Juniata Park’s new River Alive! Trail teaches about nature

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An exhibit with poems, QR codes, water, and more

The new Tacony Creek Park exhibit, which was funded by the William Penn Foundation, captures the fluidity and structure of nature.

The light blue benches have a unique wavy design that evokes water. Each is accompanied by an animal sculpture: a turtle, a water snake, a river otter, a red-breast sunfish, a fox, and a great blue heron.

Members of the Youth Volunteer Corps explore the River Alive! Learning Trail sculptures at Tookany Creek Park after their unveiling on Sept. 14, 2022. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Deeper in the park sits a bench with the great blue heron, surrounded by a stunning mosaic base with varying shades of blue, green, and orange. There’s iridescent tiles, too, with a verse in white letters that represents each animal.

On the base of each animal sculpture is a QR code that redirects users to an upbeat song produced by the local band City Love. All six benches have signage in Spanish and English and include a poem dedicated to each animal.

One of the signs at the River Alive! Learning Trail at Tookany Creek Park. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Each sculpture also features a water element as part of its design.

Young children are encouraged to interact with the animal sculptures by pouring water over them and observing the water flow into their bases.

“I hope that it’s engaging and inspiring to young children,” said Horn. Learning about animals in the watershed could act as a bridge, he said, for young children to get “a little bit more curious” about the ways every living being in the watershed interacts.

In the near future, a scavenger hunt will be posted on signage to motivate families to learn hands-on about nature on the trail.

“That’s how kids learn,” said Slavet. “It’s really important.”

Additional resources like reading and science programs will be offered along the trail in the fall and spring, including Free Science Saturdays!, which kick off on Sept. 17 and run through the end of October.

For Slavet, the project creates “a space where parents and siblings and grandparents can spend time with their kids,” while also learning.

Community members are eager to see the impact the project will have on the neighborhood and the way people interact with nature.

Javier Antonio Cruz and his family live nearby and helped decorate the mosaic base.

“I’m excited to see what the future holds,” Cruz said.

This story was reported in collaboration with WHYY’s education department and its Pathway to Media Careers program.

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