Learning on the Wissahickon

Education // September 08, 2021

What if your classroom was the Wissahickon? As back to school season begins, we can’t forget the importance our local green spaces hold in teaching kids and adults new things about the world around them. Besides providing a change of pace from the classroom, introducing children to natural spaces fosters creativity and instils an appreciation and respect for the planet- and spending time in Wissahickon Valley Park is fun for the whole family, too!

There’s lots to learn in and from the Wissahickon. Here’s our recommendations for the fall:

Take a hike.

There’s nothing better than taking a hike in the park, and maybe learning something along the way! In the Andorra Natural Area, the Wissahickon Environmental Center provides environmental education classes, camps, and hikes to kids and families throughout Philadelphia. Older kids and adults, on the other hand, can take advantage of the free walks on the park’s history, flora, fauna and geology led by FOW’s knowledgeable volunteer Trail Ambassadors. See a full list of upcoming Trail Ambassador hikes here.

Experience the Wissahickon Valley virtually. 

Since we launched it in 2020, FOW has added a virtual Wissahickon Valley’s worth of activities to the Virtual Valley. You can explore some hidden history at Trails to the Past, build a paper covered bridge (or get Wissahickon coloring pages) at Larks and Recreation, and check out our educational materials at the Creekside Classroom – and don’t forget to join us online this fall as well for our popular Valley Talk series of lectures on Wissahickon-related subjects! This year, we are thrilled to welcome Shelley DePaul, Chief of Education and Language of the Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania for a virtual talk on the history and culture of the Lenape as well as her efforts to reclaim and revitalize the Lenape language. Register here for the Valley Talk on Tuesday, Sept. 14 from 6-7 p.m. 

Enjoy a new nature read.

Reading books about nature is one of the best ways to encourage kids to pay more attention to the wonders of nature around them. Books like Ruby’s Birds take on far more importance when your child can watch new birds arrive in the fall migration – and our perennial favorite Good Night Wissahickon Valley Park feels different when read at any of the places it stops at in the story. (Our partners at Let’s Go Outdoors distribute free copies through the Little Friends of the Wissahickon Program, and if you’d like to see a video of FOW Trail Ambassadors Rose Fisher and Stephanie Stein reading it all around the park, click here.) Here’s a list of more of our nature book recommendations as well.

Do some citizen science!

What lives in the Wissahickon? Connecting with wild creatures is a great way to get kids enthusiastic about a trip to the park. Curious kids and parents can bring along the iNaturalist app, which enables you to take pictures to identify different plants and animals – you don’t have to be an expert in nature ID skills, either, because iNaturalist gives suggestions about what you’re seeing based on what other people have seen nearby. More information (as well as species scavenger hunts based on the season) is available at our habitat monitoring page.

Photo: Christina Moresi