Every school year, the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy brings thousands of young learners from across the region to our city's biggest classrooms - our parks.

Working alongside partners in public and private schools, our educators engage students through thoughtful curriculum in the parks. Parks Conservancy education programs not only help students gain a better understanding of the natural world, they encourage young learner to take part in stewardship activities that actively make it better. 

Nature School (ages 3 - 5)

In Nature School, children ages three to five discover the plants and animals that live in Frick Park and experience nature through hands-on, outdoor exploration. 

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A springtime program, Nature School is a half-day, once-a-week program that runs for six weeks. Students touch, interact and play with dirt, leaves, sticks and seeds to learn about the world around them. Lessons that include songs, stories, walks and snacks teach respect and excitement for the outdoors.

At Nature School, children benefit from the personalized attention of small classes. We set our maximum class size at ten, ensuring that your child gets the most out of their time with us.

Nature School goals:

  • Develop a respect for nature
  • Observe seasonal change
  • Discover nature through play and exploration

At Nature School, students:

  • Connect to the outdoors through visits to Frick Park
  • Learn about respect and kindness towards others and nature
  • Go on weekly hikes
  • Explore the outdoors to learn about plants and animals

Habitat Explorers (1st grade)

The Habitat Explorers program introduces 1st grade students to plant and animal communities. Students visit Frick Park three times throughout the school year to learn what makes meadow, woodland, and stream habitats unique.

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Through guided and independent exploration activities, students observe the organisms that live in these three unique habitats, and then get the opportunity to improve each habitat through group stewardship projects. Through these experiences, they observe first-hand the necessary elements habitats provide the organisms that live there.

Habitat Explorer goals:

  • Introduce students to scientific inquiry
  • Lead young minds to explore and discover the outdoors
  • Encourage stewardship

In Habitat Explorers, students:

  • Visit Frick Park to observe habitats, communities, and seasons
  • Explore and learn about meadows, woodlands, and streams
  • Take part in stewardship projects, such as seed bombing or eco art

Park Stewards (4th - 5th grade)

The Park Stewards program engages 4th and 5th grade students in comprehensive exploration activities of specific habitats in Frick Park. Three sessions of guided, hands-on activities and nature journaling, help students gain a deeper understanding of how the changing seasons affect habitats. Students also perform stewardship activities to improve habitat health.

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Park Steward goals:

  • Introduce students to scientific inquiry
  • Develop observational and journaling skills
  • Encourage stewardship

In Park Stewards, students:

  • Visit the park in all weather and seasons
  • Observe seasonal change and biodiversity in the park
  • Journal and observe outdoor surroundings
  • Learn about the value of parks and greenspaces

Ecosystem Investigators (7th - 8th grade)

In Ecosystem Investigators, students in 7th and 8th grade study forest and stream ecosystems and the services they provide. They employ tools and sampling methods used by scientists in the field, collecting data to gain a deeper understanding of healthy ecosystems, their benefit, and how humans impact ecosystems both positively and negatively.

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Ecosystem Investigator goals:

  • Challenge students to evaluate ecosystem health and services
  • Teach students about data collection and methods
  • Encourage critical thinking and science skills

In Ecosystem Investigators, students:

  • Visit the park in all weather and seasons
  • Gather and interpret field data
  • Work in teams to perform hands-on ecological restoration projects
  • Identify native and non-native plants
  • Learn about the value of parks and green space

High School Urban EcoStewards (9th - 12th grade)

High School Urban EcoStewards are groups or classes of students who adopt a quarter acre of park land, visiting throughout the year to perform nature journaling and stewardship activities. Students watch as their site changes through the seasons and learn how their work improves the health of the park.

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In the 2016 - 2017 school year, our naturalist educators are working with 150+ students in seven Pittsburgh area high schools.

High School Urban EcoSteward goals:

  • Challenge students to get outdoors and learn about environmental science and ecology
  • Teach students to observe, explore and connect with nature in the city
  • Improve watershed health and biodiversity within the parks

In High School Urban EcoStewards, students:

  • Visit the park in all weather and seasons
  • Record their observations and experiences in field journals
  • Work in teams to perform hands-on ecological restoration projects
  • Plant trees, remove invasive species and control erosion
  • Identify native and non-native plants
  • Learn about the value of parks and green space
  • Learn about additional outdoor learning opportunities with our partners at Venture Outdoors, the Student Conservation Association, and GTECH

Young Naturalists (9th - 12th grade)

The Young Naturalists program is a fun, paid opportunity for students to get outdoors and learn about the environment, gain unique work and leadership experience, and meet other teenagers who are interested in the environment. This program is for students who have completed the High School Urban EcoStewards program.

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Young Naturalists want to learn more about nature and love spending time outdoors. They accept the challenge to work hard in conditions that are at times harsh and physically demanding to improve the health of the park. Young Naturalists are also looking to pursue a degree or career related to environmental science, ecology, education, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) or sustainability.

In the Young Naturalists program, students spend their summer outdoors learning about plants and animals alongside expert naturalists while working to improve the health of our parks by controlling erosion, managing and monitoring invasive species, repairing trails and caring for trees.

Taking part in Parks Conservancy school programs

With dedicated time, we believe that learners develop a deeper connection with nature. That's why all of our school programs involve multiple points of contact and enroll classes on a school year basis. So while we think field trips are fantastic, we don't accommodate classes on one-day trips.

Schools can enroll classes in our education programs in spring for the following school year (the minimum amount of time that we work with a class). We require participating teacher to attend a teacher training (ACT 48 credit) and commit to completing all program activities with their students. To be placed on our mailing list for enrollment for the 2018 - 2019 school year, please fill out this form.

Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy educators meet all Pennsylvania training and certification standards. This includes Mandated Reporter training, Act 33/34 clearances, and EBI background checks.

Looking for a way to support this important programming? Ask your employer if your organization participates in the Education Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program and encourage them to support the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy!

Support Young Minds

Have a hand in supporting young minds.
Make a tax-deductible gift to environmental education through the Colker Fund today.

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