Children’s Garden & Peterson Institute Collaborate
a recent workshop at the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden at
The New York Botanical Garden, a group of staff and presenters
came together for an unusual professional development session.
Rather than the typical refresher on the anatomy of a compound
flower, or a review of a pond food web, these science educators
were drawing pictures.
Helping visitors make the connection between science and fun has
always been an important goal of the Everett Children’s Adventure
Garden. In this whimsical setting, children are introduced to
scientific concepts through exciting hands-on activities. Sketching
and writing are two of the most effective tools in helping young
people learn the scientific skills of observation and recording.
To develop these skills, Mark Baldwin, Director of Education at
the Roger Tory Peterson Institute (named in honor of the artist/naturalist
and creator of the famous Peterson Field Guides), led a nature
journal workshop. The workshop participants learned how a field
journal can sharpen a child’s senses and observation skills while
promoting literacy and art education.
The first part of the workshop focused on the difference between
observation and inference. Baldwin illustrated the point with
stories, including the time he asked a teacher to draw a tree.
The teacher sat down with his back to the tree and began to draw.
When asked how he could draw the tree when it was behind him,
the teacher replied: “Why do I need to look at it? I already know
what a tree looks like!”
Once Baldwin addressed how to dispel the preconceived notions
about the world, he focused on how to open the mind by opening
one’s eyes. One exercise called “pure contour drawing” involved
tracing the edge of a leaf with the eye, while moving the pencil
across the page in synchrony. Some pretty funny drawings emerged,
as well as a new appreciation for the intricacies of a leaf. Other
exercises taught how to capture motion, how to label a drawing,
and how to use a field guide to help identify the plant or animal
depicted. The workshop was made possible through the generosity
of Edith and Henry J. Everett.
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