Screech owls have two new nests, squirrels are better protected from cars, soil erosion has been remedied and pollinators will soon have a special garden.
Lexington elementary schoolchildren undertook these projects this school year through a partnership of Washington and Lee University, Boxerwood Nature Center and local schools.
The projects were made possible by a competitive, three-year grant to Boxerwood from the NOAA/B-WET program—the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Chesapeake Bay Watershed Education and Training, an environmental education program that promotes locally relevant, experiential learning in the K-12 environment.
"The grant was looking for a collaborative effort between a university and a nonprofit that improved science education in schools," said Lenna Ojure, director of teacher education and associate professor of education at W&L.
Ojure and Haley Sigler, assistant director of teacher education and assistant professor of education, helped to design and teach a professional development program on inquiry science to a core of local schoolteachers using Boxerwood's facilities. This is a hands-on teaching method that involves schoolchildren trying to answer a question through research, gathering data, analyzing it and making a proposal to do something about what they have discovered.
The teachers trained through the program with W&L's teacher education faculty to become leaders in their schools and to help other teachers who might want to undertake a similar project.
"This is also good for W&L's program in teacher education," said Ojure, "because we get to stay up to date with the current thinking on teaching science at the elementary level and to develop good relationships with local teachers, so they are more open to having our students in their classrooms."