Archive for ‘Activism’

December 1, 2014

1-year Paid Internship Oppportunity in Phipps’ Science Education and Research Department!

by Melissa Harding

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Phipps is offering a 12-month Science Education Internship to students interested in gaining experience in youth-focused education and outreach initiatives in the areas of environmental conservation and sustainability, art and science, and healthy living, with the core of building a positive relationship between humanity and the environment. The intern will work closely with Science Education and Research staff and volunteers to a) develop and teach cross-disciplinary, participatory programs including summer camps, out-of-school and weekend programs for youth and families, on-site and off-site school programs, scouts and brownies badge programs, programs for homeschool groups, and outreach for under-resourced youth, b) assist in developing programs that connect youth to environment-focused scientists and provide educational enrichment for formal and informal educators, and c) represent Phipps at community events, online as applicable, present on Phipps’ innovative green initiatives, and other potential duties as needed.

15-Day 3 031

This paid internship commences January 2015, with up to 40 hours/week during the summer months and 15-20 hours/week during the school year. Some evening and weekend work required. The student should be currently enrolled in an undergraduate program at least halfway through the course of study, or one year post-graduate from undergraduate program, or currently enrolled as a graduate student. The degree focus must be in an area related to Phipps’ Science Education and Research department, e.g., environmental education, environmental social sciences, environmental communications, ecological or conservation-based biological sciences, or nutrition and dietetics. A valid driver’s license and a car to use for transport for off-site programs (mileage reimbursed) are preferred. Experience working with youth is a plus.

Application deadline: 12/31/2014. Interested candidates should email a cover letter and resume to Please reference SCIENCE EDUCATION INTERNSHIP in the subject line.

 The above photos were taken by Science Education staff.

November 3, 2014

“You Unplugged”: Challenge #1 in the Fairchild Challenge at Phipps

by Melissa Harding


For one day this past month, over 1,250 middle and high school students turned off their iPods, Kindles and computers and went outside, as part of the first challenge of the Fairchild Challenge at Phipps. The first challenge of the Fairchild Challenge at Phipps for both middle and high school students, You Unplugged, asked participants to spend an entire day unplugged from all the social and entertainment technology in their lives. High school students wrote a reflective essay describing their time unplugged, whereas middle school students both wrote essays and had the option of also writing an original poem about the experience. While some of these essays reflect the drama of adolescence, many of them were striking in their creativity, honesty and scope.

Many students talked about how they were better able to connect with friends, family and even the natural world. Winning essayist from Springdale Junior High writes, “Without the distraction of a bright little screen I became more aware of my surroundings. Admittedly, if I would have been asked on day one what are the colors of the flowers in my flower bed I would not have known. On day two I studied their dark purple color, their shape, and how the rain drops stuck to the petals. I went for a walk in nature and observed.”

Another middle school student spent her day making art, from practicing her flute to painting. The second place author, from Shaler Area Middle School, felt that being away from her electronics improved her art so much that she has committed to reduced technology use overall, even after the challenge. She writes, “As for playing the flute, I can now feel the music that I play. Notes pour out naturally. I’m prepared for my Alley Valley Honors Band audition and hold the front seat in concert at school, simply because I chose to practice for 50 minutes each day in place of watching TV. Cutting down on electronics has changed my life for the better.”

The high school entries focused much more on how difficult it was to give up technology; many felt that their lifelines to civilization had been cut. The first place winning author, from Gateway High School, wrote that his day without technology made him realize that he was “addicted” to his devices. “Based on this experiment, I am pretty sure that electronics act like a drug with their addicting effect on my mind.” He goes on to write, “The huge usage of them is a major waste of time and a good example of how Americans live far above their means. They don’t serve any practical uses yet we overuse them all day long.”

Other students wrote that they were ready to make a real change in their lives. While no one wrote that they were giving up technology for good, many said that they would take more time every day to look out the window and go outside. The third place author, from the A.W. Beattie Career Center, writes, “That night when I went to bed, I decided to leave all of my things unplugged. I didn’t need them to entertain me. I went to bed knowing what I had learned today. I have the quietness of the outdoors, the sunlight, warm clothing, and a nice book collection. I can always go take a walk, and I can go play at the park. I honestly could go more days that didn’t involve all the batteries and chargers of our electronics, for just some of the silence, sweetness and activity of a natural day.”

Overall, most participants reflected that they learned a great deal from their technology fast. They spent more time with family, friends and pets. They also spent more time outside; many reported feeling free and happy outdoors. The consensus was that while this was a tough assignment, it was a good thing to do.

