“We had a few amazing days in February that were perfect for getting out to explore the Crocker Conservancy,” said Mrs. Coutts, Lower School Science Teacher. “When it hit 78 degrees on February 21st, fourth grade went out onto the Crocker Conservancy to check the native shrubs we had planted in the wetlands last year. We were looking for signs of life to help us decide how many more shrubs to add to the wetland this spring. It was difficult to tell without leaves, but we looked first at trees in the woodland area to practice finding buds as tiny signs of life. It was a wonderful day to be out, exploring and learning.”
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.
Two examples of NEAL projects are the third grade Wetlands Study and the fourth grade Square Meter project.
This Spring, the third grade will head out onto the Crocker Conservancy and spend a significant amount of time exploring plant and animal life in the wetlands on our campus.
Earlier in the Fall, Fourth graders worked with Mr. Clay Morris, a biologist, to explore the plant life on the Crocker Conservancy through plot sampling. Students identified the types of plants that were growing in a square meter plot of the native wildflower meadow and a random square meter plot outside of the meadow. Mr. Morris and Ms. Coutts taught the students how to estimate the percent coverage of plants in the plot sample using their fists as a visual of one percent coverage.