Archive for ‘botany’

October 1, 2014

Botany in Action Science Engagement Weekend

by Melissa Harding

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This past weekend was our Botany in Action Science Engagement, a four-day event that brings our Botany in Action Fellows to Phipps for a series of workshops and public engagement opportunities. The goal of the Science Engagement is to help the Fellows become more skilled at interpreting their work for a public audience, including children, and to give museum visitors a chance to learn more about their research. Fellows spent their time at Phipps developing skills in public speaking, radio, field photography, photo editing, multimedia, and popular and creative writing for a public audience.

In addition to working with Phipps educators and polishing their skills, they also spent some time doing public outreach to students. Last Friday, the Fellows worked with local high school students as part of the Eco-Challenge. They shared their experiences in the field, as well as their love of science, with groups of students. Both students and teachers came away excited about the enthusiasm each Fellow has for his or her work. Many described it as the highlight of their day at Phipps!

 The Fellows also had a chance to work with family and adult audiences. Saturday morning, the Fellows set up informational tables throughout the Conservatory to display tools they use in the field and to talk more informally to visitors about their research. That night, they presented at “Peek Behind the Petals”, a lecture series for members to talk about their research and why science matters.

Check out images from both public events in the slideshow below!

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Additionally, the Fellows were interviewed by the Saturday Light Brigade, a family radio show, to talk about their work as a scientists and a significant plant they each encounter during their work. This will be complied into a short segment called “Herbs in Action” and will be aired throughout the fall.

Check out this space throughout the coming year to see profiles of each Fellow and their research. Read about past year’s Fellows at “Follow the Fellows”.

If you missed any of the public events this weekend or would like to learn more about the Fellows and their work, you can check out the Botany In Action blog!

The above photos were taken by Science Education 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.

August 8, 2014

Phipps Hosts 1st Annual Youth Garden Summit

by Melissa Harding

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We recently hosted a gathering of youth from across the region who are working on food growing projects and education. It was an opportunity to share stories, eat food and collaborate towards growing the youth food movement in the Pittsburgh area. This cohort of over 50 students included our own 2014 high school interns, as well as students from the following summer youth programs: Bridge to College, the Grow Pittsburgh Urban Garden Project; Children’s Museum Food City Fellows; Braddock Youth Project, Grow Pittsburgh Braddock Farms Team; Braddock Youth Gardening Team; and The Women for a Healthy Environment Food City Fellows and Wilkinsburg Youth Project. They were enthusiastic and engaged, bringing a positive energy to the workshops. The day included team building, breakout sessions and reflective exercises designed to get everyone thinking about how best to move their respective programs forwards in the future.

The day started with a welcome from Phipps staff and several college interns from the Children’s Museum’s Food City Fellows. Then, each group gave a presentation about their program and what they learned. For lunch, each group contributed produce from their gardens and worked together to create a big, beautiful salad. After this communal meal, the students worked in breakout sessions, both with their own intern teams and in mixed groups. They looked deeply into their program and talked about the good and the bad, how they could be improved, and what impact the program had on the community and themselves. Finally, they reflected on their experiences in the form of a folding poem, sharing with the group what they were “taking home with them” from their experiences.

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It was a wonderful day – thank you to all the students and group leaders who made this possible!

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

 

 

 

August 4, 2014

Summer Camp Recap: Plant Your Plate

by Melissa Harding

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Summer Camp Recap is our easonal 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!

Plant Your Plate is a fun way to look at botany through the lens of food. Where does our food come from? How do seeds turn into cucumbers and then how do those cucumbers turn into pickles? Campers learned how to turn whole foods into salsa, pizzas, and even pickles. They sprouted radishes in a bag, made tea sandwiches and designed their dream gardens. Throughout the week, campers painted T-shirts, made chef hats and molded seed balls. They loved chopping, pickling and cooking their way through camp!

Check out the slide show below for more images from the week!

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

The above photos were taken Science Education and Research staff.

July 23, 2014

In With the Interns: Week Four

by Melissa Harding

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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.

This week, we were especially grateful for the unseasonably pleasant temperatures which made all our outdoor ventures that much more delightful, from a street tour with Matt Erb, arborist from Tree Pittsburgh, to weeding the Tree Pittsburgh nursery and the gardens at Phipps Garden Center. The week ended on a scrumptious note as we cooked with Rosemarie Perla from Slow Food Pittsburgh. And in between: work with the horticulture staff and an introduction to fracking and renewable energy sources.

