A natural education: Learning in the Greenbelt


A Natural Education

by Lenore Miller

To me, the Greenbelt and High Rock Park are synonymous. I had the privilege of working in the Park from 1969 – 1970, first as a trail guide, and then as a teacher. Under the guidance of its first education director, Harry Betros, it was the premier nature/environmental education center and the model for many others. It is still going strong today.A natural education: Learning in the Greenbelt

I was trained for the job by the very best… Olivia Hansen, Marie Burke, Rudolph Lindenfeld, Cynthia Jacobson and Harry. The method advocated hands-on discovery; and with these naturalists at your elbow, every leaf turned over, every rock examined became an experience of wonder and awe. Loosestrife Swamp was open water then and we spent hours crouched on the footbridge observing the aquatic creatures in their various life stages.

And what a joy it was just to enter the park! Like today, the place was infused with a special tranquility that was felt the minute you passed through the gates… it was like entering a magic world. And what a pleasure it was to be a part of that marvelous staff… Ethel Dicke who made all the arrangements with camp and school visitors, Helen Hauber, whose cheerful voice greeted classers and so many others. High Rock was administered by the Staten Island institute, then headed by George Pratt.

Although I returned to regular classroom teaching in 1970, what I learned from those wonderful years teaching stayed with me. I brought their ideas with me into the classroom, and when I became the nature counselor in children’s camps, later putting much of it into two books on teaching about nature. The work of those environmental teaching GIANTS lives on in the lucky individuals who were taught and inspired by them.