Urban Roots

2020 is the fifth year of the Urban Roots program at Garfield Park Conservatory.  The Urban Roots Teen Docent program works with students from Al Raby High School who prepare themselves to become Conservatory docents and experts at presenting our extraordinary plant collection to visitors.  The program connects the Al Raby teens to over 3,000 school field trip visitors annually through our amazing plants in our collection.  

Principal funding for this project has been provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Studies (IMLS).  Impact Grants Chicago recently named the Conservatory’s Urban Roots Program as one of their 2019 award recipients.  

Institute of Museum and Library Services Logo




Additional funding provided by: Advocate Bethany Community Health Fund, After School Matters, Anonymous Fund of Central Indiana Community Foundation, Bank of America, Chicago Public Schools Career and Technological Education (CTE), the Dr. Scholl Foundation, and Fairlife.

Program Overview:

The program begins with a paid, 6-week summer internship followed weekly programming at the Garfield Park Conservatory during the consecutive two school years. The summer internship is an intensive, experiential training in botany and interpretation where teens will do the following:

  • Learn about the Conservatory, from our history to the plants in our collection
  • Develop interpretation skills that help them communicate plant information to visitors
  • Engage in STEM lessons and labs related to plant biology and sustainability
  • Work with Chicago Park District staff to take care of the plants and exhibits
  • Grow and maintain their own gardens
  • Take field trips to cultural institutions throughout the Chicago area
  • Gain exposure to STEM-related careers
  • Create media for the public such as videos about their favorite plants in the Conservatory
  • Participate in personal development exercises and team building activities

During the school year, our teen docents engage with visiting field trip groups, teach them about our collection, and get them excited about plants. Teens also receive additional training on interpretation, plant information, and professional skills. They earn stipends and community service credit for their work.

This program supports the professional and personal development of participating teens, while also providing links and support for students’ academic work during the school year. In return, our teen docents help the Conservatory connect more deeply with more students across Chicago.

Please email urbanroots@garfieldpark.org with any questions!