Although this school year looks a little different, The James River Association is still committed to offering our students the best environmental education at this time. Our Education program still works to connect youth with river-based learning experiences that inspire confidence, ecological understanding, nature appreciation, and conservation action. Our educators are navigating current challenges with solutions like our new virtual classroom, Fun Friday days with small groups in Lynchburg, and guided canoe paddles in the Richmond area (for adults!)
This fall as students return to school and we all enjoy the last bit of warmth on the river, we wanted to you to (virtually) meet each of our educators to witness their passion for the James, and for the environment yourself. Meet Charles Johnson, JRA Senior Environmental Educator.


I was born and raised on the sandy shores of Monmouth County, New Jersey. I grew up in a family of outdoorsmen and quickly fell in love with nature as a child. I love paddling, swimming and trail running – I’m just an all-around avid athlete! I graduated from Virginia Union University with a degree in criminology and criminal justice. I then served two years with Americorps through their Virginia Service and Conservation Corps which fostered my love for stewardship and environmental education. I am lucky to work for an organization that allows me to share my passion for helping individuals find a deeper understanding of the environment and develop skills to make informed and responsible decisions to protect our natural world for future generations.

What drew me to JRA is serving as a river rat with JRA. I love to paddle and being a River Rat allowed me to take ownership of my favorite stretch of the river and knowing that our youth are the future of advocating, change, of our environment. I served as a volunteer for a year before I applied for the volunteer coordinator job. Within my interview, I was told I would make a good environmental educator. I agreed and interviewed for the educator position. The largest impact I have seen in my work is working with students that did not enjoy the outdoors or did not know how to enjoy our natural resources. Taking them to Presquile NWR and participating in an overnight program where we paddle in the wetland and hike around the island is a great new experience for all of our students.

The programs I usually work on are the general education programs, James River Leadership Academy, James River Expeditions, and helping with other JRA programs. I am looking forward to the Great Return of the Atlantic Sturgeon trips, the Connect with the James paddles from Pony Pasture to Reedy Creek, and Hyatts Farry to Scottsville. These parts of the watershed are my favorite. I know all those that attend will walk away with a greater appreciation of our watershed.

- Charles Johnson

Senior Environmental Educator