How do we relate the importance of our environment to your daily actions? Are we teaching our children how to think of their actions as they relate to the health of our land and waters? How do we know what impact we have on environmental awareness in children? Are we raising children who are Environmentally Literate?[imageframe link=”” ] Meaningful watershed educational experiences like tree plantings teach children to think of their actions and the environment.Thanks to funding from the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund and Altria Group, the Alliance will be working with two schools in the City of Richmond to answer those questions. The importance of Environmental Literacy was recently highlighted as a goal in the signing of the New Chesapeake Bay Agreement. Two of the outcomes listed to help obtain the goal are the Student Outcome, targeting one meaningful watershed educational experience (MWEE) in all three levels of school, and the Sustainable Schools Outcome, increasing the numbers of schools that reduce their impact on local watersheds. The RiverWise Education program is a valuable resource to reach these outcomes by guiding teachers and students through the process and ensuring they understand the benefits to their local watersheds.

The Alliance will develop and implement an environmental education and hands-on stormwater management experience in two Richmond schools, is the first of which is Binford Middle school. The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay is excited to partner with the City of Richmond Public School System, Communities in Schools (CIS), Binford Middle School, and the Visual Arts Center to continue the implementation of the Chesapeake RiverWise Communitites program with the RiverWise Education project. The current conditions of the side yard at Binford. There are very little trees for shade and raised beds that are in need to updating.Binford Middle School was opened in 1915, and was the fifth Junior High School opened in the United States. It boasts beautiful, historic architecture that creates a unique sense of place in the Fan.  The school currently has a grass area on the east side of the school that is seldom used because there is no shade or appealing purpose for the space. The Alliance is working with the Principal of Binford to design a series of rain gardens and native planting areas that will help beautify the area and create a space that affords students with different learning experiences, depending on their academic needs. There are also plans to update existing features, such as a non-functioning cistern, cleaning up and relocating un-used raised beds on site, and painting picnic tables to transform the space into a beautiful outdoor classroom. These plans show installing two rain gardens, native plantings and trees, to create a beautiful and educational space.The installation of these practices will be coupled with an engaging educational experience for teachers and students. The Alliance will work with teachers to create a curriculum that connects the experience with the Standard of Learning (SOL) objectives for each grade level in the school. We will assess the stormwater knowledge of all the students prior to starting any in class or hands-on participation in the stormwater activities, and the same students will be assessed post participation and each year through the 8th Grade SOL to determine retention rates of their environmental awareness We hope to document what educational experiences facilitate changes in student’s perspectives and behaviors so we can better understand how to meet children’s needs, so they can move on to inspire others in their community.