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Aug. 12, 2013

Local nature lab seeks high school help

by Sarah Trunk, Staff Writer
The Takoma Park Nature Lab, located on Carroll Avenue in Old Town Takoma Park, is now looking to expand opportunities for high school students through more programs and lab assistance.

The Nature Lab runs summer camps and year-round programs for children and adults. Now, they want high school students to assist in the lab and to provide input about potential programs they would be interested in. "High schoolers can help in the lab, figuring things out about the different types of rocks that we find,"Sluger said. "We'd also like feedback for what kind of programs they'd like to see and do." Students may also assist as counselors.

The nature lab hosts many activities, such as the Chocolate Cicada workshop that took place earlier in the year. Courtesy of wildwnc
The nature lab hosts many activities, such as the Chocolate Cicada workshop that took place earlier in the year.
Local architects Bill Angelis and Leslie Sluger created the Nature Lab last year as a way to integrate art and nature into traditional technological and scientific life. “We're looking for ways to take technology outside and be connected with nature, to mix up art, science, and technology and look at things in a different way,” Sluger said.

The main focus of the Nature Lab is biodesign, a practice which involves using organisms found in nature to create more innovative technology.

Current adult programs range from creative biodesign to learning the specifics of having a nature collection in terms of legalities and preserving specimen. The programs for children deal with creative problem solving and hands-on experiences, according to Angelis. "We're trying to teach students that when you look at nature, there's not just one thing about it that will solve a problem, there's six or a dozen different ways to solve it.”

Sluger and Angelis created the Nature Lab because they believe there are not enough opportunities for children to be exposed to nature and art. "We want to incorporate science and technology with art," Angelis said.

He and Sluger are also hoping to introduce a different type of learning from the traditional instruction kids receive in schools. "Students do a lot of memorization and a lot less problem solving," Angelis said. "We want to teach them problem solving again."

According to Sluger, biodesign and sustainability research are growing in popularity within the design community because of their great potential. "Nature Lab is part of the sustainability movement happening prominently in architecture. It's prominent because of its sustainability and it saves money long-term," she said.

In addition to help from teenagers, Angelis and Sluger are looking for donations to their current nature collection, which includes specimens like shells, skulls, insects, rocks, minerals and plant life. Students can contact the Nature Lab to donate or volunteer by visiting their website or through email.



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