous posts about BIA Fellows’ research and science outreach work here.

To follow the fellows as their adventures continue, visit phippsbotanyinaction.org.

The above photos were provided by Aurelie de Rus Jacquet, Anna Johnson, Stephen J. Murphy, Jessica Turner and Chelsie Romulo.

September 22, 2014

Phipps Hosts “Teacher’s Night Out” for Fairchild Challenge at Phipps Teachers

by Melissa Harding

#2 Moon Area MS

Last week, Kate Borger, high school programs coordinator, hosted “Phipps for Teachers’ Night Out”, an informative social event to launch the 2014-2015 Fairchild Challenge at Phipps. The evening began with networking and refreshments, followed by a presentation detailing the slate of challenges for the new school year. At the program’s conclusion, teachers were free to enjoy the beauty of the Conservatory and new Center for Sustainable Landscapes building. The participating teachers had a wonderful time and a few new faces signed up for the program this coming year. Overall, it was a great success!

More about the Fairchild Challenge
Since 2008, Phipps has been a satellite partner for the Fairchild Challenge, a multidisciplinary, standards-based environmental education program designed and initiated by the Fairchild Tropical and Botanic Garden in Miami, Florida. The program fosters interest in the environment by encouraging teenagers to appreciate the need for conservation and biodiversity and take action through intra-mural challenges that hone important skills for creative expression and communication, including visual, literary and performing arts, research, and community action. In the 2013-2014 school year, more than 1,800 local students from 54 area high schools and middle schools participated in the Fairchild Challenge at Phipps.

The above photo is a 2012 entry by Moon High School.

 

 

September 22, 2014

Welcome Reception for Dr. Emily Kalnicky, Our New Director of Science Education and Research

by Melissa Harding

Emily

Last week, Phipps held a reception honoring our new Director of Science Education and Research, Dr. Emily Kalnicky. Dr. Kalnicky spoke about her vision for expanding research at Phipps to a very excited audience of board trustees, committee members and scientists from the community.

Dr. Kalnicky brings to Phipps a wealth of qualifications, including a doctorate in ecology from Utah State University, a master’s in natural resources and environmental sciences from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and bachelor of science degrees in zoology, psychology and Spanish from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Previously an adjunct instructor for Project Dragonfly at Miami University of Ohio and education research manager at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, she is the recipient of several research grants, awards and scholarships from the universities she attended to support her work – most notably a five-year period of research on the connection between human and frog behavior in Hawaii.

Please join us in welcoming Dr. Kalnicky to Phipps. We are excited to have her join our team!

Photo © Paul g. Wiegman

 

 

 

 

September 15, 2014

Welcome, Dr. Emily A. Kalnicky!

by Melissa Harding

Emily

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is pleased to announce that Dr. Emily A. Kalnicky has joined the organization as its new director of science education and research. In a time of growth at the public garden with the addition of the Center for Sustainable Landscapes and an expanded emphasis on children’s nature-based education, as well as research aimed at exploring the bonds between humankind and the natural world, she will oversee all science education programs at Phipps; conduct original research while participating in collaborative research with universities and other organizations; oversee the Botany in Action research program; and build cutting-edge programming focused on using botanic gardens and other informal learning venues as platforms for imparting knowledge and inspiring behavior change, among other tasks.

Dr. Kalnicky’s interest and experience in science education and research began more than 15 years ago as a volunteer at the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, Wisconsin. She brings to Phipps a wealth of qualifications, including a doctorate in ecology from Utah State University, a master’s in natural resources and environmental sciences from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and bachelor of science degrees in zoology, psychology and Spanish from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Working most recently as an adjunct instructor for Project Dragonfly at Miami University of Ohio, a bi-lingual substitute teacher for the Madison Metropolitan School District, and an education research manager at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, she is the recipient of several research grants, awards and scholarships from the universities she attended to support her work — most notably a five-year period of research on the connection between human and frog behavior in Hawaii.      Complimenting her professional and formal education accomplishments, Kalincky has also published work on her research in several scientific journals such as Forest Ecology and Management, the Journal of Zoo Biology and the Human Ecology Review. An experienced public speaker, she has presented her research to a variety of audiences as well, giving presentations at the 96th ESA Annual Meeting, Utah State University, 36th Annual Conference of the North American Association of Environmental Educators, 14thth International Conference of the Society for Human Ecology, Brookfield Zoo in Illinois, and other venues.

“At Phipps, we are raising the bar when it comes to children’s education — particularly when it comes to connecting them to nature and fostering an appreciation of science and the environment,” says Phipps Executive Director Richard V. Piacentini. “We are very excited to have Emily on board and look forward to working with her on strengthening our existing programs and developing new ones; collaborating with her as she oversees our research programs; and facilitating her interest in conducting original and impactful research related to conservation psychology.”

Photo © Paul g. Wiegman

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