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Chicago Botanic Garden Makes History By Hosting Virtual Field Trip on Emerald Ash Borer Infestation

Adriana Reyneri

(847) 835-6829, direct

Event Date: 
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Release Date: 
Thursday, November 21, 2013

GLENCOE, IL (November 21, 2013) – On December 4, the Chicago Botanic Garden will be the first public garden in the country, and the first cultural institution in Chicago, to host a virtual field trip utilizing the Google+ platform. Funding for field trips is shrinking, so why not bring the field trip directly to students?

"We're pleased to be part of the first wave of virtual field trips conducted through Connected Classrooms. The technology holds tremendous potential,” said Jennifer Schwarz Ballard, associate vice president for education. “By partnering with Google, our educators can introduce students in diverse states to the threats posed by invasive species. We can demonstrate the damage the emerald ash borer has done to the Garden's ash trees, model the spread of the insect, and give the students tools for assessing the threat in their own communities." 

The Connected Classroom virtual field trip—called “They’re Heeeeeeere: Emerald Ash Borer Invasion”— will engage fifth and sixth graders from schools across the country, as well as local students at the Garden. They will learn alongside conservation scientists mapping the rapid spread of the emerald ash borer, and horticulturists looking for evidence of the invasion in the Garden’s woodlands.

Kathy Johnson, director of the Garden’s education programs, will launch the virtual teach-in at 11 a.m., by explaining the history of the tiny insect; how it came to the United States; what damage it has done and will continue to do; and how the insects are spreading. Garden horticulturists will explain how to spot and treat an infested tree, when to treat a tree, and when to take it down. Students participating in the virtual field trip will be watching as we cut down one of the infested trees so they can see firsthand what damage the tiny insect does to a tree and what makes it so deadly.

Back at the labs of the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Plant Conservation Science Center, horticulturist Tom Tiddens, manager of plant health care, will use a dissecting microscope to show the morphology and biology of the insect. (Hint: the images are really creepy and will be projected onto a very large screen—should be good and icky for fifth and sixth graders!) Emily Yates, a conservation scientist, will use the geographic information system (GIS) technology in the Microscopy Lab to “map out” the spread of the borer in the United States. Throughout the hangout, students can ask questions, and our experts will be challenging them to think about what they can do in their own neighborhoods. To see the link to the Connected Classroom page, click


Editors, please note: For digital images, contact Jasmine Leonas at (847) 835-6829 or at

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