Parks Are Gyms: Your Guide to Working Out

In the parks, we have a whole different approach to working out.

Smelly, sweaty gym socks? We’ve got blooming daffodils.
Recycled air? How about a cool breeze and wind through the trees.
Beige walls? Try chirping robins, rolling clouds, and kids riding bikes.

For the low, low membership fee of $0.00, you can sweat it out all day every day in the parks. Train for your first marathon, conquer hills on the bike sitting in your basement — just get out and get moving! Here are some ideas to start your new workout regiment in the parks:

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Tai chi in Mellon Square. Photo: John Altdorfer.

Tai chi in Mellon Square
Some call this Chinese traditional practice meditation in motion. Originally designed for practicing self-defense, this class is a splendid and graceful way to balance, strengthen, and de-stress. Take a class in the Modernist masterpiece park, Mellon Square, or in Schenley Plaza, for free all spring and summer. Schedule to be posted here.

Yoga in Schenley Plaza
Breathe in, breathe out on the Emerald Lawn in Schenley Plaza during these bi-weekly yoga classes. Bring your own mat or borrow one when you arrive at these free, open classes taught by expert instructors. Schedule to be posted here.

Disc golf in Schenley Park
Spread across rolling hills and sprinkled through shaded woods are 18 metal baskets that make up the Schenley Park Disc Golf Course. This go-at-your-own-pace course is an effective arm workout and a healthy walk, the length of which depends on how well you aim your shots. Find directions here.

Volleyball in Highland Park
Recently renovated, the sand volleyball courts in Highland Park are an ace place to work out while working on your tan. Find directions here.

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Biking in the park. Photo: Melissa McMasters.

Bike in Riverview Park
The popular Riverview Loop is all about the gluts. The topography of this two-mile loop is a challenge but takes you past amazing spots like the Chapel Shelter, Allegheny Observatory, and gardens throughout Riverview. See the Bike Pittsburgh bike map here.

Tennis in Frick and Arsenal parks
Serve it up on the red clay courts in Frick Park or the newly refinished courts in Arsenal Park for two unique playing experiences. If you’re game, there are a plethora of clinics and tournaments held on the many courts throughout the parks. Click here for the Frick Park Clay Court Tennis Club.

Have your own workout recommendations? Leave them in the comments below!

Celebrating Earth Day in Pittsburgh’s Parks

This week’s post is from our “Let’s Talk About Parks” series. Posted bimonthly in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, “Let’s Talk About Parks” is designed to encourage exploration and discovery of Pittsburgh’s urban parks. See the complete series here.

Every year, people around the world celebrate Earth Day on April 22. It’s a time to recognize the importance of protecting our natural world, to take note of human actions that are hurting our environment and to learn about actions that each of us can take to help make our world cleaner and healthier.

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Schenley Park tree planting, 1923. Photo credit: Historic Pittsburgh Image Collections.

The first Earth Day was held April 22, 1970, but before that people did not pay as much attention to the condition of land, waterways and air. The success of a city was measured by how much its factories produced, how many businesses and jobs it had, and how fast it was growing. But over time, as cities and neighborhoods grew and trees and green spaces were replaced with buildings and parking lots and roads, people began to see that there were consequences when you didn’t pay attention to nature. They saw that rivers and streams were being polluted, smog and smoke in the air was making people sick, and species of birds and animals were starting to disappear. They saw that a place that was good for working also needed to be clean and beautiful, or else, in the end, no one would want to live there.

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Two girls plant a tree in Highland Park.

Pittsburgh is special because many years ago city and community leaders had the wisdom to set aside hundreds of acres of woodlands as parks for everyone to enjoy. Today, thousands of trees in our urban parks help clean the air by absorbing carbon dioxide, they help protect our waterways by capturing rainwater that would otherwise wash into our sewer systems, and they act as home to countless species of plants and wildlife. About 15 years ago, Pittsburgh’s first Earth Day in our city parks involved dozens of volunteers planting trees on Clayton Hill in Frick Park. Even though it poured rain participants had fun and kept planting, showing that Pittsburghers will celebrate our parks in any weather.

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Will you be joining us for our annual Earth Day in Frick Park? From April 17 – 19 the park is the place to be, with free family-friendly activities like a community campfire, volunteer event, and a full day of naturalist-led hikes. Find the full schedule of events here. 

The first ever Pittsburgh Earth Day will also be taking place on April 22. With scheduled activities and events all over the city, there’s something for everyone. And be sure to swing by Market Square for the Everpower Earth Day Festival. Proceeds from the festival benefit the Parks Conservancy! See the full schedule of Pittsburgh Earth Day events here.

