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 School 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 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 Chair
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 for hands-on experiential learning.
The Crocker Conservancy is a phenomenal asset to campus and allows students to learn in an engaging, real world manner. It gives us a perfect opportunity to bring in experts in the field to share their knowledge and passion for learning about the environment with our students.
~Mrs. Coutts, Lower School Science Teacher and NEAL Coordinator
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, Fourth Grade Conservation Day, the Square Meter of Life project, the eighth grade Chesapeake Bay Trip, the addition to Nature Walks and exploration, 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 19 geothermal wells on campus.”
The NEAL program is truly a unique part of the Powhatan School 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 three years in a row. A large part of that honor was attributed to the NEAL program and it’s integration into the curriculum, which has been in place since the late 1990’s.