P'unk Ave

Nature-based STEM sparks science learning for Philadelphia teacher and students

“This year another 90 students will receive hands-on environmental science learning. The best part is that I am not the only teaching fellow. Each of my colleagues in this program will reach an additional 30-90 students in their schools. Each year we teach, a new group of students will have the benefit of inquiry science teaching. This program keeps giving by laying an incredible foundation for Philadelphia school children in need of STEM resources.”


When 4th Grade Science Teacher, Suzanne Blatstein, at Thomas K. Finletter School signed up for Riverbend’s Philadelphia Children Access Nature program (PCAN), she didn’t quite know what to expect – for herself or her students. The school where Suzanne teaches is in the North Philadelphia neighborhood of Olney. “Most of my children have not been encouraged to explore nature and I wondered if they would they feel out of place. Maybe they would even they feel too old or too cool.”

She says the first field trip to Riverbend was magical. One of her students was a quiet girl who avoided participating in the classroom. When we were down by the stream looking for water insects with Riverbend’s educators, the kids were reluctant to explore. This student was the first to scoop her cup into the water. She collected some May fly larvae and showed everyone else. Amazed, soon they were all scooping and exploring.

“What was exciting about PCAN, says Suzanne, was seeing a change in my students, even a whole new side. Before they would never be encouraged to turn over a log to see what is underneath. Now they know that finding worms, roly polys and other decomposers is a good thing. Asking questions and showing curiosity is encouraged. Through this program my students have developed a sense of wonder and confidence about nature.