Our meeting was held on a very stormy Friday at the Peacock Café. Our speaker was Arcadia Rotary member Richard Shulhof, Arboretum CEO. Rosie Mares introduced Richard, and presented him with a donation from the club to help with their program for inner city kids.
Richard began by explaining that today was a busy day. It was the day that artists were picking up their wood from trees that had been lost in the recent windstorm. 235 trees were lost, some historic, and many quite rare. The arboretum decided to make this rare wood available to artists for the creation of art works. This art will then be displayed in an exhibit on December 1st of this year.
He thanked Rotary for the donation. The Arboretum had teamed up with Wells Fargo Bank and has put together a program which helps inner city kids to experience nature. The donation from the club would help kids to make that visit possible.
Richard then introduced two of the Arboretum staff, Debbie Andersen and Ted Tegart, who talked about the youth program. Debbie had been a teacher for 35 years. She pointed out that one of the 3rd grade standards was plant adaptation. She and Ted showed us some the plants they used to demonstrate the adaptations of desert plants versus rainforest plants. When the kids visit, they get to experience nature first hand. They learn about different plants and plant names. They also do historical trips and Ted runs the summer camp program. The children are asked to write a letter to the arboretum when they return to the classroom. Ted and Debbie distributed samples of some of the letters and Ted read a letter from one of the teachers. Approximately 16,000 children come through the program each year.
According to Richard there are two problems with getting kid there: cost of buses and standardized testing. All of the costs of the program are covered except for transportation. That is why the Rotary donation was so important. $100 will cover the cost for a bus to bring the kids to the Arboretum. The standardized test issue is more complicated. The teacher needs the children to score well on the tests. There is always a tradeoff between the time required in class and the time spent on an outing.
The arboretum has several new projects in the works. One is a new vegetable garden which will feature lesser known food species that are grown in other areas of the world. A major initiative is “harvesting rain”. Water is a big cost and so they are constructing a cistern to hold thousands of gallons of runoff from buildings and parking lots. They will be remodeling Ayers Hall next year and the cottage and barn will be getting new roofs that will follow the original roof design. Finally, they are planning a Korean garden. Richard will be traveling to Korea to look at various gardens and they are hoping that the Korean government will be interested in sponsoring this project.
In closing, Richard was asked to give us some information on the upcoming Grow Festival since Rotary will have a booth there. The festival will feature a selection of plants for sale, music, art exhibit, artisanal tequila tasting, a market place, and lot of children’s activities.