Archive for June, 2014

June 30, 2014

Summer Camp Recap: Bugs in the Burgh

by Melissa Harding


Summer Camp Recap is our seasonal segment featuring our summer camp programs. This is the place for camp parents to find pictures of their campers in action and see all the fun things we did all week. It’s also a great place for educators to pick up craft, story and lesson ideas for their own early childhood programs!

This week’s camp was Bugs in the Burgh, an insect-based camp for campers 6-7 years of age. Bugs in the Burgh takes campers on a journey into the world of arthropods. Campers learned about butterflies, honeybees, ladybugs, grasshoppers, worms and other garden friends. They even got to meet our resident bug expert and see his many bug “pets”, including milkweed beetles and a giant praying mantis. Campers went bug hunting every day, finding such neat bugs as squash beetles, leaf hoppers, aphids, dragonflies, and loads of potato bugs! They decorated T-shirts with bug stamps, made their own lip balm and released lady bugs into the Conservatory.

Check out the slideshow below for more images from our week!


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For more pictures from Summer Camp, check out our Facebook page!

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

June 27, 2014

In with the Interns: Meet the 2014 High School Interns

by Melissa Harding


In with the Interns is our new segment featuring the 2014 high school interns; this segment will explore what they do, learn and experience this summer. Written by Kate Borger, this segment will also feature original words and artwork from the interns.

How many teenagers can say they spent their summer being paid to learn, to cook with fresh produce, and to open their minds to concepts of sustainability and the importance of plants in our lives?  For Phipps’ eight high school interns, the bragging rights include planning, planting and maintaining vegetable beds, working throughout the Conservatory under the guidance of our stellar horticulture team and absorbing numerous green ideas through field trips, documentary films and discussions with our Science Education staff.  We’ll be following their activities on this blog as the internship unfolds, but first, a quick introduction to the 2014 Phipps High School Interns, in their own words:



Alexis Smith
My name is Alexis Smith, I’m 17 years old, and I attend Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts, aka Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12. I’m a visual arts major. I enjoy drawing, painting, and sculpting plants. I also have a huge interest in planting. I love that feeling of me being able to flourish something and planting give me that. My favorite sport is volleyball and my favorite color is pink.




Emphraim St. Cyr
Hey, my name is Ephraim St. Cyr. I’m from Haiti. I came to America 5 years ago. I’m 17 years old and about to be a senior at Taylor Allderdice High School. My favorite subjects in school are math, physics and chemistry. I like to play sports. My favorite sport is running track. I also play soccer, basketball, volleyball and run cross country. I wanted to work at Phipps over the summer because it’s a great activity and I wanted to have more experiences on healthy food and plants. Also my mom is a plant addict (if that’s even a word), so I spend all my life around plants and sometimes I help her plant.





Dani Einloth
Hi, I’m Dani. I’m 16 and go to Sci Tech where I specialize in environmental science. I have been studying the Earth and everything that goes on in it. I’m also a soccer player for my school. I love photography and running in my free time. I applied for the Phipps internship because I thought it would be an amazing opportunity to expand my knowledge of anything environmental and get hands on experience. I hope with this internship that I will learn things I will be able to apply to real life and have use for in college.




Will Grimm
First name William, last name Grimm. I go by Will, never Bill. As an intern returning for his second summer, I’m excited to work with the natural world more than ever. Aside from green hobbies, I am an avid crafter that enjoys knitting, weaving and sculpting. While hopefully having a career in the arts, I plan to run a self-sustaining farm to fulfill all my crafty needs.





Aaron Sledge
My name is Aaron. I am an intern at Phipps for the summer of 2014. I attend Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy right here in Oakland. I love to work with plants, particularly orchids. One day I hope to work at Phipps as a horticulturalist with a degree from Penn State. I am excited to work with Phipps this summer and I hope to know more about plant-related science within these next 6 weeks.




