A “Phipp’in” Good Time!

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Last week we headed south to Pittsburgh for a field trip to Phipps Conservatory. We hadn’t visited Phipps for probably a decade so it was fun to have an excuse to go back. Beautiful anytime a year, Phipps is especially stunning during the month of December when the halls are decked for Christmas.

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“A green oasis in the middle of Pittsburgh’s vibrant Oakland neighborhood, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens has provided a world-class garden experience to its visitors since 1893. Explore the beauty and wonders of nature at Phipps, encompassing 15 acres including a 14-room glasshouse and 23 distinct gardens. Experience industry-leading sustainable architecture and green practices, stunning seasonal flower shows, exclusive commissioned exhibits, renowned orchid and bonsai collections and more. This historic landmark is just a few miles from downtown Pittsburgh in Schenley Park.”

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We arrived, checked in, and were given our schedule for the day. The first hour was to be spent exploring the green houses with a self-guided tour. The second hour was scheduled to be more formal with a presentation on the Flora of Cuba and corresponding activities.

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We began our self-guided tour in the atrium where beautiful Christmas trees lined the stone courtyard.

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Turning left we worked our way through the various rooms, enjoying the Christmas themes that blanked each area.

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The décor was stunning and the magic occurring within the glass of the greenhouse shone all the more brightly framed by the falling snow outside.

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Everyone had a favorite room.

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Following in the footsteps of his Grandpa Rich, Rusty loved the cactus room:

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Grace fell in love with this beautiful room paved in stone that is frequently rented out for weddings:

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Molly had a hard time choosing a favorite, enthralled by the natural beauty found in each themed greenhouse:

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As for Tyler…

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Well, let’s just say this outing was NOT his idea of a good time. As we moved from room to room he would slump with fatigue and whine, “We already saw these plants.”

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Poor kid just couldn’t work up any enthusiasm for room after room of foliage.

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Thank goodness for the pockets of child-friendly fun scattered among the acres of plants that allowed Tyler to fortify himself for all the walking and flower gazing that accompanied a field trip to Phipps Conservatory.

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The miniature railroad display and play grocery store were among his favorites.

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While he played “grocery store,” I enjoyed strolling through the room checking out all the Christmas sculptures created from flowers.

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For the second half of the field trip we joined other students and their families in one of the auditoriums for a presentation highlighting one of Phipps’s newest displays: “Tropical Forests of Cuba.”

We enjoyed a slide show introducing us to the habitats of Cuba, particularly the flora and fauna found in its tropical forests.

After an educational slide show we were taken to the Cuba room where the kids were set loose with scavenger hunt sheets and given 15 minutes to find the information missing from their sheets. The answers they found were then used to compete in a Cuba Jeopardy game.

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The kids paired off in groups of two, with Grace and Rusty competing against Molly and Tyler.

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This activity was more up Tyler’s alley and he loved the competitive nature of racing through the rain forest display in search of answers.

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After time expired, we walked back to the auditorium for the Jeopardy game where the kids had a chance to use their newly acquired knowledge of Cuba’s tropical forests to compete against the other students for bragging rights.

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The greatest take-away from the activity was probably the awesome conversation Molly enjoyed with the presenter following the game. Waiting until the crowds had left, Molly approached the young lady who had been our teacher and asked about her educational background and the life experiences that led her to this career. After speaking with Molly about different environmental science programs and possible directions that can be pursued, Molly left wanting to look further into environmental education as a possible narrowed focus to her environmental science degree, thus marrying her passion for nature with her love for people.

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We ended our day with a picnic lunch.

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It was a lovely day spent in an even lovelier place!

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