Here are some of the interns own words about this week and what they learned:

 “This past week has been as entertaining and enlightening as those before it. We began our week by splitting into groups and helping out Phipps horticulture staff. In the morning my group potted and staked plants that will be incorporated into the fall show, while in the afternoon we spread mulch in the Palm court. On Tuesday we visited Tree Pittsburgh and toured around the streets of north Point Breeze, identifying trees and learning about the process of planting trees in the city.  On Wednesday my group worked in the Fruit and Spice room. We finished our week, once again, by working at the Phipps Garden Center, where we made lunch and did a bit of tree identification.”
-Ahmir Allen

“My highlight this week was our cooking experience! We cooked amazing parmesan cheese noodles with a side of multi-grain bread and salad. It was amazing. I feel like we  as a group bonded making this meal. This was by far the best cooking experience so far in the program.”
- Alexis Smith

“I enjoyed learning about renewable energy, which was this week’s theme. The new information I acquired about fracking offered me a view of a world I wasn’t that familiar with and showed me another way I could help the environment. On top of that, my favorite activity this week was the field trip to Tree Pittsburgh. Personally, I would do tree identification all day. It just connects me more to nature, knowing specifically what’s around me, and it makes me enjoy it more. Oh and let’s not forget about cooking Thursday; the pasta and zucchini sauce was very delicious!”
- Larissa Koumaka

“Week three was a really fun week. We had the chance to go to Tree Pittsburgh, learn more about how Phipps chose Tropical Forest India, a little bit about India and Africa, and we also had the chance to work with the horticulture staff again. The most fun thing about this week was learning about India and Africa from a staff member. His job is to go to other countries and see how it can improve on the decoration at Phipps. That was really interesting to hear stories of how they choose the Tropical Forest.”
- Ephraim St. Cyr

“This week was full of some new work experiences with the horticulture staff, in which I worked around the Tropical Forest doing exhibit cosmetic work, along with staking plants in the production greenhouses. During the week I learned more about fracking and some of its down sides. I am looking forward to learning about environmental issues that can affect Pittsburgh in the final two weeks.”
- Aaron Sledge

“My favorite part of the week was probably helping Mike in the Edible Garden with Ephraim. It’s the physical labor in the morning that I really love doing here at Phipps, especially when I get to plant or harvest crops. We also discussed fracking a lot, which I really enjoyed. We also watched the movie Gasland, which is an amazing documentary on fracking. Overall, this was a really interesting, informative and fun week.”
-Dani Einloth

“My favorite part of this week was when Ben came in and talked with us about how he designs the Tropical Forest. He travels to places like Africa or India, taking pictures there. He recreates his memories in the Conservatory to share with the public. I also learned about specific plants in that room, things I never knew before. For example, this one plant is the main ingredient in Chanel No.5 perfume.”
Anna Steeley

“The date is Tuesday, July 15th, the setting features Tree Pittsburgh’s nursery. Amongst all of it, Phipps 8 interns, including myself. Not only did we help with weeding their nursery, but we were given a tree identification walk around the neighborhood. This was extremely interesting as well as practical because I see these trees everywhere I go and now I can  identify their type.”
-Will Grimm

Another full week comes to a close with minds and taste buds open to new experiences!

The above photo was taken by Kate Borger.

 

July 22, 2014

Home Connections: Flower Pigment Art

by Melissa Harding

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“The earth laughs in flowers.”  – Ralph Waldo Emerson

There are many different crafts that we make with flowers – gluing them to crowns, making flower petal butterflies, or using them as paint brushes. In fact, flowers are a wonderful part of just about any nature craft; they add pops of color to nature weavings, mobiles and nature journals. One of the new ways that we have been using them this summer is for their pigments. The most common plant pigment is chlorophyll, which is used primarily for photosynthesis. Other colors found in leaves, like reds and yellows, are secondary colors that also help absorb light energy. Flower pigments, the colors in the petals and sepals, are used to attract pollinators. Plant pigments are made out of a variety of molecules, including anthocyanins and carotenoids. While the biology of plant pigments is fascinating, it is also really easy to get them out of the plants themselves. So easy, in fact, that kids do it all the time (think grass stains). All you need to do is rub the plant against some fabric or paper and the pigments come right off onto the surface. With this in mind, we have being creating some fun crafts that use flower pigments as color.

Flower Pounding
A really fun way to get the pigments onto paper or fabric is by pounding. This can be accomplished in any manner of ways, but we like to use small stones. While a wooden mallet or small hammer will do the best job of evenly flattening the flowers, small stones are more kid-friendly. Specifically, we use flat, decorative driveway stones that are about 3 inches square or less in size. There is no need to hit the flowers hard; a gently tap will do it. Lay your flowers flat on the surface of your choice and place a small piece of white paper or fabric over the flower, then gently tap the flower all over with the flat of the stone. Remove the cover and peel off the flower; you should see the flower’s shape echoed in the pigment print.

The best paper to use for this project is watercolor paper. Unlike office or drawing paper, watercolor paper is thick and has dimples that will readily hold on to the flower pigments. We like to make bookmarks and picture frames out of our flower pounding projects, but the sky is the limit. If using fabric, unbleached linens and muslins will work best. Ideas for fabric include lavender sachets, cloth napkins and table runners. You will want to start with a white or cream base, as the pigments will not always be dark enough to show up on colored fabric or paper.

