Inside The New York Botanical Garden

Tai Montanarella

Bronx High School Students become Naturalists at NYBG

Posted in Children's Education on May 7 2019, by Tai Montanarella

Tai Montanarella is the Marian S. Heiskell Associate Director of School and Out-of-School Programs at The New York Botanical Garden.

Photo of students in the forestWhat does a Bronx high school student enjoying a spring break vacation today have in common with pioneering 19th-century American botanist John Torrey? If they participated in the week-long Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) Citizen Science Institute held at NYBG’s GreenSchool, they found at least one lofty commonality: engaging in scientific pursuits during leisure time.

It was during the capstone seminar with Esther Jackson, Public Services Librarian at the Garden, that they discovered this connection and other surprising ones. Esther shared the current work citizen scientists are doing transcribing The John Torrey Papers, an important collection of documents of Torrey’s correspondence, manuscripts, notes, and botanical illustrations held in the Archives of the Garden. Students learned from reading these historic documents how the scientist whose work collecting, describing, and classifying plant specimens from around the world wholly resounded with their own experiences over the course of their week across Garden grounds and beyond. More importantly, they came to connect how the rigorous work they engaged in might one day also hold historical significance to important contributions to science.

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Fourth-Graders Create Art Inspired by the Holiday Train Show

Posted in Children's Education on February 6 2018, by Tai Montanarella

Tai Montanarella, Marian S. Heiskell, Associate Director, School and Out-of-School Programs

Kids art

One of the rewards for leading plant science workshops at the GreenSchool in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory for school groups is often the lovely drawings and letters of thanks we receive from students afterward. However, when we received the garden-inspired artwork of Mrs. Foley’s fourth graders from P.S. 107 in Flushing after they visited the Holiday Train Show in December, I knew from their drawings and writing that these were not just obligatory thank you notes, but recollections of heartfelt experiences.

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Project WASTE: Middle School Students Clean Up the Bronx River

Posted in Around the Garden on April 19 2017, by Tai Montanarella

Tai Montanarella is the Marian S. Heiskell Associate Director of School and Out-of-School Programs at The New York Botanical Garden.

Students taking part in Project WasteAlongside a naturalistic waterfall in the Thain Family Forest tourists were snapping family photographs, capturing scenes of the rushing Bronx River, its rocky gorge, and the leafing and flowering spring trees behind them. Yet only 20 feet away lay a tarp with hundreds of pieces of litter, from styrofoam bearing popular fast food logos to glass beer bottles. It was this scene which captivated the students of St. Brendan School in the Bronx.

“In order to find out how garbage gets into the Bronx River, we have to think about the ways water gets into the river,” said forest gardener Erica Deluca. Students had some ideas to share. Thanks to the generosity of Con Edisom STEM Days Out, they have been stewards of the Bronx River for the past two years, observing seasonal changes and thinking about how water quality changes over time by collecting and analyzing macroinvertebrate leaf pack data, and by keeping abreast of current events about human activities and the river.

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Ethnobotany Explorers Bring STEM to GreenSchool

Posted in Children's Education, Learning Experiences on August 8 2014, by Tai Montanarella

Tai Montanarella is the Manager of School and Family Programs for The New York Botanical Garden.

Ethnobotany ExplorersWhat is an ethnobotanist, anyway? This was the question on the minds of six New York City public school students who were accepted to participate in Ethnobotany Explorers, a new summer academic enrichment program offered to middle through high school students.

Funded in partnership with New York City Department of Education STEM Matters, these lucky teens got to spend four weeks in July learning the answer while building on a tradition of enthnobotanical scientific study at The New York Botanical Garden that goes back over a century.

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GreenSchool in the Rain Forest: A Third Grade Excursion

Posted in Learning Experiences on May 16 2012, by Tai Montanarella

Tai Montanarella is the Manager of School and Family Programs at The New York Botanical Garden.

How do plants in the rain forest survive? This was the question on the minds of Prospect Hill Elementary School students as they explored the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. It was here at the NYBG that they became first-hand field scientists for a day, embarking on their own botanical expedition through the diverse tropical rooms of our glasshouse.

While they did not have to get on a plane to visit these rain forests, these third graders did have to travel through extreme biomes before they could reach them. This is a museum of plants, after all. Their journey began when they got off the bus, where they were not only greeted by GreenSchool educator Pilar Okeson, but by a fantastic Zelkova tree (Zelkova serrata). Hailing all the way from Japan, this deciduous tree does equally well in the temperate climate of New York City, and can reach 100 feet tall. It was only the first of many exotic plants the children would encounter.

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