Albert Harris Elementary School recently was recognized as a Virginia Naturally School by the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) for its efforts to increase environmental awareness and stewardship of our youngest citizens. According to DWR’s website, “Virginia Naturally Schools is the official environmental education school recognition program of the Commonwealth,” recognized by the Virginia Board of Education as the “official environmental education school recognition program for the state.”
The school partners with the Dan River Basin Association (DRBA), working with DRBA Education Outreach Manager Krista Hodges to help students learn how they can have a positive impact on the natural world around them. Students work to create solutions to problems they see on their school campus. These solutions include planting a vegetable garden to help reduce erosion.
Second grade students created and maintained a monarch butterfly waystation, benefitting not only monarchs but all pollinators in the community. Rain barrel systems are used by students to water both the vegetable garden and the waystation while simultaneously reducing the amount of water entering school storm drains.
Students have put their environmental knowledge to work not just on school grounds, but in their community. Recently, Albert Harris student Aria
Lewis won a community art contest hosted by DRBA and painted a storm drain near the Uptown Farmers’ Market to help educate others about storm drain pollution. In the classroom, environmental education lessons align with the scientific and engineering practices found in Virginia’s Science Standards of Learning (SOLs).
STEM teacher Laurie Witt last week told the Martinsville City School Board that, “as part of the VDOE’s first Taking Kids Outside Cohort, I am excited to share what we are doing at Albert Harris with other teachers around the state. Our students are practicing environmental stewardship which benefits our world today and also for years to come.”
“I am so very proud that Albert Harris Elementary School received this recognition,” said AHES Principal Renee Brown. “Our school is committed to outdoor education in correlation with Virginia’s Standards of Learning. We are thankful to Ms. Witt for spearheading this project. Our students appreciate lessons learned while utilizing our outdoor classroom.”