It’s a quiet morning as I write this, coffee in hand, bundled up against the cold morning air. I’m on Presquile National Wildlife Refuge, home of the James River Ecology School, and I’ve beaten the visiting high schoolers out of bed. No surprise there… Their trip marks the last overnight of the fall. In a week the Discovery Center will be empty, the Bunkhouse bereft of its usual chatter, and another education season will come to an end. Until March, Presquile will be left to those whom it truly belongs: the deer, coyotes, otters, wintering waterfowl, and other wildlife that call it home.

The successful completion of another education season is a joint effort shared by many. Education is one of our core principles, and it’s worth taking time to express our gratitude to those who make it possible. In no particular order and with our sincerest thanks to all, let the appreciation begin!

Thank you to our friends at the Memorial Foundation for Children. With your help and support we were able to introduce over 300 Hanover County high schoolers to the River. At the Ecology School they “loved the trip and had tons of fun,” describing the experience as “fascinating” and “engaging.” We always try to impart our enthusiasm to those whom we teach, and it’s working. Said one student, “all of the instructors were very passionate, and I hope they continue that while educating many more.” With continued support, we’d be honored to have that privilege.

Thank you to our collaborators and partners in the Bay Watershed Education and Training Program (BWET). BWET defines meaningful watershed education experiences as investigative, instructive, inclusive, and sustained efforts. With your inclusion and sustained effort, we successfully introduced another round of local 6th graders to the concept of stewardship, the science of watersheds, and the beauty of the River itself.

Thank you to our private donors. Your generosity strengthens the Ecology School, and your continued support enables the ongoing pursuit of our core principles. You have made new partnerships possible, and you have made old partnerships sustainable. I see the return on your investment every time we make a student smile. Join us for a field trip sometime, and see for yourself!

Thank you to hardworking parents, who recognize that some experiences can’t be slapped with a price tag, yet are willing to contribute to make them possible anyway. Thank you to visiting teachers, who appreciate the importance of local stewardship and hands-on learning experiences. Thank you to trip chaperones, for joining in the adventure and helping our trips run smoothly.

Last but not least, thank you to the students themselves. You make our jobs fun. In a sense our donors aren’t investing in us, they’re investing in you. You all are the shakers and makers and movers of the future. With a sense of stewardship and appreciation for the natural world you’ll do well, and you’ll do good.

As I finish this post, I admit that I’ve switched locations. Instead of a pristine Presquile morning, I’m surrounded by a cubicle. This is not necessarily a bad thing- I’ve been looking forward to the science and planning and outreach that aren’t possible on the island. But I also know, as February warms into March, that a feeling of spring fever will have us raring to go and ready to do it all over again. To our friends and partners that made this last season possible- our deepest, sincerest thanks. To our partners of next spring, I can tell you that we’re thrilled already!

Header image by Jay Shively.