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1927 Map of the Arboretum

Arboretum Young Scientists: Middle School Science Education

Nancy Sableski, Manager of Children's Education; Brittany Bushman, BPS science teacher; Shailah Stewart, consultant; Kareen Wilkerson, BPS science instructional coach; Catherine Donaher, consultant; Stephen Lin, outdoor science educator
Six members of Arboretum Young Scientist program at entrance to Arboretum.

Since 2014, the Arnold Arboretum has provided exceptional life science experience each year to 2,000 K-5 students of the Boston Public Schools (BPS). In 2021, Arboretum educators worked to expand this scholastic outreach to middle school students, an age group underserved nationally in botanical garden programming. By failing to engage middle school students, institutions like the Arboretum miss the opportunity to cultivate the next generation of scientists, particularly from low-income communities of color.

Our solution is Arboretum Young Scientists (AYS), a tailored program of vibrant, hands-on learning designed to open BPS middle school students to science and the prospect of scientific careers. Recognizing that 86% of BPS students are persons of color, our program is explicitly designed to be anti-racist and culturally competent. As with our programs serving younger students of BPS, there will be no cost to schools or families.

AYS students will study the processes and organisms found in the Hemlock Hill forest during the immersive summer program. Rosetta Elkin, 2021.

In Fall 2021, we are partnering with three BPS middle schools to bring 7th grade students to the Arboretum for three-season field study programs focusing on ecosystems―the heart of life science curriculum for these students at BPS. Additionally, twenty participants from the fall, winter, and spring field studies will be selected for an immersive five-week summer program.

Through lessons designed cooperatively by BPS teachers and Arboretum educators, students will investigate various habitats of the Arboretum through field study experiences led by instructors with a passion for science and youth education. Curriculum support by Arboretum scientists, horticulturalists, and educators will offer students a broad set of reference points in considering science both as an scholastic pursuit and as a vocation. 

Each year, a new 7th grade cohort will join AYS and will take part in the summer program. At the same time, rising 9th graders who participated in middle school will also return for a summer learning program of their own. Our long-term vision is to sustain our engagement with BPS students via our summer programming, constructing a continuum of outdoor science education that advances each student’s competence and confidence. Knowledge and skills gained through deepened experiences in outdoor science will equip and empower these students to pursue a future in science and discovery.

The anti-racist work that the team plans, and the careful efforts they will make to ensure the success of students who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), give me hope that many of those students participating in AYS might indeed become the scientists and environmentalists of tomorrow.

Marylynn Mack, President, American Public Gardens Associaton

The Arboretum Young Scientists Program Needs Your Help!

Donations made to benefit Arboretum Young Scientists will support the full-time position of Program Coordinator. As the organizer and public face of the program, the Program Coordinator will interact externally with BPS schools, students, and their families, and manage the participation of Arboretum staff. Responsibilities also include recruiting, training, and supporting AYS teachers and volunteers; cultivating relationships with individuals and organizations as student resources; ensuring the smooth functioning of daily programs; and evaluating and reporting on program impact and student engagement. Your gift to AYS will help the Arboretum extend the value and continuum of its educational partnership with BPS—and cultivate future scientists in our community.