supporting Cambridge public school students

CSV’s Art & Science in One Gears up for Spring 2017

two students examine polliwogs outdoors with a STEM mentor

After a winter of snow days, harsh temperatures, and cabin fever, spring is a relief to students and teachers alike. It’s also a time that some classrooms take their learning outdoors. Cambridge School Volunteers enables adults from the community to participate as volunteers in a particular outdoor, hands-on learning program—Art & Science in One.

We develop a kind of learning community amongst our volunteers before we pair up with the kids.

— Julie Croston, Art & Science in One Coordinator

Sited at Tobin Montessori School and Fresh Pond Reservation, Art & Science in One (AS1) was launched five years ago with support from the Cambridge Community Foundation and Friends of Tobin School. AS1.Volunteer.DrawingOnce a week for five weeks every spring, each student in a mixed-grade classroom of fourth- and fifth-graders pairs up with a CSV volunteer. Together, each mentor-student pair explores techniques for observing wildlife, sketching plant and animals, and training the eye (and the hand) to capture the details of what goes on in a natural habitat. The classroom teacher and the CSV coordinator accompany all sessions.

Tobin Montessori School, the program’s home, is the first district-level certified public Montessori School in the country (Read the school’s news story about the Art & Science in One program).

Training is required for volunteers in the program. Erica Beade, a professional science illustrator and regular instructor at the Harvard Museum of Natural History, is the program’s trainer, acting as “mentor to the mentors.”  Beade herself once studied with local nature journaling teacher and artist Clare Walker Leslie. (Above: close-up of acorns drawn by an AS1 volunteer).

Nature Journal Excerpt
A fourth-grade student’s nature journal, created during an Art & Science in One trip to Fresh Pond Reservation.

Who steps up to volunteer in a program with such a seemingly narrow focus? “One thing that is special about this program is that we develop a kind of learning community amongst our volunteers before we pair up with the kids,”says AS1 Program Coordinator Julie Croston, who developed the program with school staff in 2012. “AS1 volunteers have included art school graduates and novices at drawing; people with decades of expertise in natural history and those who can’t identify more than a few kinds of trees. During our volunteer orientation and training sessions, there’s a nice camaraderie that develops from sharing complementary perspectives.”

Art & Science in One will meet on Fridays from 11:30 to 1:30 during Spring 2017, from March 31st until June 2 (but does not meet on two particular Fridays when school is not in session). The schedule aIMG_5728llows volunteers and students to observe significant seasonal changes at Fresh Pond, an open space owned by the City of Cambridge. Fresh Pond’s longtime chief ranger, Jean Rogers, accompanies AS1 expeditions to answer (and to pose) questions.


The 2017 volunteer schedule for Art & Science in One is below. To become an AS1 volunteer, sign up on Eventbrite for a brief, in-person registration:

Fri, March 31 11:30–1:30

(two hours)

Fri, April 7 11:30–1:30

(two hours)

Fri, April 28 11:30–1:30

(two hours)

Fri, May 5 11:30–1:30

(two hours)

Fri May 12 11:30–1:30

(two hours)


Fri May 19 11:30–1:30

(two hours)


Fri May 26 11:30–1:30

(two hours)

Fri June 2 11:30–1:30

(two hours)

Drawing Instructor Erica Beade (R), provides feedback to an Art & Science in One volunteer during "Spring Training."
Drawing Instructor Erica Beade (R), provides feedback to an Art & Science in One volunteer during “Spring Training.”

Fresh Pond Reservation offers walkabouts, workshops and other programs for the public.  Attending any of these in advance of Art & Science in One’s startup at the end of March is the perfect way (though optional) for prospective volunteers to get their feet wet for this program (but do wear proper footgear!).

Learning something new (nature journaling) and having the opportunity to work one on one with a student was really meaningful.—2014 AS1 Mentor