Ahmir Allen
My name’s Ahmir. I’m a literary artist in my junior year at Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12. An interesting thing about me is that I have never been out of Pennsylvania for more than a day. To bring that down to a smaller scale, I spend most of my time at home or alone, wandering Pittsburgh. This isn’t really bad, though. I’m not much of a people person. Most days I maintain an open mind and a kind smile, but I’m usually more at home in my own thoughts. You can find me either staring into space or closely observing the ones around me, with my earphones on and my music blasting.





Larissa Koumaka
Hello, my name is Larissa. I’m 18 year old and newly graduated from Allderdice High School. I like reading, traveling, learning about other cultures, seeing new “worlds”, and discovering new things. Having already participated in this program last year, I know that Phipps is the place to discover new and interesting things, so I am very enthusiastically looking forward to spending the next 6 weeks here. Plants, people, sun, good bugs, bad bugs, bring it on!!



Anna Steeley

My name is Anna Steeley. I currently attend Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts High School as a visual arts student. I am in the process of moving and will attend my new school as a senior. Besides from being an intern at Phipps, I volunteer at the Children’s Hospital.Some things I enjoy doing include, acting, playing volleyball and baseball, swimming, making art, and writing. I write a lot actually. I am currently working on a novel that I hope to publish soon.

This first week of the internship revealed their true colors: hard-working, thoughtful and green!

The above photos were taken by Kate Borger.

June 24, 2014

Summer Camp Recap: Storybook Forest

by Melissa Harding

Day 3 021

Summer Camp Recap is a seasonal segment featuring our summer camp programs. This is the place for camp parents to find pictures of their campers in action and see all the fun things we did all week. It’s also a great place for educators to pick up craft, story and lesson ideas for their own early childhood programs!

This week’s camp was Storybook Forest, a whimsical camp that teaches basic botany through the lens of popular children’s fairytales. Every day, campers read a different fairytale and learn about its featured plant through games, activites and exploration. The camp featured: Cinderella and her pumpkin, Stone Soup and vegetable gardens, The Princess and the Pea (and peas!), The Little Red Hen and her wheat, and Jack and the Beanstalk and different seeds. Campers made fairy crowns and magic wands; they searched for magic peas in the garden and planted their very own peas and beanstalks. They even met a real princess, Princess Phipps, who shared her love of nature and graciously posed for a few pictures! Campers loved to hear their favorite stories read aloud and enjoyed playing in the gardens, pretending to be characters from their favorite fairytales.

Check out the slideshow below for more images from our week!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For more pictures from Summer Camp, check out our Facebook page!

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

June 16, 2014

Nepalese Students Visit Phipps!

by Melissa Harding


Several weeks ago, Phipps Conservatory was visited by the Nepali student delegation from the Magee Womancare International (MWI) program. The Youth Leadership Program with Nepal (YLP-Nepal) is in its fifth year of funding from  United States Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and is administered by MWI. All student and adult delegates are competitively selected based on a passion in environmental health and community service and their desire to develop youth leadership skills.  YLP- Nepal is a highly competitive two-way student leadership exchange program between Pittsburgh area (only) high school students and high school students from the Greater Kathmandu Valley in Nepal.  This year, MWI brought thirteen youths and two adult facilitators from Nepal to the United States for a 3-week exchange. The Nepal delegates spent 14 days in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and 7 days in Washington D.C. In August 2014, ten youths and two adult facilitators from Pittsburgh will travel abroad for a 3-week exchange in Nepal. These exchange programs are intensive, academic, and highly interactive.

We are so excited that the MWI program chose use to spend an entire day with their students! The Nepali students arrived early to explore the gardens and learn about our work in community outreach and sustainable design. They were met by a docent at the Center for Sustainable Landscapes for a tour of this remarkable building. The students learned how the building makes as little impact on the environment as a flower through its ability to generate all of its own electricity and treat all of the water onsite. They had time to investigate all the features of the building, from the computer-controlled windows to the reclaimed barn wood exterior, which make it so revolutionary and beautiful. Afterwards, the students met another docent to tour through our historic glasshouses. They were able to enjoy the beautiful flowers in the current summer show, as well as the butterfly forest and outdoor gardens.

