Tag Archives: Rappahannock River Valley Watershed

Why is Menokin involved in a program about watersheds?

Alice French, Education Coordinator at Menokin
This month, students from Essex Intermediate visited Menokin to learn why cultural institutions like ours are part of the Rappahannock River Valley Watershed. This is more than a STEM program, and a state initiative to give every 6th grader a MWEE, “meaningful watershed educational experience” it’s STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, (or Architecture as we like to say) and Math. And at Menokin, we demonstrate these important ways of learning every day.
STEArchitectureM – Human Stairs
STEArchitectureM – Human Arch
Students get to visit the site and have a real water experience in a canoe on Cat Point Creek; walk the trails and learn about this special habitat; take a Hard Hat Tour and learn about the cultural history of this property, and it’s relationship to where they live. 
Heading out on Cat Point Creek.
Why is Menokin involved in a program about watersheds? Because our site has a history that goes back thousands of years. Did you know that, while our continents were forming, and waterways and mountains being created, that Menokin was always on high ground?  People have lived here for a long time because of its rich natural resources, that have always made it a desirable place to live.
ScienceTArtM: Grinding soil pigments.
ScienceTArtM: Painting with soils.
Our house is a couple of hundred years old, yet the high-ground of our landscape is thousands of years old and inhabited my many for thousands of years before English settlers ever arrived. Our house may be the largest artifact we have of recent cultures, but our ground is deeply embedded with the cultures of many before Captain John Smith ever arrived. Yet, he carried on the identity and heritage of the Rappahannock Tribe, by using their word for this special place, Menokin, which we still call it today, in the 21st century .


Menokin, a 500 acre classroom connecting the past to the present. Come visit for yourself, connect with your world, and be inspired.

Menokin Eco Tour

Guest Blogger: Alice French, Director of Education and Outreach

With the opening of our new road and kayak launch, Menokin has been partnering with regional schools and environmental institutions to bring attention to what a wonderful place Cat Point Creek is. One of the most recent programs here was developed by students from St. Margaret’s School in Tappahannock.

IMG_5943This Spring, Kevin Goff’s “Bay Studies” class used “project-based learning” (PBL) to tackle a problem for Menokin: “How can we design educational materials and an ecotour on Menokin Bay that will help Menokin visitors understand the ecology and natural history of Cat Point Creek, the Rappahannock River, and Chesapeake Bay, as well as environmental challenges facing the bay ecosystem in the 21st century?”

sms eco-tour2016This project was THE driving goal of the entire 10-week course, providing the occasion for the students to learn about the bay and its tributaries. PBL as an instructional approach gives students a great deal of voice, choice, and creative control over how the class progresses, how the project develops, and what the final product will look like. It’s rather different from typical class projects, which tend to be supplemental to traditional instruction, and either individual or small groups. Here it’s ONE project that the entire class tackles collaboratively, right out of the gate.

IMG_2655Upon completion of the class, their Final Exam was to present the Eco Tour to Menokin Staff and associates.  The tour reflects an understanding of the complex ecology and natural history of Rappahannock River Valley Watershed and its many different habitats: open water, wetlands, seagrass meadows, oyster reefs, seafloor and shorelines. It also notes how human activity is stressing this beautiful and valuable ecosystem and what we can do to preserve and protect it.

The girls did a wonderful job, and as Menokin’s chief educator, I am pleased to be able to use the material and props they developed for future programming.  I was even able to use some of the material immediately, when 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders from Aylett Country 2_CatPointCreekHabiatsDay School came to visit and walk the trail to Cat Point Creek on June 6th!

Partnerships like this, allow everyone to learn and grow while having a great time, too.  We look forward to future activities with St. Margaret’s and continued programs with all educational institutions within our community.

Duck Stamp Camp Returns!

Read all the details below, and click here for a printable registration brochure. Get quackin’. Space is filling up!

Duck Stamp Camp


While investigating the natural habitats of waterfowl in the Rappahannock River Valley watershed, campers will learn to document what they see and discover with cameras, notes and sketchbooks. By the end of the week, campers will have a greater understanding of the waterfowl and their habitats. They will also have had the opportunity to experiment with a variety of drawing techniques to prepare them to enter the Junior Duck Stamp Contest in March 2016.


The Junior Duck Stamp Summer Camp Program is for 5th-8th graders, ages 10-14 years.


July 20-21 and July 23-24, 2015
1:00 pm until 5:00 pm


YMCA Members – $20 per child
Non-members – $50 per child
*Several full scholarships are available through the generosity of the Rappahannock Wildlife Refuge Friends. For more information, please contact Alice French at afrench@menokin.org.


A water bottle, sunscreen, bug spray and shoes/clothes that can get wet.


Each camper will receive a sketch book, a pencil and eraser, and a paper portfolio for drawings. Pastels, crayons, colored pencils, and paints will be available for use.


July 20-21 and July 23-24, 2015
1:00 pm until 5:00 pm

Questions? Contact Alice French at 804.333.1776


DAY ONE: Wilna (July 20)

  • Meet & Greet period at the Educational Center. Refuge staff will discuss “How to Birdwatch and Duck Identification 101.”
  • Hike around pond (puddle duck habitats) with binoculars and sketchbooks.
  • Walk to Observation Deck & Trail (dabblers).
  • Intro of Duck Stamp program by U.S.Fish & Wildlife.

DAY TWO: Menokin (July 21)

  • Canoe at Menokin along Cat Point Creek with guides.
  • Guide to point out plant species in this type of habitat
    and the types of ducks found on a creek.
  • Spend the afternoon learning to draw bird forms: flying,
    sitting, diving, etc. Special guest artist visit to describe a subject in its environment.

DAY THREE: Westmoreland State Park (July 23)

  • Kayak at Westmoreland State Park along the Potomac River with guides.
  • Guide to point out plant species in this type of habitat and the types of ducks found on a river.
  • Spend the afternoon learning to draw things in the landscape: leaves, trees, water, sky.

DAY FOUR: Wilna (July 24)

  • Campers will complete any unfinished work on their pictures. This may include a last hike to document the habitats at Wilna Pond in their sketch books, or finish the description of their picture.
  • All work will then be displayed for show. Each camper will describe their duck and its habitat, and what they learned by making their artwork.
  • The afternoon celebration will conclude with time for pictures to be taken, refreshments, art and games. Parents are encouraged to attend the celebration.