A student holds up a crab caught during VCR's summer kayak camp.
Connecting Kids with Nature A student holds up a crab caught during VCR's summer kayak camp. © Jennifer Davis / TNC

Stories in Virginia

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.  

Raymond Agar with classmates from Broadwater Academy trek through the marsh on Parramore Island.
Outdoor Education Raymond Agar with classmates from Broadwater Academy trek through the marsh on Parramore Island. © Jennifer Davis / TNC

Studies have shown that 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 have multiple opportunities to visit the reserve, especially those who may not even realize how many incredible things they can find right in their own backyard.

The curriculum-based trips have been designed for 5th, 7th, and 10th grade students. Students have an opportunity for hands-on science learning in different Eastern Shore ecosystems.  5th graders visit the historic, seaside Brownsville Preserve, while 7th graders examine the seaside tidal creeks via kayak. The 10th grade field trips include a boat trip to VCR’s Parramore Island, where students will practice scientific data collection and analysis.

All grade levels learn about native plant and animal species, and practice using a variety of scientific techniques and equipment in the field.  

Mariah Tankard from Arcadia High School measures the salinity of Atlantic Ocean water using a portable refractometer.
Outdoor Education Mariah Tankard from Arcadia High School measures the salinity of Atlantic Ocean water using a portable refractometer. © Jennifer Davis / TNC

We have been able to use our experiences on Parramore Island to make a real-world connection with our activities and learning points in the classroom.

Science teacher, Northampton High School

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 field trips are intended to enhance curriculum and make real-world connections with activities and learning points in the classroom. Seeing a seal or a dolphin and even being on a boat—a first for many students—become lasting memories for students.

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 began in the spring of 2018.

In addition to the grade-specific field experience initiative, the VCR education program 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.

Students from Northampton High School connect with nature on Parramore Island.
Outdoor Education Students from Northampton High School connect with nature on Parramore Island. © Jennifer Davis / TNC

Education Program in the News

Nature Conservancy’s Virginia Coast Reserve awarded $520K in grants supporting experiential education program (Press Release | 10/16/2018)

A $326,000 grant from NOAA, and additional $194,000 in matching funds from The Volgenau Foundation, will allow VCR to expand its existing education and outreach efforts, allowing the program to accommodate more than 4,600 students and 400 teachers from Accomack and Northampton over the next three years.

Teachers explore Virginia Coast Reserve, hope to bring lessons back to classroom (Delmarva Now | August 16, 2018)

Exploration and inspiration are on the syllabus at the Virginia Coast Reserve! We recently welcomed new Accomack County teachers to VCR to learn about the services we can provide them and their students.

CONTACT

Jennifer Miller, Preserve and Education Manager
(757) 442-3049
email: jennifer.miller@tnc.org

Margaret Van Clief, Outreach and Education Coordinator
(757) 442-3049
email: margaret.vanclief@tnc.org

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    Field Experience Partnership Opportunities

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    Connecting students and teachers with the natural environment through hands-on activities and experiences.

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    Educator Professional Development Opportunities

    (760.29 KB PDF)

    The Virginia Coast Reserve offers a variety of professional development opportunities for educators in all grade levels and disciplines.

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