The SEED Program

The Garfield Park Conservatory has an important role to play in stimulating and supporting nature education for Chicago students. We believe that school field trips are an excellent way for students to make connections between the classroom and the real world, and to deepen their learning across subject areas. Our two acres of indoor gardens and ten acres of outdoor gardens help students ignite a lifelong love, interest and curiosity about the natural world that could give purpose and meaning to a young person’s life.

Program Overview

In 2019, 20,850 school-age visitors and chaperones came to the Garfield Park Conservatory on field trips. Most field trips occur during the school year, though also many camps and groups come during the summer. Almost all of our schools come from the Chicago area. When booking their field trips, teachers and camp leaders are excited to show their students plants and let them spend time in nature. While they visit, educators at the Conservatory are able to further inspire students to learn about plants and science. We have the opportunity to take their learning to the next level.

In 2017, the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance was awarded a 3 year matching grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to create the Student Engagement and Educational Development (SEED) program. The SEED program serves as a development model and learning laboratory to design the future of school program engagement and to enhance the experience of student learning at the Conservatory. We currently work with eight West Side partner schools who use the Conservatory’s collection in their STEM curriculum. We are developing and distributing new plant education resources to help teachers prepare their students for a meaningful learning experience within the Conservatory’s collection. After the field trip students can continue to build on that experience when they return to their classrooms.

SEED provides:

  • Themed Resources to help teachers integrate the Conservatory’s plant collection into their curriculum. Each theme includes a teacher guide, student pre-readings, a dynamic, staff-led orientation, student-led materials to use in the collection, and optional resource backpacks and staff-led workshops on the same topic. All of our resources were developed with teachers and are NGSS-aligned. In 2020, we launched the new Resource Backpacks for teachers to check out from the Conservatory to reinforce lesson plans and learning post-field trip back in the classroom.
  • Partner School relationships with 8 West Side elementary schools including professional development opportunities for teachers.
  • Bus Transportation scholarships for Title 1 schools to help offset the costs of transportation to the Conservatory.
  • Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance staff that lead orientations and prepares students and teachers for pre-, post- and on-site activities.

West Side Partner Schools include:

  1. Gregory Academy — Pre-K-8
  2. GR Clark — Pre-K-8
  3. Laura Ward ES — Pre-K-8
  4. Frazier Int’l Magnet — K-8
  5. Willa Cather ES — Pre-K-8
  6. Kipp One Primary — K-4
  7. Jose de Diego — Pre-K-8
  8. Savin Dual Language Magnet — PE, Pre-K-8

To browse our free resources including lesson plans, pdf guidebooks and scavenger hunts click here.

To learn more about school field trips and book your group click here.

To make a donation in support of the SEED program click here.

The SEED program was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services [MA10-17-0193-17] with support from the PNC Foundation, a grant from Peoples Gas Community Fund at the Chicago Community Foundation, the Seabury Foundation and individual contributions.

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