Discovering Nature In The City

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Published on: Nov. 2, 2002

Last revision: Nov. 12, 2010

Elementary, "and I'm going to get cardinals to come to it."

In "Nature's Garden and Greenhouse," third-graders learned the importance of scoring wildlife seeds while shaking tiny partridge pea seeds in a small jar lined with sandpaper.

"Shake it, shake it, shake it," sang Myra Becerra, and the rest of her classmates joined in.During the four minutes it took to score the seeds so they can germinate, Education Specialist Shea Bergman took them on a walking tour of the building's wastewater treatment facility.

"It's an indoor wetlands that cleanses the water from the toilets," Shea said.

"Yuck!" exclaimed the class in unison.

After the water is filtered by passing through several tubs of aquatic plants, the water then passes through a layer of sand and gravel for further cleaning. From there, it eventually flows through an indoor stream and waterfall. The water would have to be treated with chemicals to be used as drinking water, Shea said, but it is clean enough to be recycled through the toilets and the wetlands outside. The kids nod in agreement, but no one touches the waterfall.

In another part of Nature's Garden workshop, students who studied butterflies are creating clay sculptures of butterfly gardens, complete with flowers, water gardens and places for people to sit and watch them.

"I made a place for the butterflies to sit and a place for the cocoons to be placed, said Tyler Reeter. "Butterflies eat nectar from flowers," added third-grader Christopher Uribe, explaining why his sculpture contained so many plants.

After the kids leave the center, the classroom teachers reinforce what they learned with follow-up lessons provided by the Discovery Center staff. Math, science, history, writing and reading are all part of these sessions.

"These student-based, hands-on lessons emphasize problem solving. There's no busy work," said Amy Hite. "We also make it easy on the teachers by providing materials. All they have to do is make copies and have color pencils available."

Despite the fun, relaxed atmosphere, the staff has to help the students overcome a few hurdles.

"We have an easy subject to teach," said Bob Fluchel, "but we have to get the kids over their fears of bugs and swooping birds. And because the center is a building in the middle of the city, the city kids feel secure."

It's so safe that some kids don't want to leave.

"Can we live here?" asked some

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