BREAKING: Carousel Animals Escape!

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Carousel animals run wild, paint town red
Giraffes, elephants, creatures of all sorts set out to complete Pittsburgh bucket list

APRIL 1, 2015 – PITTSBURGH, PA – The lunchtime crowd in Schenley Plaza today enjoyed springtime temperatures, budding gardens, and the cheerful chatter of Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy staffers directing PNC Carousel animals to their respective poles when surprised by a sudden commotion of carousel creatures running in all directions.

The breakout, seemingly coordinated by the mischievous — and aptly named — eagle “Freedom,” was swift and efficient. Onlookers gaped in amazement as Nancy Elephant, Toofus Tiger, R Merry Seal, and others in the menagerie stampeded, hopped, waddled and flew in all directions. Their intentions were quickly revealed by Harry Skettle Camel who, when caught, spilled the beans. “We carousel animals are always reading this town’s ‘best of’ lists,” he proclaimed. “Today, we’re setting out to complete those Pittsburgh bucket lists.”

warholgiraffeMr. Skettle’s testimony was confirmed as reports started to trickle in from around the city. Incline operators spotted Topper Triceratops and Henrietta Pig on their ascent up to Mount Washington. Troy Polamalu Giraffe was cornered in the photo booth at the Andy Warhol Museum. Wholey’s employees called in something fishy when a dolphin and sea horse in fake mustaches tried ordering the store — the entire store.

Investigators are concentrating their search on prominent Pittsburgh ‘best of’ spots. “No Primanti restaurant or Kennywood ride will go unturned. And we have Rick Sebak on 24-hour watch,” assured Police Chief Cameron McLay.

The carousel animals are exceptionally kid-friendly; all are de-clawed. Parks Conservancy staff is scouring Pittsburgh’s parks in the hopes of finding the creatures in time for the April 11th opening of the popular Schenley Plaza attraction.

Spotted any of these animals? Reports can be sent to the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy via Twitter (@pittsburghparks). And stay tuned this month for a special Groupon offer on PNC Carousel Family Passes for the 2015 season!

Love of Learning: Observations of Environmental Education

In order to be a great educator, you have to love learning.

Educators need their own sense of adventure, curiosity and excitement about their subject in order to transfer it to their students. Rachel Carson outlined the importance of this idea well with this quote:

If a child is to keep alive their inborn sense of wonder, they need the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with them the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.

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Frick Environmental Center education team members. 

At the Frick Environmental Center, we offer programming that connects children to nature in the city, and encourages them to explore and learn about their local environment.  For some students, our programs are their first experience in a wild setting and a whole new world is revealed to them. They see the relationship between themselves, their community and the environment in a new light.

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Environmental Center educators observing the local flora.

I love being the adult that introduces kids to nature. Like many of you, getting outside with my parents, scout masters and teachers led to a lifetime appreciation and commitment to the environment. Their enthusiasm about nature and the outdoors was contagious. As an educator, I want to recreate that with my students.

Earlier this month, the Parks Conservancy’s education team attended the Pennsylvania Association of Environmental Educators conference at Lake Raystown Lodge.  It was amazing to be in such a beautiful setting, surrounded by educators from across the state that shared our passion for nature and environmental education. The conference was an opportunity to meet new people, reconnect with colleagues, share experiences and expertise, and gain new ideas for our programs. Workshops covered a wide range of topics including the value of nature play, leading an interpretive hike, and connecting with the outdoors using technology.

For me, the best workshops balanced big picture education philosophy, practical mechanics of program delivery, and the opportunity for us to participate in activities as students. In a particularly amazing nature journaling workshop, an impassioned educator stressed that nature journaling should go beyond impartial scientific observations to capture students’ experiences and feelings. For her, a successful journal entry should recreate and transport a student back to a moment in time. She provided tips on preparing students to be comfortable, capturing information through writing and drawing, and using all of our senses to make observations.

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Journaling at the PAEE conference.

 

When we put her tips into practice by going out to journal, I was reminded of the value of taking time to stop and wait for the world to reveal itself.  I was also reminded how easy it is to forget instructions and lose focus in a cold drizzle; how hard it is to sit silent and still for 10 minutes; and how awkward it can feel to share a drawing you’re not particularly proud of. It gave me a better understanding of the students I work with and an appreciation that what really matters is providing an experience.

The conference gave me an opportunity to recharge, reconnect, and revisit why I do what I do. It reaffirmed that the most important thing I can do as an educator is to share my own love of nature.

Taiji Nelson, Naturalist Educator

Spring Happiness in the Neighborhood

It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor.

