Pennsylvania Legacies #197: Into the Woods

Getting kids outdoors has wide-ranging benefits. Perkiomen Valley School District, in Montgomery County, has seen that firsthand since it established PV Woods: two accredited arboretums across its two campuses. We speak with Dr. Seamus Clune, principal at Perkiomen Valley Middle School East and director of PV Woods, as well as Amy Brecht, a biology teacher and Perkiomen Valley High School and coordinator of PV Woods to learn how they are connecting students with nature and with indigenous culture.

Perkiomen Valley School District made history in 2021, becoming the first K-12 public school in the world with two accredited arboretums. Lenape Arboretum and Muhlenberg Woods, collectively called PV Woods, span 76 acres across the districts’ two campuses in Montgomery County.

PV Woods seeks to inspire environmental stewardship and conservation among students by incorporating outdoor excursions into coursework and creating opportunities for students to lead initiatives, like building birdhouses. Teachers from a range of subjects, from biology to English, have seen how getting kids outside not only boosts learning— it makes them happier, healthier, and more engaged.

“I really think it’s helpful for us to have our kids out in nature. And I know when I take my students outside, they come back in and they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, I feel so much more peaceful because we leave our phones,’” said Amy Brecht, a biology teacher and Perkiomen Valley High School and coordinator of PV Woods.

As evidence of the project’s success, Perkiomen Valley School District received the Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence. It was the only school district in the state to receive the prestigious award from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection during a ceremony in April, co-hosted by PEC.

PV Woods is making a difference outside of the classroom, too. Students are helping to build rain gardens that protect the watershed and planting herbs used by indigenous people, namely the Lenape. Colonists drove out the indigenous communities, but remnants of Lenape culture persist in Perkiomen Valley, though few residents are aware of their origins.

The very name, Perkiomen, comes from a Lenape word that means “where there are cranberries,” explained Dr. Seamus Clune, principal at Perkiomen Valley Middle School East and director of PV Woods. Cranberry bogs used to dot the landscape, but they’ve since been drained to make room for farming. 

“We had lost our connection with these people,” Dr. Clune said.

Today, PV Woods is helping to restore connections to both land and people. Tribal leaders have visited the woods and partnered with the school district on book club studies and community events. Tree identifier signs at PV Woods give the English and Latin names of species, as well as a QR code that pronounces the Lenape name for native trees.

“We’ve really tried to incorporate the Lenape people in a lot of our decision making and a lot of our ceremonies so that they can also feel a sense of belonging and trying to tie our two communities back together, even though they’re so far away,” Brecht said. 

Together, they are in the process of restoring the ecosystem and, in doing so, inspiring the next generation of stewards. 

“We have an opportunity to turn things back,” Dr. Clune said. “We can restore things even at this point. We can do that with the environment; we can do that with people.”

Episode Links: 

PV Woods website

The Benefits of Trees

Grounding and Forest Bathing

Welcome Home Project


Photo credit : Dough4872

Josh Raulerson (0:00)

It is Friday, August 4th, 2023, and for the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, this is the Pennsylvania Legacies Podcast. I’m Josh Raulerson. The Perkiomen Valley School District in Montgomery County is the first K-12 public school in Pennsylvania with an accredited arboretum. Not only that, it’s also the only K through 12 school in the world, with not one, but two accredited arboretums: Lenape Arboretum and Muhlenberg Woods. Together these sites span 76 acres of forest and wetlands across the districts’ two campuses. Since their establishment in 2021, the Arboretums have served as outdoor classrooms where teachers use the natural world to educate students on subjects ranging from biology to language and literature to art. The goal is to promote environmental stewardship by connecting students with the outdoors, both as the sites exist today, and as they’ve changed over the last several hundred years, back when the Lenape people indigenous to the area foraged in cranberry, bogs, and caught wild trout.

