A Day in the Life

August 20th, 2014 by Lisa Sanphillippo

imagine
you are outside. The sun is shining, illuminating the new growth on the western red cedars. It’s been a great growing season and the plants at Washington Park Arboretum are thriving. The backdrop of evergreen trees is a lovely frame to all of the native and non-native plants in the collection. Now, if they would just get here!

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Photo by Lisa Sanphillippo

Just when you thought you couldn’t wait any longer, here comes the bus holding 60 scheduled school-aged children just bursting with energy and excitement to be out of school and outside on such a fine day as this. Today, you will be teaching 15 of them the Native Plants and Native People program. What is native? What is invasive? Who was born in this state? Who are the Puget Sound Salish People? The kids get engaged by the questions you ask. You are showing them their participation and input is valuable.

You will focus some of their amazing energy into a running game about what it is people need to survive. After they have run out some of their shenanigans, you might point out that most everything folks need to survive comes from plants. And with the Puget Sound Salish People, they didn’t just use any old plants; they used plants that are native – original to this place.

Photo by Jacob Smithers

It will surprise you how many of them know what a western red cedar looks like. The J-shaped branches and the flat leaves are very familiar to most of them. But, you can still teach them about western hemlock and its different length needles and puzzle-piece bark. Douglas fir might be new to them, too. Though, once the children see the deep and creviced bark and the way-up high branches, it will be hard for them to forget. Maybe you will tell them the story of the mouse looking for a safe home during a forest fire using the cones of each to differentiate and describe the three trees. You know that story will create a great memory for them about how to identify all three trees.

You will show them artifacts made by local Ethnobotanist, Heidi Bohan. They will get a chance to touch and hold a model of a cedar weaving, fishing spear or canoe bailer. Each made to demonstrate how plants can be used to create a beautiful and useful object that could help a person survive and thrive. When you ask the kids what they use in their everyday lives that is made from plants, you are impressed that the list they give you is so long.

Photo by Jacob Smithers

When you show them to salal and Oregon grape plants and tell them about how berries from each were mixed together along with huckleberry to make a delicious berry cake sort of like a fruit roll up, you can see that they are almost ready for lunch! To distract them, you get them going on the hands-on activities.

This is your favorite part, because they have to work together as a team – just as Puget Sound Salish people of the past and present – to understand how to use a fire bow and drill or to build a single wall of a plank house or to learn how to cook food below the ground. It’s a great distraction because they’ve forgotten about their hunger for a moment as they dig in to the task at hand.

Jacob Smithers

It’s nearly the end of the program, now. You gather them together and ask each person to tell you something they learned or liked from the field trip. It is thrilling how many of them remember that the western hemlock makes sunscreen, how Douglas fir has mouse butts in the cones or that homes can be made without nails.

You thank them and walk them back to the start where their bus will come for them and take them back to school. You hope they will remember today as a positive and fun day. You hope the time here will aid them in their classroom work. Most of all, you hope they will continue to love and learn about plants and one day be a person who advocates for and serves the environment.

You head back to the work room to talk with your fellow guides about the kids and their chaperones and to put away the activities and props from the program. You are tired – sheesh, kids take it out of you – but you are proud to be a part of something important and worthy.

This is the kind of day we get to have at University of Washington Botanic Gardens Washington Park Arboretum. Is it the kind of day you might like?

Our Volunteer Garden Guides bring their knowledge and skills to teach about native plants, forests, pollination, photosynthesis, wetland plants and animals, ecosystems and habitat. We provide training, curricula and enrichments so each person is confident and comfortable teaching.

Consider donating your valuable time and expertise to connecting kids to nature through field trips. We welcome you to be a part of our incredible team of staff and volunteers. We can tell you will fit right in.

