Bringing home the Virginia Coast Reserve to local kids of all ages.
By Daniel White on February 28, 2017
The most expansive wilderness along the U.S. Atlantic coast lies along the Eastern Shore of Virginia. From vast marshes to wild barrier islands, The Nature Conservancy’s Virginia Coast Reserve protects some of the most important habitat on Earth.
Yet many local residents remain unaware of the extraordinary lands, waters and wildlife at the periphery of their vision. With better understanding comes greater appreciation of the benefits these resources provide to communities – or so goes the working theory.
Connecting with Community
Director Jill Bieri and her team at the Virginia Coast Reserve have been putting the theory to test over the last three years. “As the largest landowner here on the Eastern Shore, the Conservancy bears a responsibility to be an integral part of this community in which we live and work,” Jill says. So we are reaching out to “students of all ages, from K to gray.”
Kayak Camp participants try their hands at crabbing from a Brownsville Preserve boardwalk. Photo © The Nature Conservancy (Jennifer Davis)
Connecting at Events
Outreach and education coordinators Margaret Van Clief and Jennifer Davis, in particular, have been developing programs to connect local people with the natural world that affects virtually every facet of life on the Eastern Shore.
Recent outreach initiatives include hosting special events such as a Holiday Open House, Open Farm Day and guided nature walks at Brownsville Preserve. Margaret also regularly represents the Conservancy at community fairs and festivals, and she frequently collects oyster shells for reef restoration.
Open Farm Day tour group at Brownsville Preserve. Photo © The Nature Conservancy (Margaret Van Clief)
Connecting with Schools
Meanwhile, Jennifer works with teachers on SOL-based field-education experiences at Brownsville Preserve and on Parramore Island. The Conservancy aims to provide these opportunities free of charge to every fifth-, seventh- and 10th-grade student in Accomack and Northampton counties.
At Brownsville Preserve, Education Coordinator Jennifer Davis talks to Occohannock Elementary School students about local wildlife. Photo © Rebekah Baughman
Daniel White is a senior conservation writer based in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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