Friends of the Rappahannock (FOR) educators are excited to continue our nature-based science discovery program with local Head Start and Virginia Preschool Initiative classes this year.  This program serves students in the City of Fredericksburg Fredericksburg, King George, Stafford, and Spotsylvania Counties.  Through this program we are able to offer math and science-based learning experiences both in the classroom and outside in nature, with a goal to spark an interest in the natural world while reinforcing classroom concepts such as letter recognition and counting.  

FOR is one of many community partners and participates in the Fredericksburg Regional Head Start Education Advisory Committee meetings every year.  At these meetings we learn what the program’s goals are for the students during that academic year and work with other partners to support Head Start and Virginia Preschool Initiative in meeting those goals.  These goals include letter recognition and math skills to help prepare students for kindergarten, as well as social/emotional skills.  In addition to providing classroom visits and hosting the students on field trips to FOR’s riverside preserve, we have provided professional development opportunities for staff and tools that can be used to integrate nature lessons into Head Start and Virginia Preschool Initiative programming. 

So far this Fall, educators have visited classes at the City of Fredericksburg’s Early Childhood Learning Center and King George Head Start Site.  While there we shared information about how important trees are to the river and animal life.  Students explored a variety of leaf shapes, colors, sizes, and textures and learned that leaves can be used to identify tree species.  Educators then led them through an activity to sort the leaves by color and then counted each set of leaves to see how many of each color they had. Of course, no visit to our preschool friends is complete without a song so each lesson ended with a song about fall leaves. 

We are grateful to the PNC Foundation’s Grow Up Great program for continued funding for this project.  We have provided early childhood educational experiences  funded by this program for more than a decade.  Thanks to the PNC Foundation’s generosity, we have two years of funding secured to continue offering this wonderful experience to the young learners in the Head Start and Virginia Preschool Initiative programs. 

Written by Field Trip Coordinator Jen Gron

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