Thomas Huxley, contemporary of Charles Darwin, said about the disconnect between people and nature: “To a person uninstructed in natural history, his country or sea-side stroll is a walk through a gallery filled with wonderful works of art, nine-tenths of which have their faces turned to the wall.” Many youth today are walking through a hall of backwards pictures, never knowing what they are missing. Fortunately, through challenges like You Unplugged and others, some are flipping these paintings over and discovering their beauty.

Winners of the You, Unplugged: Nearby Nature challenge will be interviewed about their experience on The Saturday Light Brigade family radio station on November 22 at 10:05 am. Tune in to WRCT at 88.3 FM for their 25-min segment! Interviews will be available online about a week later.

The above photos were taken and are copyrighted by Phipps Science Education and Research staff.

September 24, 2014

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

by Melissa Harding


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


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).


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

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

August 1, 2014

In with the Interns: Eight Interns, Six Weeks

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. This week we will hear from the interns as they describe the most effecting part of their time at Phipps.

“My overall view of this program is it’s fantastic. I’ve learned so much. Who knew that learning could be so much fun? Getting to work with the horticulture staff was an honor; getting a full taste of what they do everyday was just mind-blowing to me. All of them taking the time to help and guide us through this program taught me so much about Phipps. This program gave me a hands-on experience that will forever be instilled within me. The icing on the cake was our workshops. Not only were they enjoyable, but they taught us about various different things that we can use outside of this program and that’s truly amazing. I want to thank Phipps for giving me this opportunity.”
– Alexis Smith

“The last six weeks have passed more quickly than I ever would have anticipated. Walking in on the first day was similar to the first day of a new grade. There were a couple of kids I knew, but most were strangers to me. The building itself was as intricate and aloof as always. Fast forward to July 30 and I now understand more about not only my fellow interns and the workings of the Conservatory, but also of the world around me. I learned more in the past six weeks here about plants, food, the environment, sustainability, and the calming effects of repetitive physical labor than I usually learn throughout an entire school year. I’m very thankful to have received this opportunity to spend time in this incredible atmosphere.”
– Ahmir Allen

“Wait!! Is this really our sixth week? I guess the saying that you don’t feel time go by when you are doing something you enjoy is really true. I’ve grown so much as a person and have significantly increased my knowledge of the world around me during the six weeks that I spent at Phipps. More than teaching me about plants and the environmental problems, this internship has shown me a deeper meaning of the value of work and achievement. It has also taught me that doing things you never thought you could do and, most importantly doing then well, as best as you can, is one of the most rewarding feelings there is. I will forever be grateful for my time spent here at Phipps and will not forget all the amazing people – horticulturalists, chefs, students, staff and volunteers – that I met here. ”
– Larissa Koumaka

“Over the past six weeks this program has taught me a lot. I learned how to cook and I learned a lot about the environment. I worked with horticulturalists, which was hard but pretty fun. I worked in every single room in the Conservatory, as well as outside. Let me tell you guys, none of the work was easy; it was all challenging, but I fought my way through and did it all. I look up to the horticulturalists because no matter how hard the job is, they never give up. Today was my last day of working with the horticulturalist, so I tried my hardest to do a great job. I’m going to miss this place and every single person I worked with.”
– Ephraim St. Cyr

“I don’t know there isn’t to say about this program. It’s honestly been an amazing experience. It never really set in that I was here and had this opportunity until now. It only happened now because I’m sitting here and writing this post and remembering all the exciting things I’ve done in the past six weeks. Nowhere else could have given me an experience like this, which is why Phipps will always be special to me. From my hands being covered in dirt to having them be completely clean to cook, these past 6 weeks have been phenomenal and I won’t forget them.”
– Dani Einbeth

“This experience at Phipps has been just wonderful and soooo exciting!! Meeting and working with the horticulture staff was one of my favorite components of the internship. The knowledge I have gained from this has made an imprint on my mind about what I could do as a horticulturist at Phipps. The laughs I have shared with my fellow high school interns will be permanently imprinted into my memories. I hope to participate in this internship next summer, so I can help lead new interns down the amazing path that I was able to take.”
– Aaron Sledge

“A previous intern had once told me this was one of the best experiences of her life. I hardly believed that would be the same for me, but after being here for two summers, I honestly feel the same way. Phipps has provided me with amazing opportunities and education as well as allowing me to meet all the great people that make Phipps what it really is.”
– Will Grimm

“Wow! This internship went by so fast, I cannot believe it is over already. I am so glad I got the amazing opportunity to be apart of Phipps this summer. I took on challenges every week here that I never imagined I’d be able to do. And my fear of worms is gone, thank gosh. During this internship I got to work with wonderful horticulture staff; taking on projects like planting, weeding, dead-heading, working with mums and orchids. It was a great experience. Thank to Kate and everyone else who made this possible.”
– Anna Steeley

Thanks to the interns for sharing their experiences with us all summer!