This year, PV Woods earned the Perkiomen Valley School District the Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence. It was the only school district in the state to receive that prestigious honor from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. They received that recognition in a ceremony in April, co-hosted by PEC, in Harrisburg. The Governor’s Award recognized the school district’s success in providing hands-on real world outdoor learning experiences for students through projects like building rain gardens and identifying trees, as well as engaging the public on conserving the area’s natural resources. The project doesn’t just acknowledge the Lenape people’s historic connection to the land. It also works actively with descendants of the original inhabitants to maintain a living relationship. Tribal leaders continue to partner with the school district on projects and education materials. My colleague, Derek Maiolo, got a chance to speak with Dr. Seamus Clune, principal at Perkiomen Valley Middle School, and Amy Brecht, a science teacher at Perkiomen Valley High School, who were both active in the initiative. He got in touch to talk about PV Woods and its impact starting by asking them about the inspiration for the names of the two arboretums.

Dr. Seamus Clune (02:17):

So Lenape Arboretum, we, we really wanted to make a connection with the indigenous people who were here on this land. It’s something that we all share in common, and we did actually reach out to, uh, local groups, um, you know, University of Pennsylvania, and talk to some groups about, Hey, can you help us get in touch with where the Lenape people are? Eventually, the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian suggested that we call Oklahoma. They gave us the address of two tribes that were Lenape, which of course prompted some questions about why they’re in Oklahoma. And that’s kind of a really long story in terms of them being removed from the land and being pushed all the way out there. And then doing some more research with students and with faculty and staff. There’s a, in Colonial times, our first American botanist is a person by the name of Henry Muhlenberg. His father was the famous pastor, um, who founded the oldest established Lutheran church in, in Montgomery County. His brother was actually the first speaker of the house and, and was one of George Washington’s generals. But you don’t hear much about Henry Muhlenberg. He was a botanist. First he was a Lutheran pastor, and then he kind of, his advocation was doing botany. And because of his work he had in honor of him, they named a bog turtle, um, some sweetgrass and an oak tree after him. And so he’s a local trap is inside Perkiomen Valley School District. He was born and raised in Trappe, Pennsylvania. And so that just seemed like an obvious name to honor the work that he did in botany.

Derek Maiolo (03:55):

I want to go back to the Lenape component, because I understand there are some more connections there between indigenous history and, and culture that’s been incorporated into PV Woods.

Amy Brecht (04:08):

We first started because of our local college, Ursinus College, they had started to make a connection with the Lenape tribes in Oklahoma as well. And so we had invited their chief to come out and take a walk through the woods with us so that they could see the land. That happened to fall on a ceremony where they were returning some remains back to their indigenous lands. We’ve had several community events where we’ve had them come back and talk to the community. We did some book club studies with them where you read, oh, Dr. Clune, I’m forgetting the name of the book.

Dr. Seamus Clune (04:45):

Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians but Were Afraid To Ask.

Amy Brecht (04:49):

Yeah, <laugh>. Um, so we did a book study with them and their youth also was able to join the book study and communicate with our students as well. So it was a really great learning opportunity for our students, but we’ve really tried to incorporate the Lenape people in a lot of our decision making and a lot of our ceremonies so that they can also feel a sense of belonging and trying to tie our two communities back together, even though they’re so far away.

Dr. Seamus Clune (05:16):

Yeah, I would, I would say, too, for them, you know, what brought them out here was this idea of they finally had returned or been given control over remains that had been dug up by museums and pot hunters or people who were, you know, archeologists, all kinds of groups would dig up indigenous grave sites. And it’s happened all across the United States, uh, at a really alarming rate. Federal law changed in the 1990s, allowed the remains to be returned to the indigenous tribe. And so this was the first attempt by the Lenape people themselves to actually rebury remains that had been dug up at Pennsbury Manor, which was, um, William Penn’s estate. So it seemed very appropriate that the first time that they’re re returning land was on his estate. Um, and, and that Pennsbury Manor gave, uh, like over an acre, I believe, um, for them to put, it was over 400 remains into the, the, into the ground.

They had a very important ceremony, and we timed our dedication for Lenape Arboretum at that time. We had a community event, we had opportunities. It was the largest gathering of Lenape people in over 200 years in Pennsylvania. And it was the first time that all five chiefs of the five federally recognized tribes, the sovereign tribes were, um, were ever together, um, at an event at one time. So it was kind of a really special moment for us in Perkiomen Valley. Um, I should probably say two, uh, Perkiomen is a Lenape word. It means, uh, where, uh, where there are cranberries. We have, um, a school in our, we have another school in our, in our district called Skippack. That’s also a, a Lenape word. It means, um, wetland, um, and actually skip back and Perkiomen go together, Skippack, uh, runs Skippack Creek runs into Perkiomen Creek, and the Skippack, they would say the two words together. It’s, it’s wetland where there are cranberries, Skippack, Perkiomen, right? So that’s where these words are coming from, and they, they speak to just the long history and the connection with the environment, you know, the, the things in the colonial in, in colonial times that they’re just, a lot of things changed. And, um, we had lost our connection with these people, and actually we just you know, things just seemed to line up just really well, where, where they were interested in returning to the area. We were able to assist them, and they were able to really build a connection with us, and we kind of kept that connection going.

