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Arnold Arboretum

Head Start Initiative

Karen Anderson and group

Children look at cones from the Dawn Redwood.

The Arnold Arboretum has offered field trips for local Head Start programs in Boston since 2007. In this age-appropriate program, volunteer guides conduct multi-sensory explorations, allowing children to participate in investigations, gather a collection of plant materials, and make an observational drawing. Preschool children come in the spring, summer, and fall.

HS hand lens to look at snail

A young scientist examines a snail with a hand lens.

Working with preschool children reveals that the youngest students are often the boldest: keen to explore anything they encounter, excited to make new discoveries, and eager to share their experiences with their peers, teachers, and parents. The enthusiasm of young children is amplified in a natural outdoor setting like the Arnold Arboretum. In past years, Field Study experiences for preschoolers have included venturing down Willow Path, traveling along the edge of the meadow, and exploring the North Woods. In spring, the program focuses on exploring the area around the ponds with participants from the South Side Head Start Center, which serves the Roslindale-Hyde Park neighborhoods of Boston.

Feel the love

Children pretend to be trees reaching for the sunlight.

In addition to the seasonal field trips, the Arboretum hosts Head Start Family Day, a fall open house for families of Head Start students. With bus transportation provided by the Arboretum, families embark together on hikes, make leaf rubbings, examine plant material under microscopes, and enjoy healthy snacks. Last year the Arboretum hosted 60 parents and children, the largest number of attendees yet for this annual event.

May 08 observational drawing 1

Children draw plants and animals in the Arboretum.

In the 2012-13 school year, the Arboretum devoted increased resources to deepening the partnership with South Side Head Start. After meeting with staff and teachers, Arboretum educators designed curricula that replicates the successful model of classroom instruction and mentoring achieved at Agassiz Elementary and the BTU School. The Arboretum’s science education specialist visited South Side classrooms to augment life science investigations, sharing plant material from the living collections and selected children’s literature to build language skills and broaden the children’s understanding of the natural world.

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