Winter may be holding on with every last breath, but signs of spring are popping up all over Pittsburgh’s parks. It’s time for our monthly What’s in Bloom series showcasing the park’s seasonal gardens. Bursts of color are polka-dotting the landscape and our horticulturist, Angela Yuele, has captured every bountiful bloom.
Daffodils and Siberian Squill (Scilla siberica)
Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa)
Hyacinth ‘Jan Bos’
Lenten rose (Heleborus orientalis)
Daffodil ‘Ice Follies’ at the Riverview Park Chapel Shelter
Blue hyacinth and pink tulips
Daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths
Species tulip ‘Lady Jane’ and white daffodils
We’re always looking for help with our gardening projects. Our seasonal weeding Tuesdays at Mellon Park Walled Garden kick-off on May 14 and Weeding Wednesdays at Highland Park Entry Garden begin May 1. For more information, visit our Horticultural Volunteer Activities page or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn more about The Daffodil Project and how you can help plant new bulbs throughout the regional parks.
Posted in Gardens, What's in Bloom | Tagged daffodils, flowers, Highland Park, Highland Park Entry Garden, magnolia, Mellon Park, photography, photos, Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Parks, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, Riverview Park, Schenley Park, Schenley Park Visitor Center, Schenley Plaza, The Daffodil Project, tulips, Walled Garden | 2 Comments »
Last week, we got a bird’s eye view of our Mission Ground Truth:21 program teacher training. Mission Ground Truth is an inquiry-based experiential science curriculum that gives middle school students the opportunity to investigate the health and value of forest and freshwater stream ecosystems. Combining classroom and field sessions, Mission Ground Truth gives students a glimpse into the everyday life of an ecologist. Programs like these show the impact of learning both inside and outside of the classroom.
Students surveying the stream
Parks as Classrooms
For the Mission Ground Truth:21 program, teachers are responsible for leading 3 discovery activities that introduce students to the concepts they’ll be testing and analyzing on their field day. During these sessions, students use Google Earth to investigate the landscape they will be studying in the field to make predictions about its health, identify interacting organisms within woodland food webs, and practice making predictions about water quality based on different human impact scenarios.
Propel students sampling the stream
All of these activities lead up to the field session where students have the chance to be scientists for the day. The all-day field session is taught in Frick Park by Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy staff. Students spend 3 hours hiking through Frick Park’s woodland and 3 hours wading through the Nine Mile Run stream using hands-on scientific methodology and instrumentation to gather and analyze data about the health of these ecosystems. They’re learning that science doesn’t just take place in the lab, it’s happening all around us and it’s relevant to our everyday lives.
Bailey Warren is the Education Program Assistant at the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy through a 10-month apprenticeship with Public Allies Pittsburgh AmeriCorps program.
Posted in Education Progams, Frick Park | Tagged ecology, environmental education, experiential science, Frick Park, Mission Ground Truth, Parks, parks as classrooms, Pittsburgh Parks, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, Propel, Public Allies, urban parks, woodland food webs | Leave a Comment »
Despite the frigid temperatures, the wind chill, and a two-hour delay to boot, 10 teachers showed up to the Frick Environmental Center for our first ever Mission Ground Truth: 21 teacher training. Mission Ground Truth is an inquiry-based experiential science curriculum that gives middle school students the opportunity to investigate the health and value of forest and freshwater stream ecosystems. Combining classroom and field sessions, Mission Ground Truth gives students a glimpse into the everyday life of an ecologist. After piloting the program in the spring with the 7th grade science classes at Propel Montour, we have expanded our reach this school year to include Propel Homestead, Propel McKeesport, Winchester Thurston, The Ellis School, and the Environmental Charter School.
Propel teachers learn how to use dichotomous keys to ID tree leaves.
Teacher trainings are an important part of developing a partnership between informal educators and classroom teachers. We have different styles, different objectives, and different experiences to bring to the table. The training was a chance for everyone to get to know each other, establish appropriate roles and expectations, and to introduce new teachers to the content of the program. We wanted to provide a space where they could ask questions, give feedback, and learn from Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy staff and teachers who have previously gone through the program.
