Our newest temporary exhibition in the Exploration Center of the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden opened July 8, 2019. CONIFERS: THE LIFE OF TREES is a collaboration with the Morton Arboretum, Texas Forestry Museum, Texas Forestry Association, and Stephen F. Austin State University.
Dustin Miller, Director of Experience and Innovation, conceived the idea based on a professional learning workshop he participated in several years ago in the east Texas Piney Woods. The weeklong training, sponsored by the Texas Forestry Association, afforded teachers the opportunity to experience the forestry industry firsthand through daily field trips to managed forests, lumber companies and sites like the Texas Forestry Museum, all of which were reinforced with hands-on lessons to share with students and children. “It was an incredible learning experience,” says Miller, “because it gave me a holistic view of forestry that I had never considered. We went from observing field upon field of seedlings and tree breeding to seeing finished products that end up in Texas houses – and everything in between.”
Miller relied on this experience, and professional contacts he made, to construct the CONIFERS exhibit. “When the Morton Arboretum shared a group of conifer posters with us, I knew I wanted to build an exhibit around them. I think many of us don’t consider how important conifers – pines, spruce, and cedars – are in our everyday life. My hope is this exhibit does that for our Arboretum guests.”
The exhibit is a combination of artifacts from the exhibit partners. It shows the basics of conifer biology and anatomy through Stephen F. Austin’s conifer collection, featuring cones from all over the world, as well as full color, informational text provided by the Morton Arboretum. It continues with a history of logging and the pine industry in Texas with historic artifacts and photos from the Texas Forestry Museum. Then, visitors will see the myriad of ways that conifers are used to construct everyday products – from building materials to food packaging. These product samples were made possible by the Texas Forestry Association. Throughout the exhibit, art, historical narratives and inspirational quotes demonstrate how engrained conifers are in our lives.
Visitors will also be encouraged to explore the Children’s Adventure Garden to find examples of conifers in the garden. Special conifer-related activities will take place in the Exploration Center and throughout the Children’s Adventure Garden.
On display through the end of the year, CONIFERS is sure to engage visitors of all ages – and, best of all, is included in the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden admission.
Artichokes are really cool plants. Most people know the fruit, which is actually a large flower bud. The artichoke is a variety of a species of thistle cultivated as a food. The edible portion of the plant consists of the flower buds before the flowers come into bloom. Not only is the flower bud edible, but the plant is beautiful in the landscape as well.
When to Plant
Late fall is the time to plant these in North Texas. The artichoke (Cynara scolymus) makes a large, vase-shaped plant, with very large silver leaves. The artichoke can handle temperatures into the mid-twenties. If it gets colder though, the plant will need some protection.
For extreme cold, you can cover the plants with sheets or blankets or pile mulch around the plant for protection. In early spring it will begin to grow very rapidly and by mid-spring will be ready to form its first bloom. You can harvest this bloom or allow it to continue to develop, and when open, will have a lovely purple flower head.
A close cousin of the artichoke is a plant called a cardoon (Cynara cardunculus). The cardoon is actually the wild form of the cultivated artichoke. It is grown not for its edible flower but for its edible stalk. The cardoon is much more cold tolerant as well.
We grow them each year at the Dallas Arboretum. They are beautiful silver plants that add to the winter displays. They look great grown in large containers or planted in beds with pansies and kales. If you want to try a new plant this winter, plant some artichokes or its tough cousin, the cardoon.
If you want to get a look at the cardoon, come by the Arboretum and see them used in beds and containers.
While our education programs are constantly changing with new content and offerings, the Dallas Arboretum is also fortunate to have a temporary exhibit space in the Children’s Adventure Garden, the Nature Wall. This space, composed of one-foot and two-foot square, backlit cubes, has been the home to dinosaur fossils, python skins, sand from around the world and even honeybees.
