Vivian Schatz, 95, an educator, environmentalist, and peace activist, died Tuesday, June 16, of complications from dementia at her home in Mount Airy.
Mrs. Schatz was a junior high science teacher who was fascinated with animals, butterflies, clouds, rocks, and insects that live in and on ponds. In her backyard, she planted milkweed to create a butterfly habitat. She kept a summer compost pile for vegetable scraps and a worm box for the same purpose in winter.
She used her fascination with nature to enrich her classes at the Crefeld and William Penn Charter Schools, and what is now Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, all in Philadelphia.
Mrs. Schatz consulted for the School District of Philadelphia, showing teachers how to use elements from nature and household objects such as bread in a jar to watch mold grow. These provided a hands-on science lesson for pupils.
In the 1960s, while teaching science in St. Louis, she kept small animals in her classroom, including two baby goats and ducklings. The ducklings followed a student down the school hallway one day, hopped down the stairs, and went outside to scavenge for food in the dirt.
“After their snack, the parade occurred in reverse, back to Vivian’s classroom,” her family said in a statement. Teachers and students viewed the procession with amazement and joy.
An early environmentalist, Mrs. Schatz cared about the condition of the planet and often wrote articles and letters to the editor about it.
She was a leader in peace and social justice organizations in Philadelphia, including the Nuclear Freeze campaign and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).
She advocated against the use of torture and for civil rights, nuclear disarmament, and a living wage for all. She was a frequent demonstrator and followed up on her areas of concern by calling local lawmakers.
On May 27, 2017, the Greater Philadelphia Branch of WILPF honored her with its Peace and Justice Dove Award for helping make the world a more humanitarian place.
During the Vietnam War, Mrs. Schatz and her husband, Albert, produced thousands of antiwar leaflets in their living room.
“Vivian lived her life with great purpose and determination,” her family said. “She was a peacemaker in the truest sense of the word.”
Born in Philadelphia, she grew up in northern New Jersey, where she enjoyed taking walks and riding her bike. She studied the wildflowers in her neighborhood.
There was a dark side, though. Mrs. Schatz, who was Jewish, told family she experienced anti-Semitism at an early age. “It was everywhere — on the radio, at friends’ houses, and in the fact that her father, an electrical engineer, could not get a job in his field,” family members recalled her saying.
Mrs. Schatz earned a bachelor’s degree in science at Cook College in New Jersey. She earned a master’s degree in biology from Drexel University and a second master’s degree in medical biochemistry from the University of Pennsylvania.
In 1962, Mrs. Schatz and her family moved to Chile, where she became acting director of Colegio Nido de Aguilas, a bilingual K-12 school for Chilean and foreign students. She moved the school from Santiago to a rural area nearby. When she saw the groundskeepers killing snakes and tarantulas on the relocated school’s grounds, she paid the keepers to bring them to her alive. Then she climbed the surrounding hills and let the creatures go.
Later, she lived a block from Weavers Way Co-op in Mount Airy. A founding member of the co-op, she headed its education committee and wrote articles about environmental and social justice issues for its monthly news bulletin.
Mrs. Schatz and her husband spent three weeks camping at a Vermont state park every summer for 19 years until his health failed. He died in 2005.
She is survived by daughters Linda Schatz and Diane Klein, four grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held later.