Derek Maiolo (07:52):

That makes me think, uh, as you’re talking about the deep ties between these lenape words and this the local area, how many peaple probably go their entire lives not understanding or realizing that connection?

Amy Brecht (08:05):

Absolutely. We definitely have. I helped to run the Take Action, which is the club at the high school, our, our environmental club at the high school. And we’ve had several students get involved through PV Woods to, you know, to help run different events or volunteer to help clean up. And a lot of the kids were like, I didn’t even know that, you know, that’s where perfume and came from, or, you know, I didn’t know what any of these things meant. So it is a great opportunity for us to educate our students about, you know, where the land was before, what happened to it, and, um, who inhabited it before.

Dr. Seamus Clune (08:39):

I think too, it, it gives a great, you know, local, local situations, local projects really are so valuable for students to understand the big picture. And I think this situation with, with, um, the Lenape and with our name, because obviously there were cranberries in Perkiomen, there aren’t anymore, sadly, um, at least none that are really prevalent. Uh, they clearly must have been a lot. And there used to be bogs everywhere, which would’ve also had this bog turtle. It’s actually named after Muhlenberg. You know, this, it’s the smallest turtle in North America and it’s endangered. Um, and it would’ve been prevalent here as well. Part of one of the ways that the indigenous people were driven out was the settlers. The European settlers changed the environment. They had a different use for it. They started damming up the creeks, right? So the, the fish didn’t swim up the creek anymore.

So they’ve changed the environmental site cycle there. They started fencing off land. They started bringing in cattle or doing other, you know, farming purposes. They prevented the Lenape from barking trees to create their housing. There were all kinds of clashes between how the environment was used, even back in colonial times. And even today, you know, we, even though we’ve named places Cranberry Estates, Cranberry Road, you know, you’ll see the word cranberry. There isn’t the connection and pretty much everywhere, no one, you know, there’s very, there’s not really a connection to that, that that’s because there really were cranberries here at one time for, um, land development. We’ve drained really most or all of the bogs, and we’ve really changed the environment in, in what I would consider relatively short period of time. It’s only been a couple of hundred, 250 years that the Lenape were here in very large numbers, you know, and now all of a sudden the environment has changed. We’ve, we’ve removed these people that were here that, you know, were stewards of this land for over 10,000 years. Um, and I, I think that’s the great, you know, the un the unraveling story with our students. I think as they start discovering more and more of this and understanding, Hey, we have a, we have an opportunity to turn things back. We can restore things even at this point, we can do that with the environment. We can do that with people. Um, it’s not too late.

Derek Maiolo (10:59):

Absolutely. I, I think it’s a great way to reconnect students, not just with the land itself, but also the history. And so, I, I understand that within the arboretums, there is signage where you have the English name of certain species, but also the Lenape word. Is that correct?

Amy Brecht (11:17):

One of the requirements for the arboretum was to identify 25 different species in order to be accredited as an arboretum. And we felt it was really important to not only identify the trees, like for a learning standpoint, you know, the common and scientific name is very important, but also to make those ties back to the Lenape language. And so each tree has a common name and the scientific name as well as a QR code where you scan it and it will say the Lenape name as well. So it has the Lenape name and then also pronounces it for you, which is an amazing resource for our students, but also for our local community too. So when they walk through, they can see that as well.

Derek Maiolo (11:59):

I want to move on to the impacts and the effects on students. Amy, how have you seen, uh, PV Woods in the classroom? Uh, how are teachers incorporating the project, maybe into their curricula, or, uh, how are you seeing students benefit from this resource?

