Bok Tower Gardens connects and engages learners

09/24/2013  |  Wendy Wolford, Education Coordinator

“Over the mountains and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go” is a saying that has been chanted by children for many years as they engage in imaginary play. Here on the Lake Wales Ridge, we say “Let us climb Iron Mountain, go through the trees, and get to the grotto at Pinewood.” At this magical place, one can see hundreds of tadpoles in various stages of their metamorphosis. This is a great opportunity to discuss life cycles, habitats, and food chains.

The educational mission at Bok Tower Gardens is to connect and engage learners of all ages in quality programming that creates appreciation, knowledge and awareness of the environment, art, history and culture. We live by the words of Edward W. Bok’s grandmother, “Make you the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it.” In creating Bok Tower Gardens, Edward Bok was motivated with the belief that we, as human beings, have the opportunity to learn and enrich our lives by the simple idea that beauty is all around us.

Field Trip Opportunities at Bok Tower Gardens

The staff at Bok Tower Gardens takes our role in providing quality education seriously. One way we do this by providing various field trip opportunities for schools (public, private, and home schools) throughout Central Florida. The “Great Garden Adventure” supplies docent educators an opportunity to provide interpretative lessons while they walk the students through the Gardens, Pine Ridge Trail, and the new Preserve Trail. “Nature Explorations” is a self-guided field trip where the students and chaperones are given Garden Adventure Maps to explore the beauty, nature and culture of the Gardens on their own. Our “Tools for Teachers” curriculum guide is packed with activities and is provided to teachers who reserve field trips to the Gardens. We also welcome all Boy Scout, Girl Scout, and 4-H groups to take part in opportunities for field trips, activities to earn badges, and other educational experiences.

A third field trip opportunity for student groups is the “Holiday Home Tour for Kids.” This special tour for student groups includes admission to the Holiday Home Tour at Pinewood Estate from November 29, 2013 – January 5, 2014. A docent educator will read the story of The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition written by Carol Aebersold and Chanda Bell.  Then the students will search for “Buddy” the Magical Elf in every room of the estate. The 1930’s Mediterranean-style mansion is transformed into a holiday showcase each year, and the 2013 theme is “Celebrating Traditions.” Once the students have finished their tour of Pinewood, they can explore the Gardens using their Garden Adventure Map.

Another field trip opportunity that Bok Tower Gardens provides for area schools is our annual Earth Day Celebration. This year’s theme is “Learning from Nature” and will be held on Thursday, May 1, 2014 from 9 a.m. – noon. More than 1,000 students and teachers were in attendance last year. They participate in hands-on activities from more than 30 environmental exhibitors from around Central Florida and learn about protecting wildlife, water conservation, recycling, sheet flow, gardening, camping, and other valuable life lessons. We also have face painters, clowns, garden hunts, and lots of animals at this day of celebrating our stewardship for our wonderful planet.

Bok Tower Gardens Presents the Fairchild Challenge

Bok Tower Gardens welcomes all area middle schools to participate in the 2013-2014 Fairchild Challenge. The Fairchild Challenge is a multidisciplinary, environmental education competition designed to engage students of diverse interests, abilities, talents and backgrounds. The program encourages students to actively explore their world while empowering them to investigate environmental issues.

The Fairchild Challenge inspires young people to engage in civic life and encourages them to become energetic and knowledgeable members of their communities. It takes place over the course of the 2013-2014 school year. We offer a list of activities (called challenges) for individual students and groups to attempt. Best entries are selected by the participating schools and then submitted to Bok Tower Gardens for evaluation by panels of independent judges. School submissions are awarded points based on the judges’ scores. Top-scoring students who excel in the various challenges are recognized, as are the top-scoring schools. The three top-scoring schools are awarded $1,000, $500 and $250 to support and enhance environmental activities at their schools. Mindful of teachers’ workloads, The Fairchild Challenge dovetails with public school curricula and is aligned with the state academic standards.

We are committed to making this program accessible to all middle schools throughout Central Florida. We encourage school participation by offering incentives such as mini-grants for school gardens, transportation subsidies, specialized workshops, resources, and school visits by Bok Tower Gardens volunteers and staff. Teachers and students encountering obstacles are encouraged to contact the Education Department at Bok Tower Gardens for added support.

If you are interested in reserving a field trip or are a middle school and would like to participate in this year’s Fairchild Challenge, please contact Education Coordinator Wendy Wolford at [email protected] or 863.734.1221.

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