It’s a neighborly day in this beauty wood,
A neighborly day for a beauty.

Please won’t you be my neighbor?

-Mister Rogers

Neighbor, could you use some happy in your life? Today is the most delightful junction of three mood-lifting occasions: The first day of Spring, Mister Rogers’ birthday, and the International Day of Happiness! To celebrate, here are some parks photos that are sure to put a smile on your face:

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The Pirate Parrot goes for a ride on the Blue Slide in Frick Park during a volunteer day. Photo: John Altdorfer.

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Spring buds finally surfacing. Photo: Melissa McMasters.

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Spring crocuses burst through the leaves with style. Photo: Chandler Sims via Instagram.

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Professional puddle jumper in Frick Park. Photo: @Autumn928 via Instagram.

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One of our all-time favorite photos, a happy little turtle out for a walk with his pet balloon in Schenley Plaza. Photo: Scott Roller.

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Cloudy grin. Photo: Teri Clark via our 2014 photo contest.

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Paper flowers spring up outside of Carnegie Library — South Side. Photo: Lauryn Stalter. 

Spread the happiness! Share your smile-inducing photos on our Facebook and Twitter pages, or email them to media@pittsburghparks.org. And keep the happy going by signing up here to be a great neighbor as a parks volunteer.

Here’s hoping that your Spring is as happy as a crayfish high five!

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Crayfish high five! Photo: Renee Rosensteel.

Action Alert: Make a Difference in Less Than 30 Seconds

This week on the blog, we’re asking you to take an extra simple, super important action:

Voice your support for the Frick Environmental Center.

In 20 to 24 seconds (based off of our somewhat scientific time trials), you can lend your name in support of significant state funding for the new Frick Environmental Center. Every voice counts, as demonstrating strong community support helps strengthen applications.

If you’re looking forward to a cutting-edge, ultra-sustainable Center where Pittsburghers of all ages can have access to environmental programming, please take a few moments to help bring these important state funds to our region.

Click here to sign the pledge to support the Frick Environmental Center.

 

Many thanks,
The Folks at the Parks Conservancy

What’s the Word in Homewood? Buzzword!

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Heron perched in Panther Hollow Lake.

Let’s imagine for a moment that we’re reading a children’s book all about our city’s parks. The colorful pictures on each page would illustrate and introduce you to trees and plants in our parks: sycamores and horse chestnuts, beeches and ferns. You would probably also meet some of the local residents: wrens, thrushes, maybe some larks. Perhaps a kingfisher or heron, if the book visits Panther Hollow Lake or Nine Mile Run.

Now, grab a giant imaginary eraser. Erase those plants and birds. And half of the words. Erase all of the letters, except for one or two. And really, anything about those pictures that seems familiar. What do you think of this book now? How does this change your understanding of the parks?

This storybook scenario isn’t fiction for many kids. Today’s youngest generation experiences what has been called nature deficit disorder, a disconnect from the natural world around them. Many find themselves on the wrong side of the reading gap when they start school. Studies have shown that children from lower-income homes may know only one or two letters of the alphabet when entering kindergarten, compared to children in middle-class households who will know all 26. And when they do learn to read, they may find that words like ‘attachment,’ ‘blog,’ and ‘broadband’ are deemed more relevant than ‘acorn,’ ‘beech,’ and ‘chestnut.’ (Not to mention all of those other nature words mentioned above: sycamore, horse chestnut, fern, wren, thrush, lark, kingfisher, and heron.)

Here in Pittsburgh, we’re changing the story. We’re looking for a happily ever after.

One word at a time, we’re working with Buzzword Pittsburgh and the Homewood community to bring the outdoors and all of the wonderful words that describe it to area youth. By exciting children and families to discover the world and words that are all around them, Buzzword is expanding children’s vocabulary and conversation skills. With the support of PNC Grow Up Great and alongside Carnegie Science Center, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, Opera Theater of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, and Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Buzzword engages families and community organizations in Pittsburgh’s Homewood neighborhood and the greater community.

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Homewood Nature in Your Neighborhood hike.

Starting this month, our Homewood Nature Educator Will is tag-teaming with Pittsburgh Ballet Theater for six weeks of free family sessions at Homewood-Brushton YMCA to learn words like ‘habitat,’ ‘observe,’ ‘senses,’ ‘garden,’ and many more. Additionally, we’ll be out and about on Nature in Your Neighborhood hikes showcasing the nature that’s all around us — wherever we live and play!

We hope that you’ll take part in these free and fun family programs. These programs are particularly designed for children younger than 10, but all ages are welcome. Find the full listing of activities on our calendar and the Buzzword website and join us to see what all the buzz is about!