How do we relate the importance of our environment to our daily actions? Are we teaching our children how to think about how their daily actions relate to the health of our land and waters? Do we know what impact we have on stimulating environmental awareness in children? Are we raising children who are environmentally literate?Thanks to funding from the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund and The Altria Group, the Alliance has developed and implemented an environmental education and hands-on stormwater management experience in Binford Middle School in partnership with the City of Richmond Public School System (RPS) and Communities in Schools (CIS) to help grow environmental awareness and stewardship Binford Middle School boasts beautiful, historic architecture that creates a unique sense of place in the Fan.  The school had a grass area on the east side of the school that was seldom used because there was no shade or appealing purpose for the space. The Alliance worked with the Principal and students of Binford and SG Designs, to design and install a rain garden and native planting area that helps beautify the area and creates a space that allows outdoor learning opportunities.The installation of these practices was coupled with an engaging educational experience for teachers and students.  The Alliance worked with teachers to create a curriculum that connects the experience with the Standard of Learning (SOL) objectives for each grade level in the school. Each student was given a pre-participation survey to assess baseline knowledge of stormwater issues across all grade levels. The majority of students knew important components like their watershed address – the James River – and why water was important, but were not yet exposed to issues linking human activities to water quality issues. In class presentations coupled with outdoor learning aimed to make this connection. During each of the science classes, students came outside on a beautiful November day and participated in planting the rain garden and conservation landscaping, while learning about the native plants and the benefits to the ecosystem. Students also had opportunities to learn about the importance of rainwater harvesting and prepare raised beds for planting a vegetable garden in the spring. We will follow up in the spring with the same survey to assess knowledge change from the experience, and will follow up with the 6th graders the following year in hopes of documenting the educational experiences that facilitate changes in student’s perspectives and behaviors.

After a successful roll out of the RiverWise Education program at Binford Middle School, we eagerly look forward to expanding the work with Boushall Middle School in the spring, as well as, continuing to build upon the the project at Binford.