Do you remember your “Ah ha!” moment? That moment when you understood your connection to the natural world? That moment when you knew you were going to start the lifelong journey of making sound decisions for the benefit of the environment? That is the goal of our educators – providing that “Ah ha!” moment to our smallest stewards. 

Across our watershed, the Education Department’s reach to youth is returning to pre-pandemic numbers. The “river gauge” measuring students receiving our unique brand of hands-on, interactive watershed science programs and paddles is rising. Friends of the Rappahannock brought programs to over 7,000 students via field trips, summer camps, community programs, and grant-funded programs this past year. 

FOR staff realizes the importance of environmental education and the positive impacts of being outside. This work exposes students to nature and brings into focus things they wouldn’t otherwise notice as profound. Tidal environmental educator, Lesley, built a lesson around fungi and lichen for biology students. She brought several specimens from her yard to their outdoor classroom, showing them different features using a hand lens. Contact makes meaningful watershed environmental experiences meaningful. It allows students to forge a real and personal connection with the natural world. This connection stimulates a sense of curiosity and wonder.

This curiosity is essential to student perseverance through deliberate science lessons. One of the most engaging lessons that FOR provides is when students design and test stormwater filters. In one classroom in King George, a team was able to get the turbidity level down to zero. An administrator from KG found some boys crowded around something in the hall; he edged over because all three students had a history of showing up in his office on disciplinary grounds. Not sure what he
expected to find, he discovered the trio huddled around a picture of the turbidity perfect score while the student who had participated bragged about his accomplishment. Teachers say over and over again how much they love having FOR visit, engaging students in their watershed units. 

We are proud to provide education experiences in outdoor spaces and on our river. We believe investing in youth is an investment to the future health of our river.


Written by Education Manager Nancy Stalik, Executive Director Daria Christian, & Educator Lesley Newman. Published Nov. 2022. 

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