Amy Brecht (12:14):

So, I know for myself, I teach AP Environmental and a regular environmental class. We do a lot of activities where we’re going out and identifying native and invasive species on our land, and you can show them pictures of those things, but if you take them out and they see it in person, we use, you know, there’s lots of different apps you can use. So if they’re not sure, so we do something where they find something, they have to identify it and then determine if it’s native or invasive. In science classes, I think it’s easy because you can easily tie those things in too, you know, environmental literacy and things like that. Where I am really excited is that this spring, several of our English teachers, before they taught the Lord of the Flies, they actually took their kids outside and took them on a scavenger hunt to, you know, look at, I don’t teach English, so I’m probably going to butcher it, but to look at different pieces of nature and how people could use nature if they were, you know, having to live out in the wild, live by themselves.

So I was really encouraged to see other curriculum areas sort of embracing that. I know our teachers have taken kids out for photography out there as well, so we’re really at, like, the baby steps. I mean, we’re, we’re two years old right now. The Woods is, and the arboretum is two years old. Well, technically the project is two years old. The woods and the Arboretum are a little bit younger because they were just identified. But I think our next step is for our team to create a activities and lesson plans, because at the secondary level, if you’re in a science, it’s easy for you to incorporate that. But if you’re in another subject area, you might struggle to see how you can make those connections. And then moving down to the elementary level, I know my husband teaches fourth grade, and he’s like, I’d love to use it, but I’m not a content expert, so I don’t know, you know, how to use the area, how to use the land.

So our next goal, because we have two teachers, uh, Ms. Emers that Mr. Clune talked about, or Dr. Clune talked about already. And, um, Ms. Kate Zappala, she’s also working with us. And our next goal is as a team for us to start creating activities that are just sort of take and go. So teachers can look for resources, come up with an activity, and then walk their elementary school classes out to the, the woods and do an activity. The idea is to tie in more teachers so that they can easily access curriculum connections to PV Woods. So that’s sort of, as the teachers on the team, our next goal is to come up with some time where we can write curriculum, write activities, and so that our teachers can just not have to put a lot of work in, because we’re already overworked. So <laugh>, we don’t wanna give more work to our teachers. So if we can come up with things that they can do easily, um, that’s the goal. But we have had a lot of success with our secondary classrooms going out and using it, but I wouldn’t wanna take fourth graders or third graders out there without a plan. So I think that’s a little bit different for elementary school teachers to just jump right in. But I think we are making great strides moving forward.

Dr. Seamus Clune (15:17):

I was gonna share too, there’s a really good spinoff that our English teachers and eighth grade are talking about now with the book, The Giver, which is really a, his a story about a collective memory, um, for the community. They’ve kind of lost their memory. It’s, it’s held by someone and it’s, it’s been corrupted, their corrupted collective memory. And, and it’s to prevent them from feeling essentially what happened in their past. Right? Um, and actually the teachers now are having conversations about how can they incorporate this experience of PV Woods into that story and really share it with the students. Because in some ways, our collective memory has been corrupted and been changed, and it is in some ways to prevent us from really truly understanding. And I guess experiencing or knowing about really what happened with the indigenous people, there’s a lot of misinformation about why they left. Um, were they really here? You know, who are they? You know, and, and kind of we forget. Um, and I think, um, there’s, there’s a lot of history there, so there’s lots of connections, which is really helpful.

Derek Maiolo (16:22):

Well, and I know a lot of studies recently have focused on the importance of reconnecting kids, young people with the natural world, uh, Amy or Dr. Clune. I mean, could you speak at all to how you have seen students benefit just from being outside and, you know, learning about the natural world?

Amy Brecht (16:42):

Sure. So I, teach environmental science, and the one thing I tell kids all the time is, you think everything is okay. I mean, they know about climate change, like that is the one thing that all kids sort of know about. But, um, when we talk about things like pollution and water shortages, I say, you guys don’t really know about those things because you’re not confronted with them like on a regular basis. You don’t live in a place where you’re wearing masks. Well, recently we were wearing masks, but you don’t live in a place where you have to wear masks because the air is so polluted or you can’t use water. So, um, I really think it’s helpful for us to have our kids out in nature. And I know when I take my students outside, they come back in and they’re like, oh my gosh, I feel so much more peaceful because we leave our phones.