This season’s exhibit, Humboldt 250: Inspired by Nature, is the result of a chance meeting with Quito-based biologist Adrián Soria on my first trip to the Galapagos Islands with SMU and the Galapagos Conservancy two summers ago. The exhibit celebrates the 250th anniversary of the birth of Alexander von Humboldt, the forefather of scientific investigation and exploration as we know it today.
I invite you to learn a bit more about the exhibition, and then, to come see it in person from now through July 5th.
Origins of the exhibit
Adrián Soria has served on the Galapagos Conservancy’s Education for Sustainability project as a trainer with the high school teachers in the Galapagos. This team of educator/trainers has included a number of personnel from academic institutions across the United States and Ecuador, including Stanford, NC State and SMU, amongst others. Soria, hailing from Quito, is trained as a high school biology teacher, but he is also a professional photographer that works under the moniker Caminante de montes, or Mountain Walker. His passion is the Ecuadorian landscape, including volcanoes, pastures and culture.
Adrián Soria’s work covers the breadth of Ecuadorian ecosystems
Thus, on a visit to the Arboretum last fall, Adrián presented me with the idea of offering a photographic exhibition at the garden that he had already planned to present throughout multiple sites in Ecuador in conjunction with the 250th anniversary of Humboldt’s birth. The Humboldt connection in Ecuador is strong as he spent a number of years studying the famous Avenue of the Volcanoes, the namesake of his photographic collection.
More of Soria’s photographic exploration of Ecuador
The first key was to develop local relevance – why Andean photos in Dallas and why at the Children’s Adventure Garden? I have to admit, I was drawn to the stunning imagery, but in my research and discussion with local Humboldt experts, I discovered the very concept of ecosystems owes itself to Humboldt. Much of the work we do in the Children’s Adventure Garden is in developing a connection to nature, so the fit was natural.
The exhibit takes shape
Clearly, Adrián’s photography is the centerpiece of the Humboldt 250: Inspired by Nature exhibit, but the display also highlights several keys facets of Humboldt’s life.
Exhibit contributor Owen writes about his rock collection
As a child, Alexander von Humboldt had the incredible fortune of frequent travel and significant exposure to time outdoors. He became an avid collector of natural items. Our exhibit at the garden contains the personal collections of a number of local youth – both from the children of staff and from our visiting public. For Humboldt, allowing children to interact with nature was essential to childhood – and it developed his incredible sense of scientific exploration.
The exhibit then explores Humboldt’s journeys and his revolutionary manner of documenting the world. Together with his research team, Humboldt climbed to new heights for any European at the time, meticulously collecting data along the way. He was the first to document ocean currents and systemic change in plants along increasing elevations. He has also produced high quality illustrations to accompany his field notes.
Perhaps most striking of his scientific thought, was the revolutionary approach to understanding connections in the natural world – a concept we now call ecosystems. It is unimaginable to many today, but in Humboldt’s time, thinking about commonalities amongst species and ecosystems across the planet simply was not done. When visiting the exhibit, be sure to look for our taxidermied nutria specimen. This species, native to South America, illustrates these similarities between ecosystems quite well – as it has happily taken up residence in the southern United States.
Humboldt’s illustrations from Beobachtungen aus der Zoologie und Vergleichenden Anatomie
Humboldt became a scientific titan, with the likes of Thomas Jefferson and Charles Darwin looking up to him. Indeed, he was one of the most famous people of his day. This is evidenced by the vast number of places named after him today. When you visit the Exploration Center to see the exhibit, you’ll experience a sampling of his impact. Then, step outside and explore the scientific discovery that abounds in the Children’s Adventure Garden!
*Note: Humboldt 250: Inspired by Nature featuring The Avenue of the Volcanoes, a photographic exhibition by Ecuadorian landscape photographer Caminante de montes (Adrián Soria) is free with regular Children’s Adventure Garden admission. Open daily from 9am-5pm in the Exploration Center.
Daffodils typically arrive at the Dallas Arboretum in late January or early February, harbingers of spring and the beautiful tulips of Dallas Blooms to come. Before they arrive (only ONE has bloomed as of January 21, 2019), we wanted to give you a chance to get a little more about our favorite February flower.