Flower Rubbing
Pounding is a technique that can sometimes be difficult for younger children. In lieu of pounding with a small stone, flowers can be rubbed across the surface to produce a color. In this case, it is much more difficult to recreate the shape of your plant on the base. Rather, you will end up with smears of color. However, the sensory experience of rubbing flowers to produce colored pigment is a wonderful activity for small children. The scent, color and texture of a variety of flowers will be a worthwhile nature exploration activity, even if the results are not as polished.

Not all flower are pigmented equally…
While all flowers have some pigment in them, not all of them work equally well in this activity. Some petals are too watery or too thin and will not produce a good image. Test all your flowers on scrap material or paper before you put them on your finished product. We recommend pansies, chrysanthemums, goldenrod, colored daisies, and marigolds to start out. Additionally, leaves will add a lovely pop of green to your project. Like with flowers, stay away from thick, watery leaves. Explore your yard and local green-spaces to find a variety of colors and textures from your project. Or simply buy a bouquet of grocery store flowers – any flower and leaf has the potential to make beautiful art!

Other crafts using plant pigments from around the web:
Nature Colors by Fakin’ It
“A Day with No Crayons” Flower Pounding Craft by The Crafty Crow
Flower Pounding Prints by Rhythm of the Home

The above photos were taken by Science Education staff.

 

July 11, 2014

In With the Interns: Green Careers Week

by Melissa Harding

Trimming ferns

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.

Our high school interns completed their third week of the summer internship with a focus on green careers. This included a panel in which community members from a wide variety of sustainability-focused fields spoke with the interns about their education and career paths. Career paths explored included architecture, law, engineering, beekeeping, education and horticulture. We also had a marvelous cooking class with Justine Cassell from Slow Food Pittsburgh, who had the interns prepare summer vegetable frittatas and a raw kale salad. Finally, the interns had a chance to teach young children all about plants under the guidance of Phipps docent and educator, Amy Troyani.

Here are some of the interns own words about this week and what they learned:

“My favorite part of this week was probably having the opportunity to individually shadow a member of the horticulture staff. I was assigned to Chris, who maintains the Indian Tropical Forest. It was so memorable because it was by far the activity that made me feel the most like an actual staff member. There was a good amount of independent work for me that morning; I put plants in a large flower pot, planted various ferns throughout the room, and assisted in collecting the larger dead leaves off of the ground. It gave good insight into the fact that many little things compromise and perfect the larger parts of our lives, which is something that can easily go unnoticed.”
- Ahmir Allen

“This week, working with a horticulture staff one on one was really great. It allowed me to more freely ask questions that specifically applied to me, and that I didn’t even know I had. Also, I really liked the experiences and advice the horticulture staff shared with us at the green careers lunch, such as “don’t be afraid to try different things” and “change your career path multiple times if necessary” because that is one of the things that worried me as I’m preparing to go to college.”
- Larissa Koumaka

“This is our third week and I loved it. We got more hands-on experience with the horticulture staff. We go to also shadow a horticulture staff member, so I shadowed a girl named Lauren and she worked in the greenhouses, basically watering and deadheading plants. It was amazing. I learned so much more about the greenhouse itself and the maintenance of plants. And then throughout the week I applied a lot of the things I learned from shadowing Lauren. On Wednesday we ate lunch with the horticulture staff and got a little insight on how they decided their professions and ended up at Phipps.”
- Alexis Smith

“This week at Phipps was very eye-opening. In a special way that any people with common interests can have. We had a lunch with the other staff at Phipps, where I learned that you don’t have to be specially trained to work in a specific horticulture field and in fact most staff took general plant science. I am glad that I plan to take horticulture at Penn State, then go to Bidwell Training Center to further advance my plant knowledge, knowing that I may be more qualified for a job at Phipps one day.”
- Aaron Sledge

“From our green careers week, I’ve retained a lot of information. At first, just having a list of green careers wasn’t all that exciting. When the panel of people who have green careers came in though, that’s when it got exciting. The gears in my head started turning and I could see doors opening for me. After hearing them talk, I really would like to get into something having to do with sustainable architecture or energy. This week has made me want to change this world to make it cleaner, greener and more.”
 – Dani Einloth

“Working one on one with someone that works at Phipps was one of my favorite things about this week. I feel like we should do that more often. It’s mostly about a high school intern shadowing a staff member. The staff member told us their job gave us a little tip on how to do it. Also we had to help them with their job. My second favorite thing about this week was when the staff members and college students telling us the story about how they ended up at Phipps. It was so interesting to see that some of their staff members never thought they would be working with plants and some of then grew up planting and ended up at Phipps.”
- Ephraim St. Cyr

“Green career week featured an extremely helpful panel of professionals that explained and discussed their green jobs. One thing I will forever take away from that is the advice given: “Find your niche and then inject the green part into it.” Wise words to help make wise life choices.”
- Will Grimm

Another full week comes to a close with minds and taste buds open to new experiences!

The above photos were taken by Kate Borger.

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