If we go out for a walk, we leave our phones inside. If we’re doing like the scavenger hunt, they’ll take phones, but they feel more peaceful, more relaxed. And so we talk about what are some things that you could do for yourself outside of this classroom that would help connect you? And so we’ll have conversations about, you know, the things that major can do for you. And there’s something called, um, grounding that you can do, which I talked to my students about where you need to go outside and you have to disconnect. So no technology, and you need to feel the grass. Like if you can walk barefoot, walk barefoot. If you can’t, then, you know, crouch down and touch your fingers on the grass, and then take a second and close your eyes and listen for the sounds that you hear. And we’ve sort of done done that in practice in my class a few times, especially during final exams.

And, you know, AP testing, they get super stressed. I find that a lot of kids are more open to those types of things when they’re given the opportunity to just go be out there. The trouble with school sometimes is you have to connect it to your cur to your curriculum. Luckily, we’re right now doing a big social emotional push too. So I can say like, we’re going outside because we need to go outside <laugh>. And, um, I think kids really appreciate that opportunity to just go outside. My kids also go to Perkiomen Valley, so I have a, like I said, I have a junior, and my son’s in eighth grade at Dr. Clune’s school, actually. So he benefited this year from being exposed out in, in the woods. They went out for several walks in social studies class as well as in science class. So he’s definitely come home and said, oh my gosh, today in science, we went outside and there’s a tree that they named Hug Tree.

And then Ms. Czapla made me hug the tree and took a picture up of me hugging the tree. So they’ve actually enjoyed that opportunity to, during school, go outside and like do a little bit of grounding and relaxing, you know, for themselves, because with the levels of students with depression and anxiety and, you know, all of those mental health issues rising, it also gives our district such a rare opportunity to expose our kids to that nature and the, that grounding idea. So I definitely feel like kids are, especially the kids who are being exposed, they’re getting that opportunity to experience nature without like strings attached, so not necessarily having to do X, Y, Z. So I think that’s really beneficial.

Derek Maiolo (19:44):

And I imagine it’s a particular relief after being stuck at home on Zoom classroom, to actually be able to get outside and, uh, but still be in class.

Amy Brecht (19:56):

Yeah, for sure.

Dr. Seamus Clune (19:57):

We’re very privileged to have, um, these arboretums right up against all of our secondary schools. I mean, they’re literally right outside the door, and it is kind of this whole world right outside that no one really paid attention to. Um, and our students so desperately need to be part of, I I always say it’s a teacher’s superpower. I mean, nature can do so much, um, if you allow it to, and if you get this, if you, if you get students out there, they have to get out there. Um, but even looking at nature from a window has benefits for students. I mean, it’s so powerful. Um, and, and yet it is something that we are as a society moving so far away from so quickly, um, that this is a, you know, this project I think really kind of helps readjust our, um, our focus.

Derek Maiolo (20:48):

I know that the PV Woods has received some great recognition, uh, winning this year’s, uh, one of this year’s, uh, governor’s Awards for Environmental Excellence, uh, which are awarded each year by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, uh, highlighting some of the best environmental innovation and expertise throughout the state. So Dr. Clune, could you talk about what this award, receiving this award means for you and for the project?

Dr. Seamus Clune (21:17):

It, it was, um, it was such a really wonderful recognition by Harrisburg. It was that moment where you realized, wow, they really, they noticed, right? We, we really are doing something spectacular here. We were the only school district actually at that award ceremony. Um, and, um, it’s a, it was a huge honor. Um, and, and I think that kind of attention is so helpful when you’re a new project and you’re trying to motivate. And what I thought was so much fun was we got to bring a lot of the students that were so involved at the very beginning to get this project. I mean, this project was, it, it was just a dream, you know, kind of working with a shoestring budget and a lot of dedication from teachers. We have the best teachers around administrators, um, staff and students, and we all kind of came together and, and made this project happen.

And it was a truly audacious idea. It was this idea of no one, no public school ever created an arboretum, let alone two accredited arboretums. And no one really had made a real connection with the Lenape people, the indigenous people. And to be perfectly honest with you, we didn’t really, we were warned ahead of time, do not expect the Lenape to return your call. They’re busy with their own stuff out in Oklahoma or up in Wisconsin, and they are, you know, don’t be disappointed if you don’t hear back from ’em because they’ve, they’ve got their own issues they’re dealing with. And the fact that we were able to connect and build such a great relationship is like, was awesome. And listen, anytime the governor calls to come out to Harrisburg, like that’s, that’s, that’s like, it’s amazing. So, uh, it was a, it was a really, really wonderful, um, experience and something that I, I really was so proud of all of our team in helping make that happen.