After a lunch in our Phipps Café, the students met science educators Melissa Harding and Kate Borger for a short workshop about community development. Students learned about some of Phipps outreach programs, especially those with food-related missions, and how proper planning was crucial to their current success. Students then worked in groups to create a mock community engagement plan, step by step, starting with creating a map of community assets and ending with creating viable action items that correspond to measurable goals and objectives. We were so impressed with the students’ level of serious engagement in the process and are confident that they will do good work in their home communities. We had such a wonderful time with these remarkable students and were so glad that they were able to spend the day with us at Phipps!

 The above photo was taken by Kate Borger.


June 13, 2014

Summer Camp Recap: I Eat Plants!

by Melissa Harding


Summer Camp Recap is our weekly seasonal segment featuring our summer camp programs. This is the place for camp parents to find pictures of their campers in action and see all the fun things we did all week. It’s also a great place for educators to pick up craft, story and lesson ideas for their own early childhood programs!

This is the first week of the 2014 summer camps! We kicked off our summer season with a Little Sprouts camp, I Eat Plants. Campers learned all about the plants they eat, from seed to flower! They dissected seeds, observed sprouted plants and explored leaves and flowers. Of course, they did it all while singing songs, reading stories and pretending to be plants.

Day one was all about seeds. Campers made seed drums out of repurposed containers and filled them with a variety of seeds. During the lesson, campers observed the seeds in their drum, looking for big, small, green, and red seeds. They learned that seeds come in many different shapes and sizes because every plant has a different seed. Next, they dissected soaked lima beans and learned the three parts of a seed. Campers also pretended to be growing seeds and read a seed story. After a snack of peas and seed crackers, campers went into the Conservatory to look for seeds in the Edible Garden. They found strawberries and pea pods, sampling each one. Finally, the campers plants radish seeds on paper towels to look at later in the week.

Day two was all about plant parts. Campers decorated camp T-shirts with veggie stamps to show off their love of plants. During the lesson, campers observed a variety of sprouted seeds under magnifying glasses and learned the parts of a plant. They looked at radish, carrot, pea, and lima bean seeds and identified their roots, stems, leaves and seed coats. They acted out plants sucking water through their roots and stems and read a story about the different parts of plants that we eat. After a snack of carrots and pea shoots (roots, stems and leaves!), campers went to the Edible Garden to plant some pea seeds.


Day three was all about leaves. Campers made leaf rubbings and pressed leaves into salt dough to better see the veins. During the lesson, campers waded through a pile of different leaves, looking for big, small, soft, furry and smelly ones. They smelled mint, fennel and rosemary leaves, rubbed soft lambs ear between their fingers, and loved playing with giant palm leaves. They acted out a plant using its leaves to catch the sun and read a story about a bear who loves leaves. After a snack of seaweed crackers and spinach, campers went to the Green Roof and the Fern Room to look for differently colored leaves.

Day four was all about flowers and fruits.  Campers painted pictures of fruits with scented paint and used the pigments in roses, pansies and leaves to paint a small picture. During the lesson, campers had a special visit from Miss Verna’s friend, Sunnygirl. Sunnygirl learned, along with the campers, that much of the food she eats comes from plants. Miss Verna and her puppet friend had all the campers in stitches! Campers also learned that fruits come in all shapes and sizes. They tasted peaches, kiwi, apples and bananas, as well as looked at the seeds inside. They also put together a giant plant puzzle and looked at different colored leaves, matching them to fruits of the same color, and played a fruit guessing game. After a snack of fruit and crackers, campers went to the Sunken Garden and Broderie Room to look for brightly colored flowers.

Overall, we had a really fun week!

If you would like to read and learn about plants with your own Sprout, here are some book suggestions:
Leaves by David Ezra Stein
The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss
A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry
A Seed is Sleepy by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long
What’s This? by Caroline Mockford
Plant a Kiss by Amy Krauss Rosenthal
Little Pea by Amy Krauss Rosenthal
Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert

To see more images from camp, check out the slideshow below!


