The weather is finally fantastic and it’s time to Explore the Outdoors! Did you know that if you travel only twenty miles from downtown Richmond you can hike the trails and explore the lakes of beautiful Pocahontas State Park? Pocahontas State Park is the largest Virginia State Park with 8,000 acres, numerous hiking trails and lakes, opportunities for boating, picnicking, camping and fun educational programs in the Nature Center. Krista Weatherford, a Pocahontas State Park Interpreter and Brittany Haas, a kindergarten teacher from Ettrick Elementary School and her students are featured in this Science Matters video about why it's important to Explore the Outdoors.
Recently, I joined some curious Kindergarten students from Ettrick Elementary School as they explored the Nature Center and hiked to the lake in Pocahontas State Park. The children were able to handle wildlife artifacts including skins and skulls and even touch live snakes, lizards and turtles. There were lots of “oohs and aahs” and many brave children as Ms. Weatherford, the park interpreter draped a corn snake around her neck and let the children feel the texture of a live snake's skin for the first time.
I asked Ms. Weatherford why she feels this type of experience is important for our children’s lives and for the future of our earth. She explained that “when children come into the Nature Center and touch and feel and get to look up close at animals and artifacts - it forms a connection. They begin to have a real sense of responsibility towards these animals and they come to love them. This is why they will want to protect and enjoy them throughout their lives.”
Brittany Haas brought her class to Pocahontas Nature Center on this day because she wanted them “to see living organisms and to be surrounded by trees on the trails.” She wanted her students to see and experience things they might not be able to on their school campus. I enjoyed joining her students on a trip down to the lake and watched as they conducted their own “environmental quality” research by collecting samples using dip nets. I saw many smiles and heard some lively discussions as each child “plopped” their catch out of the dip nets and into the containers. These young scientists pulled out larva, snails and fish from the lake and concluded that this lake was pretty healthy.
You and your family can enjoy the activities offered at the Nature Center. For times and a listing of upcoming programs this spring and summer go to Pochanotas State Park’s website.
Get Outside and Explore the Trails!
Pocahontas State Park has almost 80 miles of diverse trails. Many are multi-purpose including hiking, biking, and equestrian (dogs on a leash are welcome). There are great lake views and wetlands offering great bird watching opportunities. Trails range from easy to moderate to difficult. Visit Virginia State Parks Trail Quest to learn more.
Your Child can even become a Junior Ranger
Discovering Virginia’s natural, cultural and historical resources together can create unforgettable memories for you and your family. Pocahontas State Park’s free Junior Ranger activity books are available on line and are designed to assist youth and their families in becoming more familiar with plants and animals of Pocahontas State Park and the local Piedmont region of Virginia. The nature center also offers Jr. Ranger packs to loan out to visitors to explore the park. The packs are free to use and are available Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Join Pocahontas State Park and many other outdoor adventure programs at our free Explore the Outdoors Event on Sunday April 28th, at the Community Idea Stations and Huguenot Park.
We hope you’ll join us and explore the great outdoors!
Article by Debbie Mickle, Science Matters Project Manager