The above photos was taken by Kate Borger.

May 28, 2014

Melissa Harding Presents at American Alliance of Museums 2014 Annual Conference

by Melissa Harding


Last week,  Melissa Harding presented at the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) 2014 conference in Seattle, Washington. Melissa presented with colleagues from the Museum of Science Boston, Providence Children’s Museum and Phoenix Zoo on a panel entitled “Grown-ups Wanted: Inviting Adult Learners into Early Learner Spaces“. The presentation outlined the different ways in which these organizations reach an adult audience with their mission and message while simultaneously engaging young children. Melissa spoke about our Little Sprouts and Move with Me programs, which model techniques and provide resources that caregivers can use to interact with their children in the natural world at home and at Phipps.

The above photo was taken by Cory Doman.

May 1, 2014

Inspire Speaker Series, May 15 – Sustainability: An American Grand Strategy for the 21st Century

by Melissa Harding

Presented by Green Building Alliance and Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens, the second year of this lecture circuit will continue to plant the seeds of inspiration throughout our community.  

Sustainability: An American Grand Strategy for the 21st Century

In July 2009, Admiral Mullen, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, asked Captain Wayne Porter (U.S. Navy) and Colonel Mark Mykleby (U.S. Marine Corps) to develop some ideas pertaining to a grand strategy for the nation in the 21st century.  By August 2009, the men wrote “A National Strategic Narrative,” a concept paper that offered sustainability as the organizing logic for an American grand strategy.

Such a central idea would establish the framework for converging and expanding U.S. domestic and foreign policy toward emerging opportunities, rather than exclusively on perceived threats and risks.  Now at New America Foundation, Mark is working to create the strategic construct to implement the concept of sustainability as the American grand strategic imperative for the 21st century.  Audience members at May’s Inspire Speakers Series will gain insight into an intriguing and sometimes overlooked perspective on sustainability and how it relates to the future of our country’s security.

More About Colonel Mark “Puck” Mykleby

  • Senior Fellow at New America Foundation
  • Graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, 1987
  • Masters of Military Studies and Masters of Strategic Studies
  • Read more about Mark here

Local Speaker: Bill Peduto

Who better to make the local connection to this topic than Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto?  Mayor Peduto has served Pittsburgh’s East End neighborhoods for over a decade and been integral in shifting the city’s economy toward education and medical technology.  He has been a champion of protecting and enhancing Pittsburgh’s recent reputation as a green initiative leader and helped create the city’s comprehensive Climate Action Plan.  Mayor Peduto is the ideal local voice to help celebrate the finale of this season’s Inspire Speakers Series.

PLUS: Since October 2012, the Founding Class of the Green & Healthy Schools Academy has been undergoing advanced professional development for how to integrate sustainability into the school buildings, curriculum, and culture.  Each school of this founding class will give a brief presentation on how they have applied their knowledge and work to a defining keystone project that emulates their school’s values and vision.

Come grab dinner and enjoy an opportunity for networking in Phipps Cafe starting at 5:00 p.m.  Inspire Speakers presentations will follow at 6:00 p.m.  Register here to join the speakers for dinner after their talks.

Check out the rest of this year’s Inspire Speakers presenters here!  GBA Members save $51 by purchasing the entire series!

April 22, 2014

Making an Environmental Commitment to Our Children

by Melissa Harding


“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say, ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.” – Fred Rogers

Earth Day is an annual reminder that as part of the natural world, it is our duty to be good stewards and help protect the planet on which we live. Not only does the Earth sustain us, but so too our children and their children – all future generations. Just as a community is only as healthy as its children, children are only as healthy as their environment. This space is dedicated to helping caregivers and educators create the next generation of successful, civically engaged citizens, a task largely made possible through creating connections with the people, places and green spaces that make up a community. Today is a good day to remember that we don’t conserve the environment for ourselves, but for those who come after us.

In honor of Earth Day, the US Environmental Protection Agency is offering the Pick 5 Challenge – commit to at least five actions to reduce your resource use and celebrate the natural world. Check out the excellent links in the list below and try to find some options that you and your family can commit to for the next year.

Choose from actions related to:

At Home and in the Garden
At Work
At School
While Shopping
In Your Community
On the Road

“One of the greatest dignities of humankind is that each successive generation is invested in the welfare of each new generation.” – Fred Rogers

The above photo was taken by Cory Doman.


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