TTF Watershed Partnership announces partners for “River Alive! Learning Trail” in Tacony Creek Park

Philadelphia, PA (May 24, 2022) – Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership, Inc. (TTF), in collaboration with Habitheque, is proud to announce the selection of two partners for the design and construction of a series of watershed awareness and engagement opportunities for young children and their caregivers. 

The “River Alive! Learning Trail” will be based on the River Alive exhibit at the Independence Seaport Museum, but on a neighborhood scale along Cayuga Street in the Juniata Park neighborhood. Located next to Ferko Recreation Center which is adjacent to Tacony Creek Park, the trail will include six stations, each featuring a unique animal sculpture, seating, and English/Spanish bilingual signage for families to learn about the local watershed and nearby Tacony Creek. New crosswalk murals at two key entrances to the park will invite families to experience the Learning Trail. These features will bring rich educational resources and playful learning experiences to Juniata Park neighbors.

Visual artist Miguel Horn, based in Philadelphia, will design the animal sculptures and seating. His public artworks explore the natural world, often integrating the installations into their environment. 

“It is an honor to once again create artworks for and with this community,” said Miguel Horn. “I have greatly enjoyed imagining how children and their caretakers will engage with the artworks.”

The seating will be built by local youth from the Juniata Park community and Youth Volunteer Corps of Philadelphia (YVC), a non-profit organization working across the city, creating volunteer opportunities and inspiring youth for a lifetime commitment to service.

“Some of the most rewarding, creative exchanges of my career have been in workshops with local youth groups and student programs providing skills, training, and mentorship opportunities,” said Horn. “This team-based approach to art-making and the exchange of ideas and creative problem solving it requires is so enjoyable, and I am excited to bring the creative products of the Learning Trail to fruition with Youth Volunteer Corps and high school students from across Philadelphia to design and build our seating for Juniata Park.” 

This project is funded by the William Penn Foundation and developed by Victoria Prizzia and her team at Habithèque Inc. Read by 4th will advise on the signage to ensure the content is engaging, educational, and relevant for families with young children.

“The River Alive! project is a new and exciting way Philadelphia families can enjoy green spaces together, while engaging with the natural environment all around them,” said Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell. “We are incredibly grateful to the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership, the William Penn Foundation, and the team at Habithèque Inc. for bringing this creative, whimsical exhibit to the learning trail at Juniata Park.” 

The main goals of the Learning Trail are to provide more opportunities for adults and children to interact in their community in ways that help build children’s early language and literacy skills and connect people with the environment in which they live. These signs and sculptures will welcome families to Tacony Creek Park, spark language-rich interactions, and prompt questions in young minds about how water and rain affect the creek, the wildlife around it, and their neighborhood. 

“Nature is a powerful teacher for developing our most cherished human qualities of inquiry, imagination, playfulness, and self-expression,” said Victoria Prizzia, Founder and Principal at Habithèque Inc. “The vision for the Learning Trail is guided by research that tells us that young children learn through using multiple senses simultaneously. In play experiences, combining the sense of touch with the senses of vision and hearing helps to build cognitive skills. We have created a tactile water play experience that combines all of these things.”

The sculptures will feature six animals that live in the watershed: fox, fish, turtle, heron, watersnake, and a river otter. Each sculpture will include an interactive water feature (a spout for the water to flow down) and an animal song, written by City Love and accessed via a QR code, intended to show that the animals are our neighbors and part of the diverse urban community. The signage will provide conversation prompts, poetry, and suggested play to connect the six stations on the trail. Some of the messaging will be water-activated, appearing only during rainfall or when water from a nearby sprayground is poured on them.

Councilwoman Maria Quiñones Sánchez said, “The Juniata Park community cherishes our children and is committed to ensuring that families have access to safe, beautiful green spaces like Tacony Creek Park that serve as outdoor nature classrooms while supporting early learning. I am so proud that members of our community including artists and youth have helped to envision and create this rich educational area for our neighborhood.”

“Learning new words and concepts through conversations with caring adults is an important way that young children build their early language and literacy skills,” said Elliot Weinbaum, Chief Philanthropy Officer at the William Penn Foundation. “This project is based in research showing that playful learning helps to build skills and abilities that help young children to succeed. The Learning Trail coming to Tacony Creek Park will join several playful learning experiences the Foundation has supported in community spaces across Philadelphia.”  

In September 2022, TTF will host a special community day during which neighbors will create artistic mosaics on the animal sculptures, led by artist Jay Coreano. This opportunity will bring together community members to enjoy and enhance this shared green space. In collaboration with Habithèque, Coreano will also design and create two crosswalk murals and water-activated poetry on the pavement.

The River Alive! Learning Trail will be installed in the late summer. TTF is looking forward to sharing this brand-new education experience with the community and hopes to expand the project to other areas in Tacony Creek Park, other parks, and other environmental centers.

View sketches and renderings of the sculptures (credit to Miguel Horn).

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About the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership

TTF connects watershed residents to their creeks. Through hands-on education, stewardship, restoration, and advocacy, TTF empowers watershed constituents to take care of and improve the impaired waterways, parks, and trails across its 30 square miles. With Philadelphia Water Department support, we work alongside Parks & Recreation,  neighbors, and organizations to increase Tacony Creek Park use and stewardship through programs and engagement, and bring resources and improvement to this beautiful park.

About Habithèque

Habithèque Inc. is a multi-award-winning, WBENC Certified interpretive planning and design studio headquartered in Pennsylvania. For more than fifteen years, Habithèque has connected organizations, firms, and individuals to create dynamic spaces for education, storytelling, and cultural community engagement. Their work is interdisciplinary at its core by linking technology, public art, narrative, and science in the process of crafting immersive, unexpected, and enticing exhibitions and experiences for learning.

About Miguel Horn

Miguel Horn lives and works in Philadelphia, PA. He maintains his studio at El Cubo, a space he founded in 2019 in the parkside neighborhood of West Philadelphia. He lives in South Philadelphia where he is raising his two children with his wife and community. 

About Youth Volunteer Corps of Philadelphia

YVC creates volunteer opportunities to address community needs in Philly and to inspire youth for a lifetime commitment to service. Youth Volunteer Corps of Philadelphia is part of a national nonprofit network called the Youth Volunteer Corps (YVC). YVC offers youth between the ages of 11 and 18 the opportunity to improve their community through volunteering. Learn more at www.yvc.org. ​

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