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Taylor Arboretum Clean Up

Nursing Student at Taylor Arboretum
Freshmen nursing students learn about environmental health during volunteer trips.

Freshman in the School of Nursing recently volunteered at the Taylor Arboretum at Widener University to gain hands-on experience while learning how environmental settings can impact individual and public health.

Karen May, an assistant professor of nursing, organized four trips to Widener’s arboretum for her freshman seminar students.

“In nursing, and in other professions, we tell people that they need to get outside and get exercise, but we don’t tell them how to do it, and we often don’t support ways to make it possible,” May said.

The trips were designed to teach the value of creating and maintaining healthy environments and demonstrate the role nurses play in environmental health.

For freshman Celine Whatley, who had never been to the Taylor Arboretum, visiting the 30-acre reserve to engage with nature solidified discussions and lessons from class.

Nursing Students Visit Taylor Arboretum
Students picked up trash and debris along the creek in the arboretum.

“Dr. May always talks about the environment and how it can help us and help our patients be healthy. After going, I saw what Dr. May meant,” Whatley said.

At the arboretum, May and her students worked on various projects, such as trail rejuvenation, pond silt removal, and stream and garden clean up.

During each visit, students learned the history of the land, which was established in 1931 to promote the health, enjoyment and education of the public in perpetuity. Widener acquired the arboretum in 2016 and is currently working to transform the land into an integral research environment for the university with support from a grant by the William Penn Foundation.

Natural resources near urban cities like Chester often go unused because residents and visitors are unaware of them. That overwhelming lack of awareness is what led May to take the seminar lesson outdoors.

“[The students] see what Chester looks like from our side; houses in an urban setting with very few trees. But you need to only go less than a mile and around the corner and all of sudden you’re in a park. It’s hard for people to believe you’re still that close to Chester,” said May.

May hopes to build on the success of these trips and extend a similar exercise to students at other levels. Her ultimate goal is to create opportunities for students to spend time away from the traditional nursing student schedule of classes and lab and clinic work to teach students to find enjoyment in nearby natural resources.

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