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Nonprofit Education Opportunities Abound

Pittsburgh Botanic Garden
Pittsburgh Botanic Garden

Wonderful flower and garden displays. Entertaining shows and performances. Exhibits and watching wild animals. These are the things that may typically come to mind when considering visiting Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh Botanic Garden, the Pittsburgh Cultural District and the Pittsburgh Zoo. But all of these nonprofits also offer educational programming in the form of classes, workshops, and seminars for children and adults.

“We hope visitors to our Conservatory leave feeling inspired by the beauty and importance of the natural world. Our classes give people a way to bring that inspiration into their lives, whether that be through starting your own garden, learning to arrange or draw flowers, preparing a tasty, seasonal meal, or learning the names of the trees in their neighborhood,” Gabe Tilove, director of adult education and community outreach at Phipps, said, “We hope our classes help people live happy, healthier lives.”

The Conservatory offers more than 250 classes per year such as a wide variety of topics for adults in ecological gardening, landscape design, floral design, botanical art and illustration and culinary arts, as well as classes in backyard vegetable gardening, bonsai, orchids, terrariums and other botanical crafts. They also offer a Master Gardener volunteer program, training experienced gardeners to be a horticultural resource for not only Phipps, but for the wider community as well. “The majority of our classes are in-person, but we also offer a great range of virtual classes which our students find fun and convenient,” Tilove said.

Phipps also offers a variety of classes for children. “Our programs for youth provide a wide range of learning opportunities for different age groups. From our Kids Night Out Fall Camps for ages 5-10 to our weekly Story Time sessions for our littlest learners to field trips and our interscholastic Fairchild Challenge for educators to involve their students in, there’s a lot to choose from,” Tilove said.

Education is part of Pittsburgh Botanic Garden’s mission as a botanical garden, Mark Miller, education and exhibits director, explained. “Offering education programs is also a way for the garden to share knowledge and resources with the local community and beyond. We hope that a richer understanding of plants and the natural world will encourage and assist people in valuing plants, nature, native ecosystems, community and the Earth in general,” he said.

The educational programming relates to the main message of Pittsburgh Botanic Garden, Miller said, listing several offerings including: History of the Land (Shared Herbalism in Pioneer Times, The Whiskey Rebellion); Botany & Horticulture (Perennials That Pack a Punch, Native Shrubs & Trees of W. PA, Fairy Gardens for Kids); Conservation & Restoration (Nighttime Owl Prowl, Mushroom Forays, Succession Planting for Degraded Lands); and Nature Nurtures (yoga, tai chi, sound bath meditation, forest bathing). “We also plan to begin offering Therapeutic Horticulture classes in the near future,” Miller said.

Pittsburgh Botanic Garden also offers artistic classes and workshops with a nature focus such as watercolor workshops, macrophotography, cyanotype workshop, floral arranging and more. Summer camps and hands-on programming are also available at the Garden including geocaching, a nature passport to use during a visit and Tree Times, an opportunity to learn more about trees. The Garden also offers educational field trips and outreach programming.

Understanding art better and cultivating a love for the arts early on are two of the main reasons The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust offers educational programming to the community, children and educators.

“We think it is important with young people specifically to have exposure to the arts and learn at an early age to know and understand the arts,” Tracy Edmunds, vice president of arts education said. The Trust offers a variety of classes and workshops for adults wishing to build skills or try new skills. ”Maybe you want to try something out for the first time, or maybe you were a painter, but haven’t painted for a while. Maybe you have always wanted to try acting and this is an easy, nonthreatening environment to try it,” she said. Offerings for adults include Saturday workshops, creative conversations and masterclasses with artists from touring productions.

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust works closely with numerous schools and colleges for programming including early childhood and Pre-K programming, K-12th grade, university level and the ArtsMASTERS. With the arts integration program, the Trust partners with educators to connect the curriculum to an art form and identify the academic standards and objectives for both. While they often partner with under-resourced schools in Allegheny County, Edmunds said they provide support wherever they can.

“We have a roster of over 60 professional artists who travel all over to teach—they create programming and work with educators to inspire both the teachers and the students,” Edmunds said. Class offerings may include West African Drumming, photography and editing, STEAM, various musical programming and visual arts, just to name a few. “We will also be offering family workshops for the fall,” she said.

Lions and tigers and classes? Educational programming ties into the Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium’s mission, according to Jenn Torpie, vice president of education and community engagement.

“The zoo’s mission is to connect people with wildlife and inspire our communities to conserve nature for future generations. Education programs are a critical way that we deliver on this mission. Our programs help families connect with animals, and each other, during their visit and inspire the next generation of conservationists to act and advocate for the animals and habitats they care about,” she said.

Educational programming at the zoo starts for those as young as infancy with the story time for children and their caregivers to camps for children and teens.

“Some of our most popular are the K-12 Learning Adventure and Zoomobile programs, where we provide fun STEM-focused programs in the areas of animal adaptations, habitats and conservation, all of which include up-close experiences with animal ambassadors,” Torpie said, “Our teen programs, Zoo U and Junior Conservationist, are designed to help teens learn about zoo STEAM careers as they go behind the scenes to meet with zoo experts.”

While there are numerous structured classes and programming, Torpie said they welcome educational openings at any time. “We also love to create opportunities for visitors to discover animals as they walk through the zoo, so our staff and docents offer educational animal meet and greet opportunities and educational talks throughout the day,” she said.

The zoo will be expanding their educational programming for adults this fall with new hands-on classes including a previously offered wreath building class and other nature-inspired DIY classes. New this fall is a guided tram ride which will allow those adults with mobility issues the opportunity to visit the zoo and “Adult Winter Day Camp.” “It will be a day much like the summer programs that we offer for children—behind the scenes at some of the exhibits, meeting with animal ambassadors, and a craft,” Torpie said. The zoo also offers continuing education and professional development classes for educators.

For more information:

Phipps Conservatory:

The Pittsburgh Botanic Garden:

Pittsburgh Cultural Trust:

Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium:

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