Morris Arboretum to expand access to underserved youth
From animals to plants, every living thing on earth is impacted by the threat of climate change. At this critical moment, researchers at the Morris Arboretum are working to discover the role of flora in our planet’s changing environment, and they are hoping to cultivate the next generation of scientists to continue vital research well into the future.
“Establishing a pipeline of young scientists is crucial to protecting our planet, and getting students engaged with science at an early age is the best way to do that,” says Bob Gutowski, the Arboretum’s Director of Education and Visitor Experience. “A trip to a place like the Arboretum can be life-changing and inspiring. Studies show that kids who take an interest in science when they are young are more likely to consider it as a future career.”
The Arboretum has long been a destination for class field trips, but for schools in low-income communities, the commute to the Arboretum can be a challenge. Through the Campaign, the institution hopes to increase its Youth Education Endowment, which will help to subsidize transportation, admission, guided tours and takeaway items for student visitors.
One signature effort, now in its third year, is the ¡Explorar! program. Run jointly with the ACLAMO Family Center in Norristown, PA, this summer camp brings at-risk youth and English language learners to the Arboretum for six weeks of hands-on lessons based on botany, biology, archaeology, astronomy and paleontology. “While these students are enjoying the Arboretum, they are also getting an academic head start and a stronger foundation in English to help them succeed in school,” says Gutowski.
For more than 125 years, the historic public garden has welcomed visitors who admire its world-class collections and gain knowledge on subjects ranging from birding and garden design to horticulture and botanical illustration. Now, the Arboretum hopes to increase its accessibility to even more people. ¡Explorar! is just one of the ways that the Arboretum is planning to expand its four-pronged mission of education, research, outreach and horticultural display with funding from the Campaign. Other plans include building a more convenient, high-visibility entrance on Germantown Avenue to encourage even greater community access and increasing current efforts to preserve, digitize and display the Arboretum’s remarkable collections of plants and botanical specimens.