Chloe Wang fell in love with the lower Schuylkill River after she put in the river down by Bartram’s Gardens. The boat was an English style flat-bottomed canal "punt" that she and other Haverford College students had just built earlier in the day during a breakneck 6-hour workshop led by the Brooklyn based activist artist boat-building collaborative, Mare Liberum, www.thefreeseas.org That was 2015. Now she works for Bartram’s Gardens in its community boathouse program. The initiative allows people to take out kayaks and rowboats on the river for free on Saturdays from April to October. Just this year the “punt” was pulled from storage and dusted off. Wang was invited by Mare Liberum to help paint a mural on the bottom depicting the river’s tides and the non-humans that inhabit the river environment for a new exhibit on the Hudson and Schuylkill rivers at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education. Painted on one side is a black silhouette of downtown Philadelphia, on the other the silhouette of the South Philadelphia oil refineries: both border the river. Your correspondent engaged Wang in the art gallery some minutes before the Center’s annual Richard James lecture, honoring its founder, which this year featured experts discussing “Water: Peril and Promise.” Watch video interview of college student who built then navigated canal boat,then painted mural on bottom for nature center gallery exhibit on rivers.
It wasn't easy growing up for this educator. When he was about 10 years old, he got diagnosed with a non-verbal learning disability. He was not picking up cues and it was difficult and taking him longer to comprehend things. He also showed signs of ADD, tending to rush and not keeping things in their place. He says he is unique, nearly affected with Aspergers syndrome but not actually on the autism spectrum Academically, he was accommodated for the disability by being given special homework and prep materials and allowed more time on tests. But his trouble reading social cues kept him from being part of social groups at school and subjected him to bullying. At college, life became easier because his classmates were more accepting. Meanwhile. he has developed several coping strategies - writing things down more, using organizers and technology such as an electronic chip that lets his keys, should they be misplaced, communicate with his phone. He is finding that talking with others openly about his disability, such as with your correspondent, is helping him build his confidence. He has come a long way since he was younger and terrified of talking on the phone. Video Interview of teacher who overcomes non-verbal learning disability.
JS Jenks Academy for Arts and Sciences Teacher Jon Tietz is motivated to have his students produce good art. And to do that, he regularly integrates math concepts of patterns and perspective into student lessons and projects. He recently showed off eye-catching student works of art in a variety of media, some inspired by Greek classics, Alexander Calder or M.C. Escher, dramatically on display along the school's first floor corridor. Tietz has built 12 large collapsible wooden frames with horizontal wires for moveable clothesline type exhibits in the school. The frames can hold over 400 pieces, using front and back. When not in use, they are folded up and stored behind the auditorium stage. Walking down to his art room Tietz, pointed out the framed artwork along the stairway walls, part of the growing Jenks Art Gallery or "JAG," a reference to the school teams' mascot, the Jaguars. Student clothesline art exhibit and video interview.
Participating in Renaissance fairs is what brought teacher Ken Nichols and student Ann Nicholson together in Nichols' current class through the Mount Airy Learning Tree, "Swashbuckling for Stage and Screen." At fairs around the country, Nichols would focus on swordplay, jousting and choreographing. He eventually earned certification in stage-fighting and now teaches the art at colleges and choreographs fights for theater productions. At the medieval fairs, Nicholson, alternatively focused on the dramatic portrayals and now hopes to add combat skills to her repertoire. Your correspondent signed up for the course fancying it might be fun to flourish a sabre like Errol Flynn. In class, we are learning and practicing an array of thrusts, slashes and parries with our blunt edged and tipped swords along with some footwork. We are working our way toward performing a convincing sword-fight scene and, with proper cuing, not getting hurt! Video of class stage-fighting with swords for theater and movies
Naturalists at the Wissahickon Environmental Center Treehouse are raising and launching monarch butterflies. In the Andorra meadow a short distance above the Trreehouse, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation staffers Christina Moresi and Maris Harmon harvest milk weed leaves on which monarch butterflies have laid their small white eggs. They bring the leaves down to the Treehouse where the eggs hatch into caterpillars. They demand an abundant supply of milkweed leaves to munch on and grow. Moresi has filmed the whole metamorphosis. The grown caterpillars will climb to the top of a screen mesh and spin into milky green colored pupae. As the pupae mature, their casings become translucent and the butterflies' distinctive orange markings become visible. Finally the encapsulated butterflies emerge out of the bottom and pump blood to stretch out their new wings.
The naturalists place a small round tag on each newborn's wing and register it in an online database so if it is found in Mexico or en route, it can be identified. Moresi (right in photo) explains that the butterflies which lay their eggs in the Andorra are the fourth generation of butterflies migrating from hibernation in Mexico. Before they are released, the young monarchs are fed a rich diet of nectar and become flight worthy in a tall netted enclosure. The Center announces when they are about to release a group of monarchs. They are bound for Mexico, an extraordinary 2000 mile journey.
(Interviewer's Note: Conservationists have been actively engaged in combating a severe long term decline in the population of the monarch butterfly, a beautiful and important pollinator, that has been attributed to habitat loss from logging and pesticide use)
Clockwise from top left. Teens from Wordsworth Academy, a special needs school assist children in making recycled bottle planters. An activist with Sea Shepherd talks about the group's efforts to save endangered porpoises and whales. From the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ, a horseshoe crab. FEMA is ready to assist in disasters, this representative from the flood mitigation unit assures. Evergreen Lane farm sets up aquaponics systems. Photo on web here.
Elijah Fletcher ran away from the George Junior Republic residential school north of Pittsburgh last July because he was missing home and even missing trouble. That memorable adventure in a swamp being attacked by mosquitos ended with his return to the school. On June 3rd he was beaming at his high school graduation with his proud Dad by his side, about to begin his first job, and with a handsome college scholarship in hand. After earning a degree in psychology and sociologist, he plans to give back through work helping youth find a better life than stealing and drugs. Watch video here.
A Penn Environment representative demonstrates how planting trees will cool the earth and counter global warming using a lamp, a model house and tree and a temperature reading gun. Video and interview here.
Architecture students from Philadelphia University demonstrate the model they've desgined of a turbine that would sit in the ocean off of Santa Monica California that would not only generate energy from wave action but would allow people to walk through the apparatus. The walkway is composed of segments which compensate for undulations and thus would grant visitors a level walking experience while connecting directly with the source of their [electric] power. The designers, entering their model in a competition, describe their invention as "habitable generative art." Watch video and interview here.
Speech pathology students from Salus University offer samples of thickened juice to educate the public how thickened liquids can help people with swallowing problems inadvertently breathe liquids into their lungs. Watch video and interview here.
Quaker Action activist Chris Baker Evens urge the PECO [Exelon] electric utility to agree to buy back energy from residents of North Philadelphia who install renewable, solar energy panels on their rooftops. At a booth across the way at the Philadelphia Science Festival, PECO representatives advise the public how to save on their energy bills. Watch video and interview here.
Alison and Robin of Philadelphia's Resource Exchange demonstrate and explain how scraps of clothing and many other things you might be inclined to trash can be used to make art or recycled for other purposes. Watch video interview here.