You can recognize these beauties by their white or yellow trumpet shaped petals surrounding a yellow, pink or white center, and impress friend with their botanical name, “Narcissus.”
More about Daffodils
There are thousands of hybrid varieties in as many combinations of colors. Most daffodil flowers are fragrant, and some even appear and bloom in early winter.
Daffodil bulbs are used extensively in landscaping because they are quick to naturalize and they deter animal pests. Both bulbs and leaves produce toxic crystals that rodents and deer don’t like. Thus, they protect more scrumptious flowerbed or garden delicacies with which they share soil. In face, they are a significant portion of the 500,000 spring-blooming bulbs we plant at the Dallas Arboretum in November, because they bloom early, protect the flower beds, and are the perfect way to kick off our unmatched spring display.
Daffodil flowers are easy to grow and care for, and we love them, because they’re well adapted to our North Texas climate and soil.
If you want to grow your own, follow these tips. Plant the bulbs in late fall to early winter under three to four inches of soil. Then water them and feed with an all purpose fertilizer or composted manure. After they bloom, allow the tall green leaves to yellow before cutting them back. This will allow the daffodil bulb to generate new energy for the next growing season.
What’s in a Name? The Tragic Story of Narcissus and Echo
The story of Daffodil’s botanical name is interesting. It comes from the character in Greek mythology, of the same name. Narcissistic people also get their description from this Greek youth, whom the gods granted incredible good looks.
Once, while Narcissus was hunting in the woods, a nubile wood nymph named Echo saw him from her hiding place behind a tree. He was so handsome that she fell desperately in love, but Narcissus spurned her. She was so devastated by his rejection that she wept and wailed, and was ultimately consumed by her love. She pined so that soon all that was left of her was her voice, nothing but an echo. The prophecy of her name had come true.
But the gods were not pleased. The goddess Nemesis heard about poor Echo and lured Narcissus to a shimmering lake. The vain young man was unable to resist gazing at his own reflection, and fell in love with himself! As he gazed, the divine penalty took effect, and he simply faded away. In his place sprang up the golden flower that bears his name today. Now you know how Daffodils came to be, and also why psychologists warn vain patients about the “Narcissus complex.”
The final weeks of 2018 are an excellent opportunity to take advantage of extra time with family and to enjoy holiday events, and for educators, a great occasion to pick up a new book. This month, our education managers and director share their recent favorites with you – and they all include opportunities to connect topics in the books with classroom content and student activities.
Anne Luke, Science Enrichment Manager
I am drawn to crime and mystery novels, but after discussing books with my coworker, I thought I’d give non-fiction a try. I wandered by my favorite subjects in my neighborhood library and stumbled upon the section on water. After many years of boating on North Texas lakes, I’ve experienced problems associated with droughts and floods, so I am quite interested in water issues.
In Where the Water Goes: Life and Death Along the Colorado River, author David Owen takes you along on a fascinating and eye-opening adventure following the Colorado River from its headwaters near Boulder, Colorado to its mouth, that long ago emptied into the Gulf of California. During his journey with this mighty river, he visits reservoirs, dams, farms, towns and the people and animals that depend on the river to survive. Owen brings the history of the river alive with stories of Native Americans, pioneers and the daunting engineering feats of damming the wild river.
Most people don’t think about where their water comes from, let alone what happens to it after they use it. Water conservation efforts, such as watering your lawn less or switching to native plants, sound like easy solutions, but can also result in other unintended consequences that the author confronts. For many western cities, instituting these measures is only part of the puzzle. Squabbles over water rights and the aging engineering systems of dams and pipelines continue to be problematic in the fight for every drop of this precious resource.
Even though this book delves into problems in the western United States, we can still learn how humans impact water quality, quantity and flow. Trace your local water from its source to its final destination. Visit local streams, rivers, reservoirs and water treatment plants and learn about where your water comes from and where it goes.
