Ball State’s Rinard Orchid Greenhouse is hosting a "Magic School Bus"-themed Halloween event Saturday, Oct. 31. Erica Forstater, environmental educator, started this annual public event in 2018 and is in charge of hosting it every year.
“We’re using Halloween as an excuse to dress up, but it’s not purely Halloween,” Forstater said. “It’s still completely educational. Not everyone celebrates Halloween, so we don’t really want that to be the focus.”
The program, called “The Magic School Bus explores the Orchid Greenhouse,” takes visitors on a tour through the greenhouse, highlighting rooms filled with different plant species. Visitors can also take part in different activities, such as scavenger hunts, that will teach them about what the greenhouse has to offer.
“I really like kids finding and figuring out things for themselves,” Forstater said. “I don’t just want to talk to them because I have 4-year-olds, and that’s not how they learn. So, scavenger hunts or puzzles, that’s what I really wanted to bring in, and I’m just fine tuning it every year to see how I can make it better.”
Forstater began this program three years ago because of how educational the television show is. She also already had a costume for the event prepared. She has seen great success, describing it as one of the greenhouse’s “bigger events,” seeing more than 100 participants last year.
“A lot of parents bring their kids,” Forstater said. “Some college students come because they love nostalgia.”
Forstater puts on this event with help from local volunteers and Ball State students who work at the greenhouse. However, due to COVID-19, the greenhouse doesn’t have any student workers this year but still has community volunteers.
Jean Gadziola, who has been volunteering at the greenhouse since 2014 and participates in tour guidance, plant care and greenhouse events, said volunteering helps her advance in her Indiana Department of Natural Resources course.
“I always have my ears and eyes open for volunteer opportunities, and this event gives me hours to work toward my Advanced Indiana Naturalist badge,” Gadziola said.
Many community volunteers at the greenhouse work events to get hours for the Indiana Naturalist program, which is run through the Department of Natural Resources and focused on educating people on natural resources in Indiana.
“I love meeting the enthusiastic public in these programs and making connections that share my love for the environment,” Gadziola said. “These are treasured places in our community.”
Jackie Harris has volunteered at the greenhouse since 2015. After visiting the greenhouse for many years before, she got involved following her retirement from the Ball State Learning Center in 2013.
As a volunteer, Harris greets guests, partakes in plant care and participates in the various community events the greenhouse offers.
“Since the plants and animals in the greenhouse are always growing, every day is different,” Harris said.