Anticipation and adaptation

Over the course of millions of years, cataclysmic events created changes in our world that we can learn about from scientists. The difference between those environmental changes and what we face now, as Sylvan Kaufman said at the fourth annual Tent Symposium on September 28, is the presence of human beings in the world.

Tom Horton, Dave Harp, Larissa Johnson, Sylvan Kaufman, and Holly Shimizu presented themes of resilience, resistance, sustainability, and adaptation. In this era, the Anthropocene, we are more adaptable than extinct species were; however, the socio-political ecosystem is not keeping up with the environmental changes.

Resilience, the ability to withstand environmental stress, and resistance, how well an ecosystem can absorb changes before it disappears, are two characteristics we need to cultivate in these times. How can we adapt now? How can we actively participate in ways that will help us deal with current and future impacts of climate change?

Many of these actions are familiar:

  • Use no chemicals in your gardens (Roundup, Sevin etc.)
  • Establish buffer zones on farmlands and animal corridors through public lands
  • Reduce roadside mowing
  • Plant native plants in backyard gardens
  • Recycle rain water
  • Consume/purchase fewer source materials
  • Create living shorelines
  • Participate in greenhouse gas reduction products and plans
  • Practice biodiversity in the landscaping

This is a very short list of the many, many things that need to happen with our involvement.  Some are small actions that, with widespread use, can matter. As Margaret Mead said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Stuart Clarke, the panel moderator, introduced a more urgent message: “The clock is ticking toward the critical shifts in climate change and how they will affect us,” he said. “Do not be stuck in the small steps only. “

Among ideas we can act upon are paying attention to our political power as we stay in touch with our local and national government initiatives and actions, lending weight to things that can make a difference in the environmental issues. Reading the local paper, attending meetings, knowing where the representatives you vote for stand on climate change, and developing a ‘voice’ are very important to becoming a catalyst at a local level. Now is the time to develop a higher awareness of the community you live in. Who are your neighbors, what needs might they have in times of a natural disaster, and how can you be of assistance?


Tent Symposium speakers and participants enjoy a walk on the Arboretum grounds.

Larissa Johnson stressed the importance of building strong, resilient communities with the following steps:

  • Make a plan
  • Build an emergency kit
  • Help each other

The good news, according to Stuart Clarke, is that some of our political/government systems are now working with environmental organizations in proactive ways. So, it is not either small or large actions that we need to take in these critical times, but “both…and.”

The symposium was an excellent way to learn, to be stimulated, to feel involved, and to move forth and be part of “Looking Toward a Resilient Future.”

As a follow-up to the Tent Symposium, Sylvan Kaufman will present Past and Future Land Use: Maintaining and Improving Resilience on Thursday, November 6 at the Arboretum. Click here for more information.

by Anna Harding
Arboretum docent and Maryland Master Naturalist


Going green, gadget-free

In Queen Anne’s County, all middle school students were recently assigned Chromebooks. 1280px-Acorns_small_to_largeThese small laptops are used daily in the classroom, providing lessons for students to work through and often replacing traditional textbooks. As someone who is constantly striving to decrease household screen time, I’m dismayed to find my child’s increase tenfold thanks to this new academic initiative.

School laptop use mirrors a growing trend to integrate technology in environmental studies. Technology has its place, as nature-centric apps, iPhone photography, online citizen science projects, and websites such as iNaturalist demonstrate. But there is also something to be said for face-to-face interaction with nature, without the filter of a screen or hand-held gadget. Let’s face it, most teens are already quite familiar with smartphones, laptops, and tablets.  Yet the number of middle school students who can’t identify an acorn—much less the tree it fell from—never ceases to amaze me.

Our children’s unfamiliarity with the natural world should come as no surprise. American children are spending half as much time outdoors as they did just two decades ago. The National Wildlife Federation reports that “The average American boy or girl spends as few as 30 minutes in unstructured outdoor play each day, and more than seven hours each day in front of an electronic screen.”

Enter Adkins Arboretum. Each year, the Arboretum’s 400-acres of stream, meadow, and woodland habitat offer students, scouts, summer campers, and visitors the in-depth, unfiltered interaction with nature missing from so many of our lives. This interaction is key to the next generation’s commitment to preserving nature. Outdoor education—now that’s an academic initiative we should all support.

by Jenny Houghton
Youth Program Coordinator

photo by David Hill


Welcome, Kellen!

In September, Adkins Arboretum welcomed Kellen McCluskey as a part-time youth educator. McCluskey is assisting Youth Program Coordinator Jenny Houghton during the busy fall and spring field trip season.

Kellen McCluskey

Kellen McCluskey

Born and raised in the “Garden State,” Kellen graduated from American University in 1994 with a degree in International Studies and German. She interned at World Wildlife Fund, served as a short-term educator for the Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece, and worked for the Conservation Fund while living in Boulder, Colorado. Prior to her teaching position at Adkins, Kellen taught in the Queen Anne’s County Public School System as a substitute teacher. She and her husband are raising three young naturalists in the Centreville area.

Click here to learn more about the Arboretum’s youth programs…and how you can schedule a dynamic, hands-on field trip. 

by Jenny Houghton
Youth Program Coordinator

SANDBOX and Adkins Arboretum present a special evening of art videos

Tom and Kitty Stoner are passionate about the arts and take annual Luminance poster for print-page-001 (1)pilgrimages to deepen their understanding of the artists whose works comprise their collection. They are currently collecting video art with a focus on nature and spirit. This ties directly to the mission of their private foundation, TKF, and its aspirations to provide a deeper human experience by inspiring and supporting the creation of public greenspace that offers a temporary sanctuary, encourages reflection, provides solace, and engenders peace and well-being. Tom and Kitty live in Annapolis, where Tom is a trustee for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. He also serves on the board of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC.

Luminance, on Tuesday, October 14, is presented by Adkins Arboretum in concert with SANDBOX at Washington College and in partnership with the TKF Foundation. SANDBOX, the Washington College Program for Creativity in the Environment, explores our aesthetic relation to the natural world, today and historically, and examines the social and ecological issues at its core by engaging students and faculty in the arts and natural sciences in collaborative projects, exhibits, performances, and experiments.

Click below for more information, courtesy of the Chestertown Spy.


SANDBOX Presents Evening of Art Videos From the Collection of Tom and Kitty Stoner.

A sense of wonder

This September marked my eighth year at Adkins Arboretum. These years have flown by, in part because they’ve been punctuated—and sometimes interrupted—by the births of three of my children. Perhaps as a result, the newness and sense of wonder that accompanied my early days at the Arboretum have never completely disappeared.

Sense of wonder. The Arboretum’s former Youth Program Coordinator, Coreen Weilminster, borrowed this phrase from Rachel Carson when naming her Sunday “Sense of Wonder” family nature program. In her book of the same title, Carson writes, “It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the earth and in the contemplation of her beauties to know the sense of wonder and humility.” I think of this quote often as I cross the Arboretum’s entrance bridge. No matter how pressing my schedule, taking time to pause and soak in the beauty of my surroundings is a necessity. I like to think that the sense of wonder that fills me on the bridge is one of the driving forces behind my youth programs.

Photo by Michelle Dolan Lawrence

Photo by Michelle Dolan Lawrence

Inspired by Carson and Coreen, the Arboretum will once again offer Sense of Wonder Sundays the first Sunday afternoon of each month beginning in February. Program details will be included in the winter newsletter and on the website. Until then, visitors may cultivate their own sense of wonder by contemplating the incomparable beauty of fall at Adkins Arboretum.

by Jenny Houghton
Youth Program Coordinator