A Day's Work is a series of posts that will transport you to the field with our summer teen employment programs. You might get dirty just by reading them!

It’s 7:29 AM, day two of the Outdoor Youth Corps (OYC) program.  The sunshine sets the golden steeple atop a nearby church a’blaze as the crew of 10 teens gathers in the Baden Community Garden, just over a mile from the banks of the mighty Mississippi. On this fine morning we hop in a big van headed for the Bio Research and Development Growth (BRDG) Park at Danforth Plant Science Center in Creve Coeur for a tour of the facilities, and to experience Chromatography with St. Louis Community College’s Education Outreach specialist, and Baden Community Gardener, Angi Taylor.

After a quick trip across Northern St. Louis County, we arrive at the BRDG Park campus.  The students are eager to hop out of the van, having endured 20+ minutes of loud classic rock, (a pump up attempt dialed in by yours truly, Nelson Curran, supervisor for the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Outdoor Youth Corps).  Following a quick pep talk, we walk directly towards the thriving bio retention basin in the east lot for a quick, impromptu conversation on storm water management in urban settings.  It’s there we are initially greeted by our host, Angi Taylor, and after a quick introduction, we head inside to one of the many labs used by students, businesses, researchers and staff at BRDG Park for educational programming, and bio research.

I follow behind the crew as we stop to say “hello” to Dr. Richard Norris, Director of Life Sciences for St. Louis Community College, Florissant Valley.  “We can’t get our Bio Tech jobs filled fast enough!” he states boldly, as he pops out of his office to welcome the crew.  What a way to start our trip! After introductions and a wrap-up, we continue on to the lab.  The room is ripe with possibilities as we begin our first activity, a T-Shirt Chromatography activity in which students explore solubility, polarity, and diffusion while creating their own t-shirt to take home.  Angi explains how the activities we have lined up relate to current environmental challenges, innovations, and bio-research going on locally, across the US, and abroad; citing, specifically, the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.  The OYC crew is locked in, and after some quick vocab review and a lab equipment overview, we take Sharpie to tee and alcohol to Sharpie, diffusing colored dots and shapes into tie dye designs of chromatic awesomeness. After a delicious lunch, we wrap up the day with another Chromatography lab, separating the components of grape Kool-Aid using Sep-Paks and various concentrations of alcohol.

Our day at BRDG Park is over, and based on survey comments from our crew, it was a good one.  One crew member said, “Just keep the hands on,” and another, “We need to have more things like this [in] our schools.”  Manager of Youth and Community Programs, Betsy Crites said of the day, "This group of young people proved today that they were quick learners, creative, and great team players. We are going to have an amazing summer." That says it all.  I can’t wait to see what the Outdoor Youth Corps can achieve this summer! Stay tuned!


by Nelson Curran, Supervisor, Missouri Botanical Garden’s Outdoor Youth Corps