Nature-Enhanced Approach to Learning (NEAL)
At Powhatan School we use an approach called Nature Enhanced Approach to Learning (NEAL). NEAL is a lens through which we can teach any or all components of our curriculum. We use it to bring our students outside into the natural world and to bring the natural world indoors to our students.
“The Nature-Enhanced Approach to Learning (NEAL) program at Powhatan is designed to integrate the value of nature across the curriculum. It recognizes that nature is not just studied in science but also in all disciplines. It brings the ‘outdoors in and in the indoors out’ by exploring the rich natural environment of our campus and adjoining areas. At Powhatan, we hope to inspire with the infinite possibilities of nature.”- Mr. Legge, Science Department Head
Teachers create lessons that utilize nature to supplement classroom materials in order to engage the students. Lessons are designed to incorporate nature, regardless of the subject. Students have easy access to the outdoors here at Powhatan, including the addition of the Crocker Conservancy, to map trails, read or write nature poems, adopt trees and square meters for observation of changes, record data in journals, run and walk the trails, and raise trout for release in the stream. We are continually using the lens of NEAL as we create, amend, and reflect upon our curriculum in all areas. The Crocker Conservancy adds a whole new dimension to the scope of the NEAL program, allowing for the 47 acres directly behind the school to become an outdoor laboratory. An example of this approach to learning measurement is explained in this video:
The program also emphasizes environmental science and there are numerous opportunities for Powhatan students to learn more about the environment around them. “Between weekly recycling in the classroom, Conservation Day, the Square Meter of Life project, the eighth grade Chesapeake Bay Trip, the addition of The JASON Project curriculum, the recent work started on the Crocker Conservancy, and CSpout Run; we work very hard to incorporate environmental education and sustainability into the everyday curriculum,” says Mr. Legge, Upper School Science Chair. “Even the McIntosh Center for the Arts and Sciences is green – drawing heating and cooling from 29 geothermal wells on campus.”
The NEAL program is truly a unique part of the Powhatan educational experience. In 2011 Powhatan was honored as being named a ‘Green School’ by the VAIS Independent School ‘Go Green Challenge.’ The school would go on to win first place in the statewide competition in 2011, 2012 and 2014. A large part of that honor was attributed to the NEAL program, which has been in place since the late 1990’s. NEAL projects span the campus; including class NEAL gardens, NEAL projects like the Square Meter of Life (Video below) and many other projects outside on the campus grounds.