Learning from the Land

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Published on: Oct. 2, 2000

Last revision: Nov. 5, 2010

and local farmers were invited to observe their cultivation procedures and results. Bielmann kept bees and established a bee garden, used sewage sludge for fertilizer, purchased a sawmill to produce lumber on the grounds and terraced fields to curtail erosion.

In 1953, under Beilmann’s direction, the Arboretum hosted a pageant called the "Saga of the Meramec," dramatizing the history of land use in the Meramec Valley. The three-day event attracted 30,000 visitors from St. Louis and the Gray Summit area.

The Arboretum also became a testing ground for game management. "There were no deer or turkeys at the Arboretum in the 1930s," remembers Brenner. In 1945, the Conservation Commission designated the Arboretum as a game preserve. The white-tailed deer population grew from two in 1939 to 30 in 1951. Red fox and beaver became abundant, and owl, woodcock and quail numbers increased.

From the mid 1950s to the late 1960s, funding from the Botanical Garden to its "country cousin" was drastically reduced. During this period, essential maintenance was supervised by Frank Steinberg, who worked at the Arboretum for 52 years. Ray Garlick joined the Arboretum staff in 1969, worked until the age of 72, and then volunteered for 12 years. Ray, who was loved by the staff, passed away this year and will be missed.

"Frank and Ray knew how to do things right the first time," says Glenn Beffa, Arboretum maintenance supervisor. "They took care of equipment and tools because there was no money to replace them."

The next generation of staff - including John Behrer, who became superintendent in 1983 and director in 1996 - has been unfolding the latest and perhaps most exciting chapter in the Arboretum’s history. Soon after the appointment of ecologist Dr. David M. Gates as director of the Missouri Botanical Garden in 1965, ecological education programs for children and adults began in earnest. After three decades they continue to grow.

In the 1970s, children camped, canoed and explored the Arboretum with all their senses, to become "acclimatized" to nature. Students enrolled in the course, "Living in the 1800s," stayed overnight in a log cabin with no running water and learned to make tools, harvest vegetables and prepare meals on a woodstove.

Through the 1980s to the present, education programs have incorporated scientific inquiry with hands-on activities. For example, the thousands of children who have participated in the Arboretum’s maple syrup class make (and taste!) maple syrup and learn about photosynthesis,

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