Derek Maiolo (23:16):

What’s next for PV Woods? Are there some things that you are particularly excited about, maybe in the next year or in, in the near future?

Amy Brecht  (23:25):

I think for, for me, I really wanna get our teachers involved and able to use, uh, the land. So recently, our school board just approved that all K to eight will have one field trip that will be like, paid for by the district, so their students don’t have to put any money out. The benefit of having these arboretums on our land, and if we can get that curriculum right going, then that’s a separate additional field trip that would be of little to no cost to most of our schools. So one of our elementary schools is, is across the street from middle school east, so they could walk across and use the land. The other schools would just maybe have to pay for busing, but that could be very, like, limited cost. But for me, that’s the next big thing, is getting more kids out into the Woods so that they can use it.

I’m really also very encouraged at the number of students who want to be involved in terms of, uh, community service projects. So, like Dr. Clune talked a little bit about how when we got our award, we took a bunch of kids out to Harrisburg with us. So for example, Dr. Clune’s son was one of our students who identified the trees in the arboretum for the Lenape Arboretum. My daughter was one of the first students. She built bird houses and um, owl boxes for the arboretum. And we installed those. We had another student identify trees as well. We’ve had students create rain gardens. We’ve had students create indigenous herb gardens. So my excitement is in the number of kids who wanna continue to get involved and do projects to give back to the community. And that’s such an important thing because children are inherently selfish <laugh>.

So to have them want to do something for their community rather than, you know, just path of least resistance. I wouldn’t say that my daughter going, going into her silver project would’ve said, you know, what I wanna do is spend tons of time building bird houses and installing them outside. She probably would’ve picked something a little bit easier, but I said, look at this, look at this opportunity. And she’s like, oh, that’s really cool. Something different than what other kids do. So for me, continuing to get kids involved in those community type projects and continuing to get our teachers out and using the land, for me, that’s my focus moving forward. And then whatever else Dr. Klu says will also be my focus. <laugh>.

Dr. Seamus Clune (25:47):

Yeah, I was gonna say too, I, and, and, and I, I, I definitely second everything Amy said. Um, we also have at the moment a petition for a zero waste initiative. And what’s exciting about that is that’s really PV Woods coming right inside the schools and our cafeterias throughout our building saying, okay, we got too much stuff going into landfills. Um, we have too much going out there. It’s polluting our, our streams. It’s polluting our wildlife. Um, how can we actually, you know, act locally, right? Um, think globally, but act locally. We’re hoping to actually produce compost out of our cafeterias that we could then turn around and put into our, um, our gardens and into our, our breeds, and maybe even possibly sell as, um, an entrepreneurial venture depending on, you know, our capabilities of, of how much we’re gonna be able to produce.

But the goal being, we really want to reduce and get down to zero waste coming out of our buildings, recycling, reusing, rethinking, you know, um, rotting, you know, composting things. We, we really want to do it all. And that’s, uh, that, that’s, I think that’s something that students, I think will, it’ll really connect to them because it’s, it’s what they deal with every day. They’re throwing trash away every day there. There’s a lot of waste that we produce. Um, so I’m excited about that. Um, we’re also talking about mountain biking. Um, we’re actually talking about our tech ed students are gonna be creating ornaments for trees and around the holiday season that they want to sell. And now they’re talking about possibly having them themed. So one year might be endangered birds or local birds, native birds. The other one might be insects. They’ve got, kids are doing all kinds of ideas.

So, you know, you’re starting to see kind of spinoffs where there’s, there’s all kinds of things happening, but the heart of this is environmental stewardship. Conservation. We want to help instill in our students the capacity to take care of the earth and to really recognize and appreciate all that they have around them. Um, and that’s a, that’s a, that’s a lifelong journey. So we’re, we’re trying to get them on a, a good start on that path. So they’re gonna continue with this so long after, you know, talk about legacy education is all about legacy. This is a huge legacy, this arboretum, um, these trees, this project, you know, could be around for a long, long time, well after us. And I’m excited about that. That actually really drives me forward.