Anne Marie Fayen, Academic Programs Manager
I highly recommend taking the time to ready Lab Girl. The book is an honest, fascinating, and at times very funny memoir by Hope Jahren, a scientist who has conducted independent research in paleobiology for the past 22 years. Jahren’s resume is impressive: she completed her Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley and has conducted research and taught at universities in Baltimore, Georgia, Hawaii and Norway. However, her story begins as a child growing up in Minnesota, in a Scandinavian family, where she remembers much cold and darkness, and describes “vast emotional distance between individual family members.” While she lacks memories of overt displays of warmth and affection from her family, her father’s work in a chemistry lab and her mother’s vegetable garden had a profound impact on the path she ends up taking as a scientist.
Jahren’s memoir describes hours of work dedicated to conducting investigations and writing grants to support herself, her research and her quirky lab manager, Bill Hagopian. She also describes developing relationships with her students, her husband, her son and herself. A theme of living with mental health issues is present throughout the book.
While the story of Jaharen’s life is touching and inspiring, my favorite parts of the book include the short chapters, sprinkled throughout, that describe one aspect of plant life in great detail. These descriptions have made me look at seeds, leaves and roots in a completely new way.
This book offers the opportunity to better understand the career path of a research scientist, a glimpse at some of the challenges women in science face, and a deeper insight into the structures, functions, and processes of plants. The book can also be used as a book study with middle school and high school students. talkSTEM developed a toolkit to complement using the book with students in grades 7-12: Growing Lab Girls.
Dustin Miller, Director of Education
I am frequently enthralled by books that take a deep dive into very specific topics – The Secret Life of Lobsters, The Story of Sushi, and Paper: Paging through History are just a few of my favorites, but a recent find digs into the complexities of the everyday world around us.
Researchers once thought that while squirrels were adept at hiding nuts, their strategy was more about hiding as many as possible and getting lucky during later searches for food. It turns out, that not only do squirrels know precisely where they bury their food reserves, but they are highly efficient at returning to their caches, and they often eat only the portion of the seed that doesn’t produce a seedling, so many of the nuts are still viable for reproduction.
This read is fascinating in the way the author discusses the questions that simple observations about the world around him bring up – and it can easily be used as inspiration for student-led data collection projects in the classroom.
What are you reading this break? Share your favorites with us on social, or let us know what you think if you read the educators’ suggestions.
Dallas is in the grip of a north Texas winter, and we’ve just finished our winter plantings. So there is color everywhere you look at the Dallas Arboretum! VP of Gardens Dave Forehand chose his favorite purple winter flowers from years of managing these winter displays, in case you need a way to bring a pop of color into your garden.
Purple is a great color and one of my favorites to use when landscaping. It’s the color of royalty, so if you want a landscape that looks fit for a king, use these flowers.
Winter Planting Tips
Winter annuals need energy to grow, so add a time release fertilizer or use liquid feed regularly.
Winter plants need water, so don’t forget to give them a good drink once a week or so, especially if there has been no rain.
And now, on to Dave’s Faves.
Pansies are hardy and blooms all winter. We use them as ground cover the whole season, and they can be planted even in the cold of November – January, before spring-blooming plants are ready to come up.
My two favorites are:
‘Whooping Purple Whiskers,’ which has huge flowers, and is sold by Ball Seed.
And ‘Cool Wave Purple,’ a trailing variety that is great for pots and baskets, from Pan American Seed.
These are a small flowering version of pansies. The flowers are small, but there are tons of them throughout the garden and they add a lot of life to any bed.
My favorite is ‘Sorbet Purple’ from Ball Seed.
This is a tough, winter-flowering annual. It’s drought tolerant and can survive cold temperatures. Wallflowers have been grown for a long time. It was a favorite of the Romans, and it was brought to England when the Romans arrived and occupied the historic city.
My favorite is ‘Boules Mauve.’
This winter bloomer has been a favorite of gardeners for a long time, appreciated for its beautiful, sweet scent.