Many of the teachers had limited experience teaching outdoors and wanted some tips to prepare their class and themselves. As an informal educator myself, two of the most integral aspects of a successful program are ensuring that students are dressed appropriately for the weather (nothing is more distracting than discomfort) and having an enthusiastic and involved teacher on board. Really, it all comes back to communicating expectations to others. We had a great conversation about how helpful it is for the teacher to model the good behavior we expect from our students. As much as the training is for the teachers to become comfortable and acquainted with the program, it was also a space for us to get feedback on the curriculum content. From these discussions, we developed an Environmental Education tip sheet to share with all of our program partner teachers.
Calculating the area of Frick Park using Google Earth
At the end of every discovery activity simulation, we always came back to the overarching goal: We want the kids to have hands-on experience outdoors doing what scientists do. They’re getting the chance to see what it means to be an ecologist. That means doing research and making predictions, then going out into the field to test those predictions and analyze their data. Both elements are essential. Once they understand that, then they can work through the details that make it all happen.
Be sure to check out part two of our blog next week to learn more about Mission Ground Truth:21 and how we use parks as classrooms.
Bailey Warren is the Education Program Assistant at the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy through a 10-month apprenticeship with Public Allies Pittsburgh AmeriCorps program.
Posted in Education Progams, Frick Park, Parks Conservancy Programs | Tagged Environmental Charter School, environmental education, Frick Environmental Center, Frick Park, Mission Ground Truth, Parks, parks as classrooms, Pittsburgh Parks, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, Propel Homestead, Propel McKeesport, The Ellis School, Winchester Thurston | Leave a Comment »
Urban EcoSteward Crew Leader Training
Unlike most trips I make to REI Southside, I wasn’t here this morning to get a new piece of gear, although I’ll admit I did look. I was here for the Urban EcoSteward Crew Leader Training. This wasn’t my first time learning to lead crews. In fact, my crew leading experience began right here in Pittsburgh three years ago when I attended the 2010 Urban EcoSteward Crew Leader Training and became a crew leader that summer. I enjoyed working with volunteer crews so much that I soon journeyed to Southern California to lead volunteers in trail maintenance on the Pacific Crest Trail. It wasn’t long before I was off on my next adventure leading crews of college students throughout the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and Wyoming.
Now, I’m happy to be back in the City of Pittsburgh where it all started, working as the new Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Greenprint Park Steward. The Greenprint is a comprehensive plan that aims to build on the natural landscapes throughout the Hill District. These greening projects will add value to the neighborhood by raising property values, providing community gathering spaces, and improving air quality.
Even with my extensive crew leading background, I gained a lot from the Urban EcoSteward Crew Leader Training session. It’s important to review all of the responsibilities and techniques that go into being a crew leader to keep both you and your volunteer’s safe throughout the project. Parks Conservancy education program coordinator, Taiji Nelson, covered how to properly use, carry, and store tools. Joe Divack, Allegheny CleanWays DumpBuster Coordinator, explained how to lead crews through garbage clean-ups and how to handle worksites on steep slopes. Allegheny CleanWays project coordinator Leah Thill wrapped up the day by running us through some real life volunteer day scenarios. This gave us the chance to practice our public speaking and to test some of the skills we had learned throughout the day.
Taiji and Joe showing our current and future crew leaders proper ways to handle tools and worksites.
All of these skills will be helpful in providing a safe, productive, and fun experience for our Hill District greening projects. We are looking for more leaders to help us implement the projects outlined in the Greenprint for the Hill! If you are interested in becoming a leader, or being involved as a volunteer in the Hill District, please contact Jake Baechle at email@example.com. You can also stay tuned to the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy website for future trainings and volunteer days.
The Urban EcoSteward program is a collaboration between Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, Mount Washington Community Development Corporation, Frick Environmental Center, Allegheny Cleanways, Allegheny Land Trust, and Nine Mile Run Watershed. To learn more about how you can get involved, visit our Urban EcoSteward webpage.
