When Rockingham County Public Schools’ (RCPS) administrators began to think
about how to increase environmental education for students at every grade level, they
decided a little hands-on experience of their
own might help shape their vision.
So in June, more than 40 school system
administrators and principals left the
Shenandoah Valley for the Chesapeake Bay to
spend three days at CBF’s Port Isobel Island
Study Center. During their stay, they combined on-the-water field experiences with
planning sessions in an effort to develop a
county-wide strategy to make outdoor environmental education a part of every child’s
education, kindergarten through grade 12.
“We wanted to think creatively about how
we can better engage students in their
learning and provide them with truly meaningful ways to connect content to the world
around them,” explains Dr. Carol Fenn,
Superintendent for RCPS.
In order to understand academic and other
benefits of using the local environment as a
context for learning across the curriculum, the
leadership team took part in field investiga-
tions, such as testing water quality, assessing
biodiversity, and researching the culture of the
local waterman’s community on Tangier Island.
For many, this first-hand look at life on the Bay
made a big impact. “The retreat to the Bay
provided us a chance to really look at the con-
cept of place value and how we can help our
teachers include Chesapeake Bay watershed
issues in classrooms,” said Eric Fitzgerald,
Assistant Director at the Massanutten
Technical Center. “The whole idea that ‘we all
live downstream’ came to light and how we
can make a difference in our schools. It gave
us a moment to connect with each other and
connect with the Bay.”
Tammy Stone, RCPS Science Supervisor,
agreed. “Each one of us came away with a
sense of personal connection to the Bay that
we can take back to our local watershed and
to our classrooms.”
These experiences helped to inform discus-
sion and planning sessions focused on the
best way to align outdoor learning with con-
tent standards and how to weave a thread of
environmental education from one grade to
another, kindergarten through grade 12.
That planning will continue into the fall.
CBF educators will visit Rockingham County
in November to provide professional devel-
opment for science teachers and additional
assistance to school system administrators as
they develop their strategic plan.
“Next summer,” says Stone, “RCPS hopes to
take teachers as a group out on the Bay. The
goal would be to take teachers from pre-
kindergarten through grade 12, so that we
can provide these rich learning opportunities
at every grade.”
By Sarah Bodor
ROCKINGHAM COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Outdoor experiences at CBF’s
Port Isobel Island Study Center will
help Rockingham County educators
integrate environmental education in their
kindergarten-through-grade- 12 curriculum.
Sarah Bodor is a senior staff
member in CBF’s Education
Department. She lives in
Annapolis with her husband
and three children.
Rockingham County Public School administrators and educators participated in hands-on Chesapeake
Bay field studies as part of a planning retreat focused on aligning outdoor learning with class content.