VCR: Education Program
Connecting students and teachers with the natural environment through hands-on activities and experiences.
Virginia’s Eastern Shore is a living textbook waiting to be opened. VCR’s education program aims to connect public school students in Accomack and Northampton Counties to the natural world through experiential field trips.
The curriculum-based trips have been designed for 5th, 7th, and 10th grade students. The field experiences were collaboratively designed with local educators through participatory workshops to ensure they are aligned with Virginia’s Standards of Learning (S.O.L.’s.)
The first round of workshops were held in 2016 with 5th and 10th grade teachers. 2017 saw the launch of 7th grade educator workshops. The first rounds of 10th grade field trips took place in spring 2017 and included 151 students drawn from high schools in both counties. Field trips for 7th graders are began in the spring of 2018.
Students will have an opportunity for hands-on science learning in different Eastern Shore ecosystems. The 10th grade field trips will include a boat trip to VCR’s Parramore Island, where students will practice scientific data collection and analysis.
“Taking my students out to Parramore Island was an amazing opportunity to enhance our curriculum and show them something most of them have never seen before even though it’s practically in their own backyard,” said Andrea McCready, a science teacher at Northampton High School. “We have been able to use our experiences on the island to make a real-world connection with our activities and learning points in class, which is something I could never do in a classroom setting alone. Getting to see a seal or a dolphin and to even be on a boat—which was the first time for the majority of my kids—are things they are still talking about.”
5th graders will visit the historic, seaside Brownsville Preserve, while 7th graders will examine the seaside tidal creeks via kayak. All grade levels will learn about native plant and animal species, and practice using a variety of scientific techniques and equipment in the field.
In addition to the grade-specific field experience initiative, the VCR education program – headed up by Education Manager Jennifer Miller – provides general field trips and in-class presentations for all grade levels in Accomack and Northampton, as well as two summer Nature Camp programs for children ages 6-12. All costs for public schools in those two counties – including bus rental and substitute teacher wages – are covered by The Nature Conservancy.
There are many studies that show repeated field experiences have a measurable impact on student performance in subjects like science. That’s why we’ve made it our goal for every student on the Eastern Shore to visit the reserve on multiple educational trips during their time in school; especially those who may not even realize how many incredible things they can find right in their own backyard.
Jennifer Miller, Preserve and Education Manager
Margaret Van Clief, Outreach and Education Coordinator