LISLE, IL - With a $100,000 grant to The Morton Arboretum, the Exelon Foundation has become the first philanthropic organization to support a trio of youth mentoring and science learning programs. The programs comprise The Arboretum's STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Pathways Program, which provides Chicago-area teens opportunities for rich natural science career exploration, skills development, and workplace learning.
"The Morton Arboretum's programs combine science education and environmental stewardship - two key areas that the Exelon Foundation is dedicated to supporting," said Steve Solomon, president of the Exelon Foundation. "The Foundation is pleased to help advance the Arboretum's efforts to provide young people hands-on experience in the natural sciences and produce the next generation of scientists."
Susan Wagner, Arboretum vice president of education and information, said, "We'll offer students deep exploration that they could not experience in a traditional classroom. Students aged 12-18 will work alongside scientists and master educators to participate in outdoor learning experiences and make a difference through their actions."
The three programs are designed as successive stepping-stones to careers in forestry, natural science interpretation, or botany:
• Macgyvers (Morton Arboretum Children's Garden Youth Volunteers), for grades 7-9, connects volunteers with younger children to teach them about gardening and the natural world in an engaging way. Macgyvers strengthen their own knowledge and connection to the natural world, develop skills in public speaking and early childhood development, and enhance their leadership qualities. In its first five years, 169 children volunteered as Macgyvers, and 21 percent repeated participation for three years or more.
• Summer Science Camp Counselor in Training Program, for grades 8-10, mentors students to help them build their understanding of natural science and their skills in interpreting it for young audiences. After a weeklong training camp, students volunteer as assistant summer science camp counselors. This program aims to accept 12 students in its inaugural session this summer.
• Woodland Conservation School Program, for grades 9-12, educates students about natural areas management. Students work alongside trained woodland stewards to restore Arboretum natural areas. Forty-six teachers and 103 students participated in the program in 2010, and students reported that they gained a new perspective on the woodlands and felt their efforts had made a difference.
The programs' benefits may extend into the community and beyond, Wagner says. "Research shows that positive early experiences in nature foster a lifelong appreciation and respect for living things. By providing a deeper understanding of trees and nature, children grow up to be adults who are more inclined to make decisions that protect the environment."
The Arboretum Education Program, founded in 1922 during the Arboretum's inception, is one of the oldest and largest such programs of any botanical institution in the United States.
The Morton Arboretum is a world-renowned leader in tree science and education, working to save and plant trees. The 1,700-acre outdoor museum features magnificent collections of 4,117 kinds of trees, shrubs, and other plants from around the world. The Arboretum's beautiful natural landscapes, gardens, research and education programs, and year-round family activities support its mission - the planting and conservation of trees and other plants for a greener, healthier, and more beautiful world. Conveniently located at I-88 and Rte. 53 in Lisle, Illinois, the Arboretum is open 7 days a week, 365 days a year, from 7 a.m. Central Time until sunset. The Children's Garden is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., March through October, and 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., November through February. Visit Press Room at www.mortonarb.org, call to learn more.