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

June 11, 2014

June is Great Outdoors Month: Celebrate by Going Outside!

by Melissa Harding


“The United States is blessed with a wealth of natural diversity that remains at the heart of who we are as a people. From breathtaking seascapes to the limitless stretch of the Great Plains, our natural surroundings animate the American spirit, fuel discovery and innovation, and offer unparalleled opportunities for recreation and learning. During Great Outdoors Month, we celebrate the land entrusted to us by our forebears and resolve to pass it on safely to future generations.”
– President Barak Obama, 2013 Great Outdoors Month Presidential Proclamation

June is right on the cusp of the seasons – not yet steeped in the intense heat of July, yet more dependable for sunny days and picnics than May. Half spring and half summer, June is a great time to get outside. Perhaps that’s why we celebrate Great Outdoors Month now – there is no better time to go hiking, bike riding or just lay in the sun than June. Being outside is not just fun, but good for you as well. Nature has a positive, direct impact on human health; it enhances the ability to cope with and recover from stress and illness, reduces the risk of obesity, increases happiness and positive life outlook, increases the body’s natural immunity to diseases, increases creativity, and improves mental health.  This is especially true of children, who benefit greatly from time spent outside as well. In addition to the above benefits, playing outside also makes children kinder and more compassionate, more confident and more likely to become a successful adult. Not bad for a game of catch, eh?

Here are just a few easy ideas to help you spend more time outside with your family this month:

Outdoor Recreation: Ride a bike, take a hike, go fishing, hop in a kayak or canoe, take a jog, visit a local or state parkgo camping in your backyard, go rollerblading or skating, play miniature golf, play catch or basketball, start a pick-up game in your yard or local park

Good Garden Fun: plant some flowers or vegetables, weed the garden and harvest produce, hunt for worms, play in the hose, watch the bird feeder, feed the squirrels, stop and smell the flowers, cook together with produce from the garden, create garden markers

Playing on the Porch: read a book, work on a craft project like knitting, crochet or painting, eat dinner outside as a family, play cards or board games, throw a BBQ for your friends and family

Art Outside: draw with chalk and watercolors on the sidewalk, paint the sidewalk with water, blow some bubbles, create a nature mandala, build a fairy house, create a colorful yarn weaving, build a fort, make a bird feeder or a bird nest helper, make a butterfly feeder


Even the internet wants you outside! Here are some great resources from around the web:

National Wildlife Foundation: great ideas for wildlife watching, hiking and other outdoor recreation activities
Great American Backyard Campout: June 22 – join the rest of the nation and sleep in your backyard
National Get Outdoors Day: June 8 – find a participating park or other site near you!
Let’s Move!: First Lady Michelle Obama has some great ideas for spending time outside as a family
Nature Rocks!: Learn where to go in your neighborhood for outdoor fun

Spending time in nature not just is proven to make you smarter and happier, but it’s also really enjoyable. Head outside today and have some fun!

The above picture was taken by Corey Doman.

June 10, 2014

Melissa Harding Speaks at June 7th Environmental Education Sustainability Salon

by Melissa Harding


Last weekend, educator Melissa Harding spoke at a local Sustainability Salon featuring speakers related to environmental education. Melissa presentation was entitled “Growing Wellness: How Connecting to Nature Keeps Kids Healthy” and detailed the many reasons why spending time in nature is a developmental imperative, as well as how Phipps science education programming strives to provide students a stronger connection to the natural world.

Many of the studies cited in her talk are available on the blog:
The Nature Cure: Creating More Self-Disciplined Kids
Can Nature Make Us Happier?
The Importance of Kindness: Teaching Empathy with Nature
Creating a Naturalist
Creating Confidence in Kids

Based on the literature available, we know that children benefit from time spent outside both with and without trusted adult caregivers. This time helps kids develop both cognitive and non-cognitive skills and to develop a sense of place. As an organization committed to creating a new generation of scientists and naturalists, we work to connect children to nature every day. Check out the archived posts above to learn more!

The above photo was taken by Cory Doman.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 200 other followers

%d bloggers like this: