Plant Talk

Con Edison STEM Day Out at GreenSchool Explores the Architecture of Light and Air

Posted in What's On at NYBG on March 3, 2023, by Tai Montanarella

Tai Montanarella is the Marian S. Heiskell Associate Director of School and Out of School Programs

A group of schoolchildren walks toward a white and glass conservatory in winter

A glasshouse has everything

“A glasshouse provides everything a plant needs to grow and survive.” Thanks to the generosity of Con Ed STEM Day Out, an initiative especially for middle school students which offers access to education programs related to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math in museums throughout the city, 6th graders from M.S. 118, The William W. Niles School in the Bronx, had the opportunity to prove this statement for themselves inside the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.

While exploring the distinct biomes representing the deserts and rain forests of the world, students looked for architectural and technological clues to help them make sense of the ingenuity and horticultural expertise that allows people to grow plants from those biomes in New York City’s cold climate.

A group of school students ask questions as they take a tour through an indoor rain forest

Exploring the rain forest

As the behind-the-scenes exploration of this National Historic Landmark lent a clearer understanding of how technological advances made it possible for people to create habitats where plants will thrive, it still left room for the lore of adventure. Students were mesmerized by the exotic plants they encountered and easily imagined themselves as modern day plant hunters finding and describing plants, documenting their uses, and studying ways they grow and survive.

In the GreenSchool classroom housed under the American desert, classes were provided with all of the materials to apply their thinking and design their own “glasshouse”—in this case, a terrarium.

Children take notes as they explore desert plants inside a conservatory

Exploring the desert

By experimenting with clear containers and lids, soil, water, and plants, students designed their own ecosystems, leading them to prompt you, reader, with this question:

“How might a terrarium be compared to earth?“

GreenSchool has partnered with Con Edison STEM Day Out during the past decade to provide free, high-quality education programs that spark interest in STEM. Since 2015, more than 1,500 students who may not have visited NYBG otherwise were funded by Con Edison to participate in guided STEM programs at the Garden.

A child in a green shirt holds up a plastic container converted into a terrarium, containing live plants and soil

How is a terrarium like Earth?

Children’s Education investigations attend to three-dimensional learning experiences for the Next Generation Science Standards by allowing students phenomena-based opportunities to make sense of their world and engage in the same practices that scientists and engineers do. GreenSchool workshops support NYC Science Scope and Sequence, the NYS Science Core Curriculum, and the Next Generation Science Standards.

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