Derek Maiolo (28:13):

What a wonderful legacy to leave. I imagine that, I mean, at least for me, you have made the PV Woods sound like a great place to visit. Is the PV Woods, is this something that the public has access to, or what, what does that look like?

Dr. Seamus Clune (28:29):

Well, you can’t access during the school day ’cause you’re, well, you know, those are our school campuses, but outside of our school hours, um, you’re very welcome to come and visit. Um, there’s all kinds of trails. There’s, uh, Trailhead kiosks with information posted. We’re working hard to keep adding more signs. Um, there’s loads of information on our website for PV Woods. All you have to do is type in the Google type in PV Woods, it’ll come up. Um, and, and lots of related information about the Welcome Home Project with the Lenape connected to our sinus college. Um, and those trails are open, the trees are there, they’re marked. Um, and it, it’s, it’s a, it’s a constantly emerging project. So you might come out one month and you might come back six months later and recognize, wow, they’ve done a lot of work here. Because we, we have, we’ve been working really hard and it’s student led projects. You’re looking at students actually getting out there, community members getting out there and making this project happen. This, this wasn’t, um, hey, we’re gonna write a big check to some company and they’re gonna develop this, this is like a ground up, um, you know, grassroots kind of based effort. And I think that’s, that’s um, it’s a great place to visit. We, we certainly welcome anybody to come out and check us out.

Derek Maiolo (29:45):

Okay. That sounds wonderful. I have covered everything on my list. Is there anything that we haven’t talked about that you would like to?

Amy Brecht (29:54):

I’m just grateful for Dr. Clune. I remember I got the phone call from one of my colleagues at Middle School East, and he said, listen, Dr. K’s trying to come up with this. He’s got this big plan for outdoor classrooms and this environmental literacy, and he wants to connect with teachers at the high school. You know, who’s, who’s name should I give him? And I was like, in my head, I was thinking, okay, just give ’em my name because my teachers are, I’m the department chair for science at the high school. My teachers are already overworked and I’ll handle it. And I sort of, um, just wanna give kudos to him for helping to get everything moving because, um, I had the Trails Initiative started, but I didn’t really have any, I didn’t have any help. You know, it was just me. And I know Ms. Emers isn’t feeling the same way. It was just sort of her over at Middle School West and me on main campus trying to get things going. And he really pushed for our, you know, school board to set aside the land and protected and for our, um, superintendent to get behind some of these ideas. So it was really a team effort. But Dr. Clune really sort of pushed us forward. I know we’re all working together, but he really did push us forward.<laugh> 

Dr. Seamus Clune (31:04):

That’s, uh, thank you so much. That was so kind. I, I, I will say this as well. I really want to do, I want to pay back the favor. We have three amazing science teachers. We’ve got Amy Brecht, who you’re listening to. We’ve got Kate Czapla and Danielle Emers. Now, there are lots of other people, but really the four of us have been kind of embedded in this project and, and partnering with so many groups and they’ve really been doing the, the work, uh, from the very beginning before there was PV Woods, there were these science teachers who were absolutely dedicated to getting kids outside. And I feel I’ve been so fortunate to kind of, um, you know, get to, uh, get to jump on board and ride the wave with them and try to, um, try to make a difference. And, uh, it’s so much fun doing it together. And I guess that’s a great way to end. It’s awesome to get out there and to work together. Yeah,

Amy Brecht (31:56):

I agree.

Derek Maiolo (31:57):

That’s a, a, a perfect ending. My guests today have been Dr. Seamus Clune, principal of Perm and Valley Middle School East, and the director of PV Woods and Amy Brecht, biology teacher at Perkiomen Valley High School and coordinator of PV Woods. Thank you both so much for being on Pennsylvania Legacies.

Amy Brecht (32:16):

Thank you.

Dr. Seamus Clune (32:17):

Thank you.

Joshua Raulerson (32:26):

You can learn more about the PV Woods Arboretums, and the benefits of green spaces and educational setting, or anywhere else. Find the links to these resources. As always, on the PEC website, it’s in the show notes for this podcast episode at We’ll have another podcast for you coming up in a couple of weeks. Until then, for the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, I’m Josh Raulerson, and thanks for listening.

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