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Connecting Teachers and Science with Local Resources

Why is it important for every child’s education to include play and hands-on activities in nature? What is the significance of outdoor play for children with learning deficiencies? How do teachers find the resources needed to make connections between classroom instruction and real world experiences? These questions and many more will be explored in an upcoming Conference for pre-K – 5th grade teachers. Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, St. Joseph’s Villa and the Virginia Association of Science Teachers (VAST) Region 1 are collaborating to help teachers make connections between science, nature and the classroom at “Natural Connections: Place-based Strategies for Teaching and Learning,” March 15 and 16th.

“Without connections, our children learn a list of facts that have little application to real world experiences. We want to help educators make those connections,” shares Kim Dye, Central Virginia’s VAST Director and Science Lead Teacher Specialist in Hanover County Public Schools. For example, place-based education refers to hands-on learning that focuses on the local community. Whether a child is studying history, arts and culture, economics, literature or science, educators believe immersing students in their local environment will enhance a child’s appreciation for the natural world. 

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s Director of Education, Randee Humphrey, explains why this is important. “When we create opportunities for children to experience nature in outdoor places most familiar to them - their backyards, nearby parks, schoolyards, or even the crack in an urban sidewalk – we are helping them construct a view of their world that is real, memorable, and motivating. Research continually proves that this approach to curriculum and instruction results in enhanced student engagement and achievement. In addition, outdoor and science experiences help our children learn essential tools for life – how to be curious, how to be flexible, how to use their imagination, and how to problem solve.

On both days of the conference, national and local experts will provide hands-on workshops with a unique focus. March 15th the sessions will be held at St. Joseph’s Villa and will connect outdoor learning and horticultural therapy with the curriculum for children with special needs. 

March 16th will be held at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens and will explore three different areas:

  1. connecting science to reading and writing
  2. the science of engineering and design
  3. the importance of nature-based outdoor education

According to Ms. Dye, “Teachers are hungry for resources that will help them teach the Virginia Science Curriculum. This conference is a place to gather ideas and resources, explore new methodologies, and connect with fellow teachers.”

For more information or to register: “Natural Connections: Place-based Strategies for Teaching and Learning”

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Listen to this Science Matters report from WCVE Public Radio's Charles Fishburne.