The Ann Arbor Public Schools is so fortunate to have wonderful natural areas attached to many of our school properties. These natural preserves are easy to take for granted. A walk in the Eberwhite Woods, bird watching in the Scarlett Woods, hiking through the Pioneer trails, visiting the ponds and wildlife in the Skyline “old growth” forest are all wonderful educational opportunities that are part of our school’s regular curriculums and highly valued by the entire community.
One such natural area just celebrated it’s 50th anniversary – The Thurston Nature Center. A celebration was held at the Thurston Nature Center on Sunday, September 28 that featured performances from Thurston Elementary School Student Choirs, cellists Martin Torch-Ishii and violinist Henrik Karapetyan, Bill Edwards and The Surefires, children events, Hunters of the Sky birds of prey by the Leslie Science Center and a tree labeling event throughout the Nature Center.
Thurston School, led by Principal Natasha York and the PTO have recommitted to the health of the Thurston Nature Center taking an active role in the preservation of the pond and surrounding areas. This year they have begun construction of two rain gardens near the new Amphitheater.
The highlight of the celebration was the dedication of the William Stapp Amphitheater. Mr. Stapp was vitally important in providing leadership to develop the Thurston Nature Center as well as the founder of the AAPS environmental curriculum that is still such a highly valued program throughout the district.
Mr. Stapp is considered the founder of environmental education and spent his career searching for the root causes of environmental issues and helping students and adults find solutions to problems affecting their communities.
Mr. Stapp’s special interest was international environmental education, and he was the first chief of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) Environmental Education Section. His environmental education program was the first to be unanimously accepted by all 135 UNESCO member nations. During and subsequent to his two-year tenure in Paris, France, Mr. Stapp and his wife, Gloria, visited and consulted with representatives of more than 120 countries on environmental education issues. In many countries, he worked with students and adults at the community level to find solutions to water quality problems and other environmental issues.
Ann Arbor students and teachers were so fortunate that Mr. Stapp called Ann Arbor home! The Ann Arbor Public Schools are so honored that Mr. Stapp shared his expertise with us for so many years. Take a few minutes to honor Mr. Stapp and his commitment to environment education by walking through the Thurston Nature Center and visiting the new William Stapp Amphitheater!