By Karen Dell
This summer marked major anniversaries for two Woods Hole institutions. In July, the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) commemorated 125 years of world-class research, while just across Eel Pond, the Children’s School of Science (CSS) celebrated 100 years of sharing the wonders of nature with children from all over the world.
The histories of the MBL and CSS have been entwined by more than proximity since the Summer School Club, as CSS first was known, was established in August 1913. CSS was founded by a small group of women, many of whom had ties to the MBL. Frances Crane Lillie, the school’s first president, was a student in the MBL Embryology course in 1894 when she met her future husband and MBL director, Frank R. Lillie. Nellie Gray, the school’s first vice-president, was married to George Gray, a collector and curator in the MBL Supply Department.
Cornelia Smith Crane served as the second vice-president of the Children’s School of Science. Her husband, Charles Crane, was a prominent Chicago businessman and a strong financial supporter of MBL, as well as president of the MBL Corporation (now called the MBL Society). Dr. Anne Leonard Loeb, wife of MBL visiting scientist and trustee Jacques Loeb, was also a member of this CSS founding group.
CSS was formed to encourage the intellectual development of Woods Hole children and to integrate and enrich the greater community. While its original program included singing and dancing, science education quickly became the focus. Lilian Vaughan Morgan, an MBL investigator and wife of Thomas Hunt Morgan, was the first chair of the school’s Science Committee. She reportedly said, “In all the science classes there will be special emphasis on work out of doors and on experiments and problems and collections made by the pupils,” a concept that has guided the school’s programs for 100 years.
Ties between the MBL and CSS remain strong 100 years later. Children of MBL investigators and summer researchers continue to delight in CSS classes and Science School benefits from the continuing generosity of MBL in providing specimens and expertise.
Greater detail about the Children’s School of Science, its programs, and the cultural events that helped shape its history since the early 20th century can be found in Wet Sneakers & Nets: the Children’s School of Science in Woods Hole, Massachusetts Celebrates 100 Years of Summer Science Education, 1913-2013.
Happy Birthday to both the MBL and CSS, and best wishes for another 100 years of collaboration!
Karen Dell is a past member of the CSS Board and current co-chair of the school’s Curriculum Committee.