  • UW Botanic Gardens Volunteer Garden Guide Training begins September 5th with a kayak tour of the Washington Park Arboretum and continues the following week.
  • For more information about becoming a volunteer and training, please contact Lisa Sanphillippo, School Programs Coordinator, at 206-543-8801 or lsanphil@uw.edu.
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Slowing the Clock with Winter

March 5th, 2014 by Lisa Sanphillippo

Before we know it, it will be spring. April will be here and there will be flowers and (more) rain and leaf buds opening. We will continue on with our lives; work, school, exercise, going out and of course, gardening. Time moves on, no matter what, and it feels like it’s moving VERY quickly.

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I think I may have found a way to slow things down. Well, slowed down for an hour, anyway. I went to the Joseph A. Witt Winter Garden at Washington Park Arboretum with my camera. It was on a day we were supposed to have rain and didn’t. For the hour I was out in the field, I saw color, smelled sweet and spicy scents, felt soft and hairy flower buds, heard birds sing and declare territory and relished in the form of the naked trees. Time slowed and my senses (including my sense of wonder) took over.

If you don’t already know, the Joseph A. Witt Winter Garden is just a short distance from the parking lot near Graham Visitors Center. Walking west of the center and up the graveled ramp, you pass by one of the most fascinating trees, Malus fusca or Pacific Crabapple. This particular tree is at least as old as the Arboretum (1935) and is listed as a State Champion for it’s width. You can see in the picture below how long the side branches are.

Malus fusca

Just a little further down the trail, in the “hallway” to the Winter Garden, are two of my most favorite witch hazels. Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ not only has a beautiful flower color, but it’s fall color is also spectacular. I have seen purple, orange, red, green and yellow in one leaf.

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Directly across the trail is Hamamelis mollis, which has my favorite witch hazel fragrance and a brilliant yellow color.

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A few steps more and the the garden and all its beauty presents itself.

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A Townsend’s Warbler in Berberis ‘Arthur Menzies’ – tasting the last of the flowers. Too fast for me to get a great shot.

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The friendly and fuzzy flower buds of a star magnolia.

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The amazing and nearly unbelievable color of Cornus sanguinia ‘Midwinter Fire’.

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The shy (they don’t even lift their ‘heads’ when you walk by) and spicy sweet flowers of the Chimonanthus praecox.

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Mercy! I could go on and on. There is so much to see, smell and touch! Okay, just one more. Helleborus ‘HGC Cinnamon Snow’.

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You must come to the Joseph A. Witt Winter Garden for yourself and take the time to be fully rooted in the present. You will feel like you are suddenly living in technicolor after having been in black and white. Don't delay, soon enough we’ll be caught up in spring’s turn to blow our minds with sights and sounds.

(Top picture is a Acer griseum surrounded by two Betula albo-sinensis var. septentrionalis.
All photographs taken by Lisa Sanphillippo, UW Botanic Gardens Education Program Assistant.)

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Training Dates Announced

January 16th, 2013 by Lisa Sanphillippo

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UWBG School Programs serve over 6,000 kids a year and we could not possibly do it without the help of our volunteers. We are hiring volunteer Garden Guides now and have two dates to get folks started on their journey to engage kids in the great outdoors.

Saturday February 9th from 11:00 – 3:00 pm and
Saturday February 16th from 11:00 – 3:00 pm

Guides need only attend one training, but are welcome to both. Both trainings will cover an introduction to the University of Washington Botanic Gardens as well as round table and in the field discussions about class management, interpretation techniques and age appropriate teaching.

2-way viewer for Paige

February 9th we will focus on our Plants 101 and 201 programs and February 16th we’ll focus on Wetlands 101 and 201. New guides will learn what the big ideas of each program are, how the student’s age affects the level and amount of information given and how to use the props and activities in the field.

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If you would like to fill nature with children and teach them about plant science, ecology and more, contact Lisa Sanphillippo at 206-543-8801 or lsanphil@uw.edu for more information.

We value our volunteers for their time, experience and dedication! We hold enrichments, training and other educational opportunities regularly. Call or email now to become a treasured part of our team.

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Fieldtrips in Fall…

October 12th, 2012 by Lisa Sanphillippo

are going like gangbusters! Between the months of September and November, we have over 1300 kids signed up for fieldtrips.

Our guides have been loving the mild weather and teaching and learning from these budding naturalists. The Arboretum is such an amazing place to explore; all of the senses can be engaged, well, except for taste! Those of us in the field are so fortunate to be able to teach a variety of topics to kids based on what they are learning in class. Here’s a sampling of what we’ve done so far:

Plant Parts - kids act out each part and then work together to show how a tree’s parts function together to form a whole organism

Seed Dispersal - we go on a seed hunt, look at all of the seeds with magnifiers, then categorize each seed into methods of dispersal such as eaten by an animal, wind, water, propulsion, hitchhikers and fire

Native Plant Identification - we learn how to identify native plants and use artifacts made by Ethnobotanist, Heidi Bohan, to demonstrate how those plants can be used to help people thrive and survive

Producers, Consumers and Decomposers - kids learn that life can be grouped into these three main categories by playing a running game and observing, recording and organizing the organisms they find on a hike

Aquatic Dip – kids get to take a look at the aquatic macro-invertebrates that live in our very own Lake Washington and think about how these small creatures contribute to the overall health of a wetland ecosystem

Here are some of the things students have been saying about their time here at the Arboretum:

“I love it here at the Auditorium.”

[I overheard two kids talking to each other on our walk]

“I wish we could come every week.” “I wish we could come here everyday!”

[At the end of the field trip, we ask the students what they liked or learned, here's a few quotes]

“I like when you gave us 2 minutes of free style!”

“I liked looking at spiders.”

“I liked looking at all of the trees.”

Here are some quotes from a packet of thank you letters from Seattle Country Day School:

“I learned Arboretum means tree place. I think it was really fun when we made a tree out of our bodies!”

“It was fun being the bark and chanting we are bark please keep out.”

“Thank you for showing us around the Arboretum. My favorite part was when we planted a seed. I learned that you need the perfect temperature to grow a plant.”

“I learned that plants help us breathe.”

You know, you don’t have to be a student on a field trip to get out into the Arboretum! Take off your adult worries and slip into a more comfortable and comforting environment. Re-engage your sense of wonder by smelling some soil or hugging a tree. You might just see us with a group of students doing the exact same thing.

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Photo from Contest Winner Gets on City Site!

October 11th, 2012 by Lisa Sanphillippo

Congratulations, Annie!

Not only for having a photo that was one of the winners in our August Kids Digital Photography Contest, but for one of your photos making it onto the Visiting Seattle page of our city’s website! Annie’s amazing photo is 4th on the slide show.

Kids RULE!

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Wanted: Volunteer Garden Guides for Saplings

September 11th, 2012 by Lisa Sanphillippo

This could be you!

This could be you!

If you enjoy being outdoors, teaching and learning about plants of the Arboretum, and you like working with school aged children then you might be a Saplings Garden Guide!

Our fall season begins in just a few short weeks and we have field trips booked! Apply here today to be a Saplings Garden Guide. Our volunteers receive free training, on-going enrichments and opportunities for further learning.

For questions or more information, contact Lisa Sanphillippo: lsanphil@uw.edu or 206-543-8801.

Let’s work together to engage children in nature.

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We Have Winners!

September 6th, 2012 by Lisa Sanphillippo

The UWBG Kids Digital Photography Contest was a complete success! We had 12 entries, ranging from ages 7 to 16, who submitted some really incredible artwork.

At least one photo of every contestant is displayed at Fuel Coffee on 24th Ave in the Montlake neighborhood.

You can also view all of the photographs on Flickr.

You will note that at both locations we have displayed photographs taken by our Art in the Park Summer Camp kids. Their photos were inspired by their study of Ansel Adams and Andrew Goldsworthy.

