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.
This 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?”
This 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.
Upon 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 Day 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.