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“The children studied bird migration, the role of wetlands, and how wetlands are disappearing. Now they brim with knowledge and pride.”

Philadelphia Inquirer
June 1, 2003

Global Ecosystems Come Alive for Pickett School Children

For viewers of the 100-foot mosaic at the corner of Wayne and Chelten Avenues in Germantown, it may not be apparent that the students who helped create it had a year-long adventure. Through an exciting series of excursions over 30 Saturdays, 30 students experienced over 20 field trips that immersed them in the curriculum they were studying: world and urban ecology. They were then joined by all of their 900 classmates to build the final work.

Trips included hikes in Valley Green to learn about its history and ecology; a geologic tour of the building materials of Temple University's campus, led by the head of its Geology Department; a tour of plant life along Germantown Avenue; research into forest structure at Fort Washington State Park; a look at the botany of an abandoned lot; determining characteristics of wetlands and the Tinicum Wildlife Refuge; a visit to the Stone Harbor Wetlands Institute; a tour of a chemistry lab at ERM; studying animal adaptations at the Wagner Free Institute of Science; and last but not least, a visit to the United Nations in New York to view its role in global environmental policy.

The final artwork explores the world's seven major global biomes: boreal forests, deserts, grasslands, rainforests, savannahs, temperate forests, and the tundra. As part of hands-on, interactive research into the characteristics of the world's global ecosystems in preparation for the mosaic creation, each student selected an endangered wild animal and created a personal totem symbolizing the dangerous situations many of these animals face each day. This was just one task of many that allowed NetworkArts students to literally live ecology.

The program was divided into three 10-week semesters comprised of six to nine field trips and two or three art-making sessions. Student artwork included drawings, paintings, ceramics, and maps along the way, most of which were included in the final masterpiece. The project fused the creation of art, research, and an exploration of science concepts to create a path for students to conceptualize, express, and learn. The result? A larger-than-life mosaic that will help future generations of students -- and the public -- learn about the characteristics of major global ecosystems.