My favorite is ‘Lilac Lavender’ from Ball Seed.
This plant has great structure and very colorful leaves. It’s very cold hardy and best of all, it’s edible.
My two favorite varieties are:
Redbor: It has an open upright growing habit that makes it stand out from a distance. It’s great used in Italian wedding soup.
Purple Prince: It has a beautiful bright ‘hot’ purple center that fades to mauve on the outer leaves. It is commonly used as a garnish to dress up holiday hors d’oeuvre trays.
It’s the perfect time to plant some of these purple beauties in your garden so you can enjoy a pop of color, regardless of the weather.
Amidst the twinkling glow of the 12 Days of Christmas gazebos, and tucked away by massive oak and magnolia trees, lies the DeGolyer House. The 21,000 square ft. estate is hard to miss in daylight, and its exterior takes on a more festive tone as dawn turns to dusk and the lights come on.
But just wait until you get inside the house to see the real show—over 500 crèches from over 50 different countries around the world, displayed with elaborate decorations, and rich, full designs that transform the DeGolyer House into a holiday dreamland.
The Artistry of the Nativity, 2018
So, what does it take to set up this massive display of artistry, and where do all these crèches come from?
The Arboretum has the honor of displaying three private crèche collections in 2018, never before featured in the DeGolyer house, generously lent to us by Joyce and Larry Lacerte, Lydia and Dan Novakov, and Mary and Mike Terry. The Lacertes and Novakovs each spent years building their collections, acquiring beautiful pieces through many worldly travels, friends, and family. Finally, Mary and Mike Terry shared a very specific display: their life-sized, fiberglass crèche, to be displayed in the outdoor courtyard of the DeGolyer home.
If you look closely when you visit, you’ll notice the variety of materials these crèches, collected over several decades, are made of—clay, Waterford crystal, horns, seeds, cornhusk, glass, adobe, paper mache, driftwood, porcelain, silver, coconut, shells and more. Some delicate, some hardy, some miniature and others massive, the Creches took five days of set up with 10 volunteers, a 5-person team, one public events manager, and the mastermind behind it all, Michael Hamilton.
Hamilton, owner of interior design studio La Foofaraw in downtown Plano, has been constructing and conceptualizing the design for the yearly DeGolyer house holiday display for 18 years. The self-made designer said he took the inspiration for the interior from Israel, the landscape for the original Nativity scene.
“I grew up in the country. I’m a farm boy. I get natural. I get organic. I consciously took out elements of red because I wanted the people who walked through the house to feel this sense of natural peace; no artificial colors, just that overwhelming feeling of hope in the manger.”
But to get that feeling of peace and hope it takes more than just an idea, it takes a U-Haul. Public Events Manager Marcela Torres worked with Hamilton this year to oversee the setup, explaining that it started on pickup day, when they went from house to house, picking up all the different pieces and carefully loading them into the truck.
Once the crèches make it safely to the Arboretum, an extensive form of cataloging begins that includes over 1,000 photos of the individual pieces, tagging each piece, categorizing and logging it all in a binder Hamilton has appropriately named “The Brain.” Marcela explained how crucial this cataloging process is, because, “The Arboretum wants to show these crèches, and more importantly, these families respect. If a family gets a crèche back and only two wise men show up, then we’ve lost a part of the story.”
After categorization and filing, two team members begin the layout of the nine-foot Christmas trees adorning every room of the house. The remaining team members and volunteers under Hamilton’s direction begin to “zhoosh” the other elements—yards of garland, wreathes, bells, floral arrangements and much more that line the mantels, tables, windows and light fixtures in each room.
Hamilton credits his degree in landscape design and his floral studies background to his vision for holiday decorating. If you pay attention, you may even see the crèche from his own collection hanging in the parlor room above the mantel! However, Hamilton says his favorite is the corn husk piece, found in the tea room, noting that the handmade items tell a very special story.
“I love the handmade ones because of the humbleness of them. They aren’t spit out of a machine. The story of the nativity is like that; it has a humble beginning in a manger. The nativities that can capture that feeling are my favorite.”
Hamilton hopes that, as patrons move throughout each room, they find their own favorite crèche, ones that speak to them throughout the noise and colors of the historic Degolyer house.
The Dallas Arboretum celebrates its five years of holiday magic with the 12 Days of Christmas display.
It Started with an Idea
When Tom and Phyllis McCasland moved from their small Oklahoma town to Dallas in 1998, the couple’s love for the arts blossomed in their involvement and support of the Dallas Opera, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Dallas Summer Musicals, and of course, the Dallas Arboretum. But Phyllis felt something was missing, something grandeur, something unique that Dallas deserved.
“The 12 Days of Christmas would be perfect,” Phyllis said. “The Dallas Arboretum has the space to house it. The exhibit could be educational, telling you about England, the countryside, traditions and more. It would be a perfect thing that Dallas could be known for during Christmas.”
Two years of planning and over 20,000 hours of combined labor went into this Victorian- style, yuletide extravaganza, set in 12 massive window displays throughout the garden—masterminded by Bourgeois himself. He came up with the original creative vision and design for the 12 Days of Christmas holiday exhibit at the Dallas Arboretum, oversaw its execution and returns every year to help maintain quality during installation.
“When they came to me with this vision, it was all about that uniqueness, that wow factor. They wanted an experience you can’t possibly get anywhere else,” said Bourgeois. And he certainly delivered on this.
Each gazebo represents a different line from the centuries-old song “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” and includes real period piece clothing and hand-sewn costumes. Every mannequin is also dressed with real human hair.
Uncanny Attention to Detail and Quality
When asked why the inclusion of these extravagant wigs was necessary, Dawn Rivard, hair designer for the Dallas Opera, said, “If you put a synthetic wig on a $2 million project, it looks like a synthetic wig on a $2 million project. The whole presentation is only as good as its weakest link.”
Rivard, who was well versed in window displays before she joined the 12-Days design team, worked on the installment for several weeks at a time in both the fall of 2017 and 2018. Rivard, a self-proclaimed problem-solver, said that the challenges that come with an outdoor display are absolutely worth the pay-off; guests are transported to a Christmas wonderland as they float from gazebo to gazebo.
“Everything has to be stable because you’ve got moving parts and lighting, and wind, and rain, and you have to prepare your hair, your mannequins, your animals, your everything for the worst of it,” said Rivard.
With each wig taking anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours for redressing and reinstalling, the process can be tedious. When each wig is finished, Rivard wants it to move naturally with the motorized parts.
Every year, the visual design team adds a few additional embellishments and stylistic elements to improve on the aesthetic appeal and overall feel of the exhibition. From refining the eyelashes and eyebrows, to different holiday songs playing at each gazebo, to polishing the 28,000 rhinestones sparkle, and touching up the 28 hand carved animals and 55 mannequins, the impact is a subtle breath of life. Guests will see and feel the hard work and love that lights up, spins and dances behind all that glass.
Speaking of glass, 29,000 pounds of it is used to enclose the art pieces that came together thanks to the contributions of taxidermists, makeup artists, welders, engineers, designers, and international artisans. “It takes a village to build a village,” joked Bourgeois.
The unsung heroes, Bourgeois noted, are the Firefighters that are there every day helping with the bigger pieces and overseeing set up for safety. “They’re amazing, really, one day I came out and they were down in the fake snow with tweezers. They just want to help like everyone else on the team,” said Bourgeois.
After the exhibit closes each New Year, the Gazebos are disassembled into all their composite pieces placed in giant wooden tombs within 29 semis that have been retrofitted with customs shelves and racks.
“It’s this little piece of magic, this tactile, stationary, visual connection with the Christmas feeling. In this era of technology, it really draws us back to that nostalgia and the building of our past. It feels like what Christmas is really supposed to be about,” said Rivard.