Jake Baechle is the new Greenprint Park Steward for the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. In his role, Jake will lead volunteer coordination and community outreach in the Hill District focusing on Cliffside Park and other Greenprint priorities.
Posted in Cliffside Park, Volunteers & EcoStewards | Tagged allegheny cleanways, Cliffside Park, greenprint, Hill District, Parks, Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Parks, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, Urban EcoStewards, volunteers | Leave a Comment »
Watersheds play an important part in maintaining healthy biodiversity in our local environment. Watersheds can carry sewage, pesticides and other harmful elements that can damage our ecosystem. What many people may not realize is that we all live in a watershed. Nine Mile Run and Panther Hollow are two examples of area watersheds the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy are working to restore in partnership with the City of Pittsburgh and other area non-profits.
Through the Carnegie Science Center’s “Take a Hike!” program sponsored by The Sprout Fund, our own director of education, Marijke Hecht, shows us what we can do in our own backyard to help keep area watersheds clean and thriving.
For more information on the Nine Mile Run Watershed or Panther Hollow Watershed, visit our website www.pittsburghparks.org. To learn how you can get your own rain barrel to help divert extra water from the sewer systems, visit the Nine Mile Run Watershed Association website at www.ninemilerun.org.
Posted in Ecological Restoration, Frick Park | Tagged biodiversity, Carnegie Science Center, citizen science, conservation, Ecological Restoration, Frick Park, Invasive Plants, Nine Mile Run, Nine Mile Run Watershed Association, Pittsburgh Parks, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, rain barrels, regional science, Sprout Fund, stormwater, watersheds, woodlands | Leave a Comment »
You know what’s better than a Winter Gathering to kick-off the 2013 Urban EcoSteward training year? A snow-covered Winter Gathering complete with a one-mile hike in Schenley Park! Around 35 dedicated park stewards signed up for the event on Saturday, January 26. The Urban EcoStewards represented a variety of organizations including the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, Mount Washington Community Development Corporation, Frick Environmental Center, Allegheny Cleanways, Allegheny Land Trust, and Nine Mile Run Watershed.
Wintry Schenley Park
Tufa Bridge in Schenley Park
The day started with lunch at the Schenley Park Café and Visitor Center which was restored by the Parks Conservancy in 2002. Rumor has it, Patty’s Smoked Mac and Cheese was the big hit of the day! After a brief overview of the participating organizations, the day continued with a celebration of 2012 successes and what the EcoStewards have to look forward to in 2013.
Urban EcoSteward celebration at the Schenley Park Cafe and Visitor Center
The group then bundled up and strapped on their snow boots for a one-mile hike around the Lower and Upper Panther Hollow Trails.
Headed down for a snowy hike through Schenley Park
Looking up at Panther Hollow Bridge from the Hollow
Led by Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Education Program Coordinator, Taiji Nelson, the group discussed winter tree identification, soil erosion, and emerald ash borer along the way.
Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Education Program Coordinator, Taiji Nelson, explaining soil erosion to the EcoStewards
Lesson in destructive tree identification
The day ended with an overview of Phipps Run and Panther Hollow Watershed’s and restoration efforts being implemented in the area.
Hiking along Upper Panther Hollow Trail
Urban EcoStewards give back to their communities by adopting a specific section of park land that they agree to maintain. Stewards receive training from Parks Conservancy staff and other program partners and visit their site throughout the year to remove invasive species, plant native flora, slow erosion, and clean up trash. EcoStewards report to a coordinator, who will accompany them on at least one site visit per year to determine maintenance needs.
