For viewers of the 100-foot mosaic at the corner of Wayne and Chelten
Avenues in Germantown, it may not be apparent that the students who helped
create it had a year-long adventure. Through an exciting series of excursions
over 30 Saturdays, 30 students experienced over 20 field trips that immersed
them in the curriculum they were studying: world and urban ecology. They
were then joined by all of their 900 classmates to build the final work.
Trips included hikes in Valley Green to learn about its history and
ecology; a geologic tour of the building materials of Temple University's
campus, led by the head of its Geology Department; a tour of plant
life along Germantown Avenue; research into forest structure at Fort
Washington State Park; a look at the botany of an abandoned lot; determining
characteristics of wetlands and the Tinicum Wildlife Refuge; a visit
to the Stone Harbor Wetlands Institute; a tour of a chemistry lab at
ERM; studying animal adaptations at the Wagner Free Institute of Science;
and last but not least, a visit to the United Nations in New York to
view its role in global environmental policy.
The final artwork explores the world's seven major global
biomes: boreal forests, deserts, grasslands, rainforests, savannahs,
temperate forests, and the tundra. As part of hands-on, interactive research
into the characteristics of the world's global ecosystems in preparation
for the mosaic creation, each student selected an endangered wild animal
and created a personal totem symbolizing the dangerous situations many
of these animals face each day. This was just one task of many that allowed
NetworkArts students to literally live ecology.
The program was divided into three 10-week semesters comprised of six
to nine field trips and two or three art-making sessions. Student artwork
included drawings, paintings, ceramics, and maps along the way, most of
which were included in the final masterpiece. The project fused the creation
of art, research, and an exploration of science concepts to create a path
for students to conceptualize, express, and learn. The result? A larger-than-life
mosaic that will help future generations of students -- and the public
-- learn about the characteristics of major global ecosystems.