Founded in 1965, the Schuylkill Center is one of the first urban environmental education centers in the country, with 340 acres of fields, forests, ponds, and streams in northwest Philadelphia. They work through four core program areas: environmental education, environmental art, land stewardship, and wildlife rehabilitation.
The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education inspires meaningful connections between people and nature. They use the forests and fields as a living laboratory to foster appreciation, deepen understanding, and encourage stewardship of the environment.
As a leader in the next generation of environmental education, the Schuylkill Center will create a world where all people play, learn, and grow with nature as part of their everyday lives.
The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education opened its doors on July 1, 1965 as the Schuylkill Valley Nature Center. Envisioning an "island of green" where city dwellers could experience and learn about the natural world, sisters Eleanor Houston Smith and Margaret Houston Meigs, along with their families, donated the extensive parcels of farmland and woods that make up the Center's grounds today. They were one of the first environmental education centers located in a major American city, offering immersion in nature to students, families, and adults all within the city of Philadelphia.
Since then, they have been a regional and national leader, pioneering urban environmental education with innovative programs, the country's most ambitious environmental art program, the area's only wildlife clinic, Pennsylvania's first Nature Preschool, and a commitment to stewarding the land.
The grounds, located on agricultural land that was farmed until the mid-1960's, have grown from the 11 acres originally gifted by the Center's founders, Lawrence M. C. Smith, Mrs. Lawrence M. C. Smith, Mrs. Robert R. Meigs, and Henry H. H. Meigs. Under the direction of Richard James, the founding Executive Director, the Center grew to encompass 340 acres of land - the largest privately-owned open space within the city of Philadelphia - featuring a variety of habitats including woodlands, meadows, ponds, and wetlands. In addition, four miles of hiking trails, public programs for all ages, school programs for preschool-graduate level students, adult learning programs, and teacher workshops attract a multitude of visitors to the Center.
Originally operating out of River House, a historic summer home once a part of the Center's property, the organization now occupies a 1967 visitor center at the center of the property. The building houses laboratories, classrooms, an interactive children's exhibit (Discovery Center), a gift shop, an auditorium, staff offices, and the Nature Preschool.
In addition, the Center's grounds hold a pavilion, environmental art installations, a native plant nursery, and various ecological restoration sites. Located on the eastern side of the property is the Center's wildlife clinic, which treats injured, orphaned, and sick wildlife.
Today, the Center continues to offers environmental education to the communities through four interrelated core program areas: Education, Land Stewardship, the Wildlife Clinic, and Environmental Art.
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