And now for our winners – drum roll, please! Congratulations to Srija, Cooper, Teagan and Annie!


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Amazing Photos from Art in the Park Kids

July 31st, 2012 by Lisa Sanphillippo

We haven’t even begun our Digital Photo Contest (starts TOMORROW! August 1st), but thought we would share some of the photographs taken by the Art in the Park Campers here at the Arboretum.

These 4th – 6th graders are studying photography, art in nature – sculpting with natural objects, music, painting and using food to make art. Yesterday they took photos and learned a bit about Ansel Adams and today they learned a bit about Andy Goldsworthy and making art using natual objects.

We are so lucky to have these budding artists on our grounds. Here are some of their photos.

If you are between 4 and 16 – or know someone who is – don’t forget about our Digital Photo Contest starting tomorrow. For more information visit our calendar pages.

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Digital Photography Contest for Kids

July 27th, 2012 by Lisa Sanphillippo

Hey, Kids! If you are between 4 and 16 get out your digital cameras, visit the Arboretum, take some awesome pictures and send them to us between August 1st and 31st. We’ll announce winners and prizes by September 5th.

You retain ownership of your work, but by entering this contest, you give UWBG rights to use your work on it’s website and in promotional materials.

Upload your photos to our Flickr Group.

Contact Information: uwbgeduc@uw.edu or call 206-543-8801

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Park in the Dark

June 26th, 2012 by Lisa Sanphillippo

Boy was I worried about the weather on Saturday June 23rd. It was awful – cold, rainy and windy. Would anyone come out for the scheduled Park in the Dark at Washington Park Arboretum? I was just about to give up hope, when suddenly and miraculously, the skies cleared just in time for the night hike we had planned!

About 20 people (kids and adults) joined me for a delightful walk learning about nocturnal animals and how they use their senses to get around in the night.

Early on in the walk, we talked a little about the possibility of seeing barred owls (Strix varia). The Horticultural Staff and Garden Guides had been seeing the adults and their young for a couple of weeks. I played the Park in the Dark guests the barred owl “Who Cooks for You” call and the ascending high pitched sound the youngsters make when begging for food on my iPad. That way we could listen for their call and let our ears lead the way.

Lucky for us, we didn’t even have to use our ears, because as we were walking down Azalea Way, a very kind man said that the owls were out and about in the big leaf maple tree (Acer macrophyllum) just before the Winter Garden. Our large group quickly, and not so quietly, hustled to the spot.

Eureka! Three juvies were very low in three different trees begging for food. Their beg sounds a lot like they are whining, “Pleeeeaaaase!” We were all mesmerized. We probably stood and watched them for about 15 minutes.


Photo by Stephanie Colony

We decided to move on to another activity and give the owls some space. We played a fun game called Bat and Moth in the Winter Garden and walked to one of my favorite spots in the Arboretum, Loderi Valley. The King George Rhododendrons (Rhododendron ‘Loderi King George’) look like upside down people; heads under the ground and limbs above reaching outward and upward.

On the ground we found leaf skeletons from the many varieties of magnolias that surround Loderi Valley. Among the leaf litter, one little girl found an Almond Scented Millipede (Harpaphe haydeniana).


Photo by Franco Folini

These garden friendly critters release hydrogen cyanide when threatened. It smells like almonds, but tastes really bad to birds. Almond scented millipedes are excellent at breaking down the leaf litter and freeing up nutrients for other organisms.

On our way back to the Graham Visitors Center we stopped by the big leaf maple to see if the owls were still there. They were! Still making their whiney “feed me” call.

It was a great night and I hope the rest of our Park in the Dark night hikes are filled with as many surprises as Saturday’s.

Park in the Dark
July 14 8-9:30pm
August 25 8-9:30pm
September 15 7-8:30pm
October 13 7-8:30pm
$8.00 per person
Register online here

Lisa Sanphillippo is a Program Assistant and Garden Guide for Education and Outreach at UW Botanic Gardens.

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