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Like so many second-semester seniors, I have a bucket list of notable attractions in and around Philadelphia that I’m hoping to squeeze in before picking up my diploma. This growing to-do list led me to register for a preceptorial at Penn’s Morris Arboretum.

Over the past four years, multiple people have urged me to visit the beautiful tree-filled botanical garden. It’s free for anyone in possession of a PennCard ($16 less than the adult admission fee), which makes it a cheap date or excursion with friends. Though getting there may seem challenging, it’s easily accessible by car, bike or public transportation.

After visiting last weekend, I came to realize the arboretum is a lovely place to spend the afternoon, and students should take advantage of the many resources it offers.

At the Morris Arboretum, “our mission is to teach about the important relationships between people, plants and place, and we do that through programs in the arts, science and humanities,” said Bob Gutowski, director of public programs at the Morris Arboretum. A trip there allows visitors to come away with a better understanding of all these elements.

The heart of the arboretum is certainly the trees. It’s a shaded sanctuary that offers the Penn community a break from the typical urban landscape. With over 2,500 types of plants growing on its grounds, the arboretum offers the chance to indulge the nature lover in us all. At the urging of our guide, I eagerly scratched and sniffed the fragrant spice bush and pet the soft, waxy spines of the Japanese umbrella pine.

The plants and animals living on the grounds are complemented by a variety of outdoor sculpture art. And in addition to the physical artwork, “there’s an art of landscape architecture [and] there’s an art of design,” Gutowski said.

The arboretum “basically has something for everyone,” said Jamie Soo, Engineering sophomore and organizer of the Morris Arboretum preceptorial.

I myself geeked out at seeing the implementation of green roofs on the Horticulture Center. I enthusiastically listened to the historical anecdotes concerning the 100-year-old grain mill that volunteers are working to restore. I examined and touched and photographed the various trees and plants as we roamed through the property.

But the most interesting part of the visit took place when our guide brought our group up to the Arboretum’s parking lot. He explained that the ground beneath the parking spaces is made up of a special material that allows it to absorb, store and eventually reuse up to seven inches of rain during a storm. As someone with little knowledge of sustainability, I had absolutely no idea that environmental innovation like this was even possible.

But the arboretum is making it a reality. Its Horticulture Center is the only building owned by Penn that has achieved a Platinum rating in accordance with the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system — the highest level possible. This rating signifies that the arboretum has made things like sustainability, water conservation and the use of recycled materials its utmost priorities in its construction of the center.

“As an engineer, I was really attracted to the Horticulture Center because of the LEED certification,” Soo said.

The Morris Arboretum is many things to many different people. It’s an exhibition of environmental technology and an outdoor art museum. It’s a serene retreat and a historical landmark.

Penn students who don’t take advantage of its offerings are missing out on a complement to their educational experience.

And now that the weather’s getting nicer, there’s no better time to visit the arboretum. As I’m quickly learning, you really only have a short amount of time to check everything off your Philly bucket list.

Sabrina Benun is a College senior from Santa Monica, Calif. Her email address is Last Call appears every Friday.

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