If you’re ready to take on your own little piece of the park, sign-up for our next training date on our Urban EcoSteward webpage. For more information, please contact our education department at 412-682-7275 ext. 232 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted in Schenley Park, Volunteers & EcoStewards | Tagged allegheny cleanways, allegheny land trust, Ecological Restoration, emerald ash borer, environment, erosion, Frick Environmental Center, hikes, Mount Washington CDC, Nine Mile Run Watershed Association, Panther Hollow, Parks, Phipps Run, photos, Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, Schenley Park, Schenley Park Visitor Center, snow, trails, trees, Urban EcoStewards, urban parks, volunteers | Leave a Comment »
Volunteers from NRG planting balled and burlap trees in Allegheny Commons
My ability to wake up almost exactly a minute before I set my cell phone alarm to sound is uncanny. I use the 60 seconds I could have spent sleeping to make the decision: do I start my morning routine or do I preemptively silence the alarm and roll over? The fact that the digital clock on the face of my phone reads 6 a.m. and I hear rain falling outside my window weighs heavily to one side of the argument, but I inevitably force my feet to brave the cold floor so I can put on my already muddy work pants, rain jacket, and formerly waterproof boots.
Rivers Casino volunteers with two truckloads of invasive garlic mustard
As the volunteer coordinator for the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, I’ve waged this internal battle every weekend during the spring and fall volunteer seasons for the past two years. Ultimately, my love of the outdoors and passionate belief in the work we do always wins out. I can’t think of a better place to spend a Saturday or Sunday morning than in the park and revel in the instant gratification of seeing a finished project at the end of the day when you’re sore, tired, and covered in mud. I’m still dumbstruck when I remember that I actually get paid to do this.
High School Urban EcoSteward from City High watering a recently planted tulip poplar
What’s most amazing to me though is that hundreds of people face the same decision the morning of volunteer days – do I wake up or roll over – and choose to volunteer for nothing but pizza and healthy dose of good karma. They’re students with a full course load and late Friday nights, professionals who work a full 40 hour week, or retirees who earned their right to sleep in on the weekend. Individuals, families, coworkers, student organizations, and religious groups all turn out to plant trees, remove invasive plants, tend the gardens, or clean up dump sites in all weather and seasons. Without their dedication and the generous support of funders, donors, crew leaders, and partners, we couldn’t do what we do and our parks wouldn’t be the same amazing spaces to connect with nature, observe beauty, and find wonder.
Here’s what our volunteers accomplished in 2012:
- 1023 volunteers at our work days gave 3432.5 hours of service totaling a contribution of $74,794.18.
- Volunteers planted and protected over 1000 trees and shrubs at our work days, improving biodiversity and the ecological health of our parks.
- 52 active Urban EcoStewards gave 897.5 hours of service totaling a contribution of $19,556.53 for UES partner organizations (The Parks Conservancy, Mount Washington CDC, Frick Environmental Center, Allegheny Cleanways, Allegheny Land Trust, Nine Mile Run Watershed Association).
- 210 people were trained through the Urban EcoSteward program on things such as tree and shrub ID, planting techniques, erosion control, invasive plant removal, native seed collection and others, to arm them with the skills to advocate and care for our parks.
- High School Urban EcoStewards from City Charter High School, Sci Tech, University Prep, Perry, Westinghouse and the Ellis School had a total of 535 individual visits where students made observation and reflections through nature journaling, learned about the ecosystems and ecology of our parks, and performed stewardship (which included planting and protecting 186 trees and shrubs).
Volunteers after planting 99 trees along Tranquil Trail in Frick Park
A huge ‘thank you’ to all of the volunteers who turned out this year – it was great meeting you and I hope to work with you all again in 2013. See you out there!
Taiji Nelson is the Education Program Coordinator for the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. Ready to be volunteer number 1024? Be sure to check our Volunteer Work Days page for upcoming spring 2013 days and events or email our education department at email@example.com.
Posted in Volunteers & EcoStewards | Tagged allegheny cleanways, allegheny land trust, City High, Ellis School, environmental education, Frick Environmental Center, High School Urban EcoStewards, Mount Washington CDC, Nine Mile Run Watershed Association, Perry, Pittsburgh Parks, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, Sci Tech, The Academy at Westinghouse, University Prep, Urban EcoStewards, volunteer day, volunteers | Leave a Comment »