2018 marks the fifth year of the 12 days of Christmas installment, with plans for a dramatic change and new display coming in the fall of 2019. It will build on the magic and hard work everyone has spent years developing, and of course, uphold the Dallas Arboretum’s standards of quality and guest experience.
The 12 Days of Christmas is presented by Reliant and is open through December 31 excluding Thanksgiving and Christmas day, as well as Wednesday – Sunday nights through December 30, PLUS additional, special offerings Monday and Tuesday, December 17 & 18, 2018, 6:00 – 9:00 p.m.
What’s the impact of our education programs at the Dallas Arboretum? One less-discussed answer to that question comes from the summer interns the Education department hires, college students pursuing careers in education who spend the summer with our campers. As we head into colder days, we take a look back at warmer ones. Interns spent 10 weeks preparing, observing and teaching STEM camps for children ranging in ages from 3 to 13 years old. The interns participated in staff meetings, visits to other non-profits and kept weekly logs of their experience.
During the camps, they engaged the campers in activities such as learning about different scientists, building robots and investigating native flora and fauna. By the end of the summer, interns had logged over 300 hours of teaching experience by observing the Arboretum’s degreed teachers, co-teaching and eventually leading the camps themselves. A few months after the internship ended, we checked back with our interns to tell us about their experience and give us updates on what they’re up to now.
This internship opened up so many opportunities for me, and the summer was an indescribable amazing experience. I was able to work with all age groups, and the range of different campers helped me realize that every child learns in their own special way. This work opened up my eyes to some of the most effective ways to help children learn. I learned how taking a walk through the Arboretum and having students interact with nature all the way to having students learn how to code a robot themselves can cause these students to create a true understanding for science.
Everything, from simply watching and helping with management during the first couple of weeks of the internship to becoming the teacher, helped me in ways that I cannot describe. I went from not knowing how to approach a lesson to being able to handle classroom management and implement activities. I was given the room to create new activities, learn how to manage children and have fun creating my own teaching style. This internship was an amazing experience that I would do over again every summer if I could.
I learned an abundance that I will take into my classroom, and I have my mentors from this internship to thank for this. I learned that it is important to understand the child’s developmental needs when you are a teacher; therefore, I will be studying educational psychology to receive a minor on top of my Elementary Education major. I am currently a senior at Mississippi State University, and I will be extending my schooling by a semester to pursue this minor. My hope is to graduate in December 2019 and receive a job in middle school in the STEM field.
Interning at the Dallas Arboretum was a very great experience that I am glad to have been a part of this past summer. Before the internship, I knew for a fact that I wanted to be a teacher, but throughout those three months I had the opportunity to be exposed to so many amazing experiences that made me even more excited to be in my own classroom within the next few years.
The internship was a great learning experience and a growing process. Reflecting back on my first week up to my last, I can definitely see the growth within myself and that I gained the confidence to be the one in front of a classroom. Over the course of ten weeks, I developed many skills that are effective in the classroom. I learned how to take initiative and have control over my students, and I recognize that even on the most challenging days in the classroom, the kids will always manage to put a smile on your face. Because of this internship, I discovered that I already had many teacher-like qualities, and I had the opportunity to identify my strengths and weaknesses when working with different age groups.
This internship has helped me to grow and see what is like working with different grade levels, and to understand that every child is different in their own unique way. In many of my classes this semester, I can relate to a lot of the things that are discussed, because I encountered them during my internship at the Arboretum. My experience has helped me connect my experiences to what I’m learning in my classes, which ultimately is great for meaningful learning. My internship also opened up many doors for me, and I am now a current AVID tutor, working with middle school students, which is very different than working with younger kids. I often use the things I learned throughout the summer, even for this older age group.
My summer interning at the Dallas Arboretum was probably one of the most meaningful summers of my life— I learned so much about what it means to be an educator, what it’s like to work closely with people of widely differing personalities, and ultimately that yes, teaching is in fact what I want to do in life. It was challenging at times (as all good things should be), but I was never, for a second, bored: something new and crazy happens every day. I shared so many laughs with coworkers and the campers, and the Arboretum is objectively gorgeous… I could go on. I also cherish the time I spent with my co-interns, boss and camp teachers.
