A Tree Grows at Lingelbach Elementary School


By James Gallagher, Science Teacher at Lingelbach

Actually, it’s closer to 460 trees, give or take a few, according to a recent survey conducted by Bob Wells, Associate Director of Arboriculture at the Morris Arboretum.  Wells is working on creating a catalogue of tree species and tree sizes to be used in different class activities at Lingelbach.  Some 7th graders have already begun plotting the locations of the different trees, using GPS coordinates and creating virtual maps.  In the future, students will combine the catalogue with these GPS coordinates to create an interactive map for use in the classroom.

“What I specifically like, which is surprising, is being in nature where the bugs and different types of trees are.  In the woods, you get to “see with your eyes” the things you are talking about in class.  Outdoor classes are fantastic and I look forward to having more in the future.”

– Diamond M., 7th grade

Anna Lane Lingelbach elementary school, located at the intersections of Wayne Avenue and Johnson Street, sits on several acres of wooded land that is a perfect setting for outdoor learning.  The nature trail, unofficially named Park Gate Woods after the famed Park Gate Mansion that the school shares the land with, currently boasts nearly ½ mile of groomed walking trail which includes 3-D artwork, a raised-bed garden, pollinator gardens and outdoor seating areas enabling students to take their learning outside.

“I like doing things in the woods because it helps me understand them better.  The woods give us the chance to do something instead of just taking notes or reading about it.  The hands-on work helps me learn more about the subjects”.

– Jacques H., 7th grade

“I like having a unique learning space that not many other students have.  Working in the outdoors gives us more freedom and a chance to experience different things while learning to have fun while doing our work”.

– Malik D., 7th grade


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Mrs. Glowienka’s 1st grade class has been visiting the outdoor classroom to study throughout the year.  The trails and gardens have had a terrific impact on both her teaching and the students’ work.  “Having this window into so many different kinds of learning opportunities has been so valuable to my students.” states Glowienka.  Her first graders – 6 year old kids — now consider themselves scientists and caretakers of the Earth.  Here is what some of them are saying:

“I love seeing the new and different things we see everyday.  We see different leaves, insects, birds and even deer!” – Yash P., 1st grade

“I like the sculpture that looks like a ferris wheel and stairs”. – Aonyae S., 1st grade

“The sculptures are so amazing!  I wonder how they ere made.  They make our outdoor classroom so pretty!”. – Marian C., 1st grade

A unique feature of the nature trail is a 3-D sculpture garden, established in 2013.  The Sculpture Garden is an ongoing collaboration between Lingelbach School and St. Joseph’s University Art Department. Each sculpture was designed and built by university students to highlight various elements of 3D Design.  These sculptures are built from thin pieces of wood, which act like lines in space, and many of these pieces were designed to convey the idea of something that is moving or growing.   Lingelbach provides the artists and guests a space to enjoy and discover the art in a truly unique setting.

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Through the generosity of The Morris Arboretum, Park Gate Woods will soon have full-color educational signage strategically located around the trail.  Morris Arboretum’s Liza Hawley, Assistant Director, Visitor Education and Youth Programs, has helped guide the inclusion of educational content throughout the nature area.  These signs, highlighting specific features of the woods, will help create learning stations and guide activities.  Students will soon be able to learn more about topics like photosynthesis, the importance of root systems and how other organisms use the woods for their homes right where the science is happening.

Giving this project additional momentum, Tim Riley, one of the special education teachers at Lingelbach, was recently awarded a grant through the ERM Foundation to help develop the school’s outdoor resources.  Through this grant, a new pollinator garden has been planted and existing gardens have been re-established to provide the students with opportunities to get up close and personal with butterflies, bees and other pollinating animals.  The grant will also be used to help reclaim the woods from years of neglect and the propagation of several invasive plant species that present challenges to the some of the magnificent tree specimens that call Park Gate Woods home.

The school’s active Home & School Association is an integral partner in developing the school’s outdoor classroom.  Organizing various fundraisers and partnerships with community groups, like Christ Lutheran Church of Kulpsville, the Association has been able to provide additional school supplies and man-power during the clean-up days.  Jeanelle Lawson, President of the Home & School, has been instrumental in ensuring Lingelbach has the resources and support necessary to become one of the best schools in the city.

During the inception and development stages, people like Dave Dannenberg, Jan Deruiter and Dan Mercer, from the Friends of the Wissahickon , and Dave Bower, of  the Philadelphia Department of Parks and Recreation, provided important manpower and consulting services, helping guide the project through the most daunting and challenging stages.  An ongoing clean-up of the site has been taking place for several years, through small focused efforts by family, friends, staff and some professional partners like Robb Grace, a local certified arborist and owner/operator of Grace Tree Company, LLC.  Robb has helped by donating many wood chips for use throughout Park Gate Woods.  He has also played a key role in identifying hazardous trees and developing a strategy for managing the safety of the nature trail.

Lingelbach invites all neighbors and friends to visit Park Gate Woods.  The pollinator gardens are located in the front of the school nearest Wayne Avenue while the raised bed garden is located along the side of the building along Johnson Street.  Access to the nature trail can be found on either side of the building toward the rear.  There are several areas for you to sit down, enjoy the art and woods and see all that Park Gate Woods as to offer the students and community of Lingelbach Elementary School.

For more information about how you can get involved, contact Jeanelle Lawson, Home & School President, at lingelbachhsa@gmail.com.

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