In 2019, JRA was awarded a Chesapeake Bay Trust grant for Elizabeth Redd Elementary School in Richmond, Va. The grant was intended to allow every 5th grade student to participate in a field trip to Presquile National Wildlife Refuge. Due to COVID-19, we have had to switch gears to a virtual learning experience and adapt lessons to be interactive online.

Fortunately, two in-person events were held prior to COVID. The in-class lesson involved James River Association Leadership Academy students, Helen and Johnny, and Elizabeth Redd Elementary’s 5th graders. These high schoolers used this opportunity to complete their leadership capstone project by teaching younger students about the environment. Helen’s lesson used the Enviroscape to show the importance of watersheds and how easily they can be polluted, and Johnny’s lesson centered around the specific pollutants, such as nutrients, sediments, and toxins, that can enter into our waterways. These lessons also included the benefits of trees in watersheds. Trees aid in preventing
polluted waters by absorbing water during floods and soaking up or filtering extra nutrients, sediment, and toxins. About a week and a half later, the lesson was put into place. Helen, Johnny, and all the 5th graders were able to go outside and plant Eastern Hophornbeam trees on their own while acknowledging the good they are implementing in their schoolyard. The kids had lots of fun finding a location, digging holes, and planting their trees. They wanted to see the trees’ progress and planted them in front of their classroom windows so that they could watch them grow.

About a week after the trees were planted, COVID restrictions hit and the students were sent home. Everyone’s new normal was now shifted, but time didn’t slow down. Schools were transitioning to the online format, and so was JRA. The third aspect to this grant still needed to be completed – a field trip. Although in-person field trips do not exist at this time, learning can still be engaging and fun. JRA’s transition to virtual has brought about so many educational opportunities that still immerse the students into the field trips. At the end of this month, a JRA educator, Julia, and an intern from Randolph-Macon College, Andrea, will be leading three virtual field trips with Elizabeth Redd Elementary’s 5th graders. These lessons will include a 3D Watershed model (Enviroscape) and virtual aspects, such as Google Jamboard, that reflect the same interaction as an in-class field trip. Although the move from in-person to online learning has been tough on everyone, JRA has made sure to continuously engage the students by adapting and learning new
programs in order to make these lessons interactive and hands-on.

Thank you Chesapeake Bay Trust for giving Elizabeth Redd Elementary School this opportunity!