The Education team at the Dallas Arboretum REALLY cares—about campers and about each other—and I am so lucky to have worked in such a positive and supportive environment. That kind of model of good teamwork and community and support has really prepared me for the leadership positions that currently accompany my junior year in college.
Right now I’m back at Wellesley College, pursuing my degree in neuropsychology and education. It was hard to return to papers and exams after such an active summer, but sometimes when I’m struggling through a reading, I think back on a funny memory from the Arboretum and feel a genuine motivation that comes from excitement for my future. And I don’t think that’s something a lot of students can say.
Education is an essential piece of our mission at the Dallas Arboretum, and we are so excited to continue sharing with camper and summer camp interns every summer, building their love of nature and the Arboretum AND helping them connect with science and STEAM topics in new and exciting ways.
The forecast calls for even more rain in our future this winter, but we are ready for it at the Dallas Arboretum! When the clouds decide to unload, visitors in the garden are scarce, which is a shame.
As an Arboretum employee who is privileged enough to stroll through the gardens almost every day, I have some insider information for you:
Precipitation haters are missing out. I treasure the opportunity to forgo sunglasses for an umbrella for these four reasons:
1. The Garden Comes Alive!
When rain douses our plants, their colors become saturated, too. The Arboretum’s red Japanese maples are a deeper scarlet, the marigolds are practically gilded and the fiery ornamental peppers spark more brightly. You might already know the scientific explanation for this—lower light levels refracting differently off of objects coated in a thin layer of water—but you don’t need the specifics to enjoy a more vibrant Arboretum. There is a special beauty to be found within the greener, more intense hues of a rain-soaked garden.
Another precipitation plus: plants can’t help but thrive in a water-rich environment. Some of our flora grow bolder in the rain—sprouting new fronds, or introducing new blooms—and flowers open wider. It’s almost like every plant you pass is happier to see you.
2. Solitary Excitement!
It’s a shame most people equate strolling in the rain with “a bad time,“ but this ultimately works out for the rest of us. Sure, enjoying the beauty of nature with a crowd is fun, but I also love the silence and freedom of an unpeopled garden. No human distractions from my deep spiritual connection with nature. No bodies to worry about bumping into. No children who, due to their stage of development, understandably struggle to monitor their volume levels. Just myself, the gentle patter of raindrops, the chirping of birds and plants galore.
Also, parking is a breeze.
3. Bolder Fauna!
The Arboretum doubles as a habitat for thousands of birds, insects and other animals, but the majority of its human visitors only see the odd squirrel or grackle. Rarer creatures like rabbits, cardinals, blue jays and even the odd cat either care more about hiding or are better at it.
After months of daily walks in the Arboretum, I’ve made an unscientific conclusion: when it’s raining, more animals come out in the open. Perhaps the showers themselves encourage these little foragers to explore an acutely altered terrain. Perhaps reduced noise and foot traffic embolden our shier residents. No matter the reason, it’s a treat to see critters in action.
The trick isn’t just exploring on a rainy day: walking a steady pace, keeping your steps light, and remaining quiet all increase your chances of stumbling upon a furry or feathered friend.
4. Splash at Will—or Don’t!
I might preach the virtues of rainfall, but even I understand the difference between “delightful showers” and “monsoon season.” Luckily, if a terrifying downpour happens to spoil your garden adventure, the Dallas Arboretum’s Rainy Day Guarantee has your back. Just see our friendly representatives at the ticket booth to receive a free pass for another, sunnier day. Of course, restrictions apply—like you can only get your rainy day pass on the very day of the occurrence, the offer is only valid for a fully paid admission and the tickets will expire in 3 months. We love our guests, and it’s important to all of us that you have a lovely time in our company.
I hope you remember my advice the next time the news reports a 20% or higher chance of rain. We’ll see you in our gardens—with galoshes on!