Close Subscribe

Get the Weekly Recap!!

Get recaps, exclusive offers, stories and discounts. We’ll never share your email address and you can opt out at any time, we promise.
Riverbend brings Philly kids to the classroom, outdoors
Philly

Riverbend brings Philly kids to the classroom, outdoors

Tucked away in a hillside above a curve in the Schuylkill River in Lower Merion Township is the Riverbend Environmental Education Center, a non-profit that offers 30 acres of wildlife to explore as well as year-round environmental education programs.

The Riverbend Environmental Education Center has been connecting children and families to nature since 1974. What started off as a nature preserve evolved into a robust environmental education center dedicated to fostering stewardship and creating access to nature through its engaging environmental programs. 

To learn more about the kind of impact Riverbend is committed to creating, I spoke with Riverbend’s Communications and Marketing Manager, Rhonda Babb.

Growing a Generation of Stewards

Why is a place like this so important?

As Babb explained, connecting with nature is important. “Obviously climate change is an issue that isn’t going away, and we need to help children understand their place in the environment. Connecting them with that helps them appreciate and understand how they can help and make a difference.”

But preparing kids for the changing climate isn’t the only reason it’s important for kids to engage with nature, Babb noted “nature [is] a beneficial source for mental health and helping kids de-stress a bit.. It helps them to be good learners and to make connections with the things that they see in the outside world”.

Many of us can trace our love and concern for nature back to moments spent outdoors as a kid, but as our society fixates more on technology, it appears the amount of time we are able to spend outdoors is compromised.

This specifically reigns true for children, kids today “spend less time outdoors than any other generation, devoting only four to seven minutes to unstructured outdoor play per day while spending an average of seven and a half hours in front of electronic media” according to the National Recreation and Park Association “Children in Nature” report. This reality highlights how crucial places like Riverbend are in restoring that connection to nature.

Although kids today are a lot “techier”, it doesn’t stop them from enjoying nature, as Babb describes witnessing the children’s sense of discovery. “When you flip over a log and you see what’s happening underneath, it’s that genuine excitement that they feel for seeing something new and different and seeing something that’s alive and a part of a bigger system.”

riverbend environmental education center

Creating Access

Riverbend is committed to creating access to the outdoors and connecting kids typically removed from such rich green spaces. Underserved schools from across the region make up 48% of Riverbend’s participating schools.

They target Philly students specifically through their Philadelphia Children Access Nature (PCAN) access program, a nature-based STEM program that uses a combination of hands-on outdoor learning and classroom time to promote stewardship and critical thinking about the environment. “Sometimes we’ll bring a crayfish or some animal into the classroom and let them experience that and make observations. And we ask them questions like, what do they notice, wonder or what does it remind them of, to stimulate that wonder and curiosity.”

Riverbend’s proximity to the Schuylkill also provides a unique opportunity to teach students hands-on about the watershed that serves them.Here at Riverbend, we have a stream right on our preserve. Our campers are out in that stream today, they’re taking a hike in the stream, they’re learning about what’s happening up water and then downstream when it hits Riverbend and learning about the macroinvertebrates and how the stream is alive and a part of our environment”.

This year, Riverbend is also supporting NOA’s Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience (MWEE) program to educate kids on the integral role water plays in our everyday life, to do that Babb says Riverbend is “helping the teachers that we’re working with to develop lesson plans and you know, different things that they can do to teach about watersheds and, and how, what, how important that whole process is in our world.”

For Babb, the most rewarding part of Riverbend is working with the students directly and seeing the takeaways they leave with “to see it in their drawings, themselves pictured in a forest or stream or something like that, that’s gratifying. And it’s important that these children understand that nature is for everybody, and everybody should have access.”

Outside of youth education programs, Riverbend has a ton to offer as a 30-acre nature preserve that’s free and open from dusk till dawn. And Riverbend’s stewardship doesn’t end with their programs, as they remove invasive species to allow the public to enjoy green space. “Our habitat manager has been doing fantastic work over the past few years, almost restoring it because this property had been taken over by a lot of invasive species,” said Babb.

Additional engagement efforts

Riverbend Environmental Education Center
Representatives from Riverbend tabling at a Green Philly event, 2019

Be sure to check out the upcoming Riverbend’s Fall event, ShiverQuest! A covid friendly spin on Riverbend’s annual Shiverfest, featuring a spooky interactive scavenger hunt across the grounds.

If you’re looking for a way to champion Riverbend’s mission you can donate or volunteer. Teachers can visit Riverbend’s website to see how to partner with Riverbend to develop customized programs.


Become a Supporter!

If you love what we do you can support our mission with a one-time or monthly contribution.
array(3) {
  [0]=>
  object(WP_Term)#5881 (10) {
    ["term_id"]=>
    int(3915)
    ["name"]=>
    string(14) "Delaware River"
    ["slug"]=>
    string(14) "delaware-river"
    ["term_group"]=>
    int(0)
    ["term_taxonomy_id"]=>
    int(3923)
    ["taxonomy"]=>
    string(8) "post_tag"
    ["description"]=>
    string(0) ""
    ["parent"]=>
    int(0)
    ["count"]=>
    int(8)
    ["filter"]=>
    string(3) "raw"
  }
  [1]=>
  object(WP_Term)#5880 (10) {
    ["term_id"]=>
    int(4044)
    ["name"]=>
    string(24) "Delaware River Watershed"
    ["slug"]=>
    string(24) "delaware-river-watershed"
    ["term_group"]=>
    int(0)
    ["term_taxonomy_id"]=>
    int(4052)
    ["taxonomy"]=>
    string(8) "post_tag"
    ["description"]=>
    string(0) ""
    ["parent"]=>
    int(0)
    ["count"]=>
    int(3)
    ["filter"]=>
    string(3) "raw"
  }
  [2]=>
  object(WP_Term)#5725 (10) {
    ["term_id"]=>
    int(3576)
    ["name"]=>
    string(40) "Riverbend Environmental Education Center"
    ["slug"]=>
    string(40) "riverbend-environmental-education-center"
    ["term_group"]=>
    int(0)
    ["term_taxonomy_id"]=>
    int(3584)
    ["taxonomy"]=>
    string(8) "post_tag"
    ["description"]=>
    string(0) ""
    ["parent"]=>
    int(0)
    ["count"]=>
    int(6)
    ["filter"]=>
    string(3) "raw"
  }
}
Jada is a senior Environmental Studies major at Temple University with a minor in City and Regional Planning. Currently Jada is an Editorial Intern at Green Philly. Her Interests includes enjoying nature and advocating for sustainability! View all posts by Jada Ackley

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Green Philly

Featured
In These
Great Spots: