Tag Archives: STEM

Girls Rockin’ Science at Menokin

Last week, the 6th grade class of Westmoreland County Middle School visited Menokin as part of the TOTS (Think Outside The Sink) program. TOTS is one of several programs that make up the Meaningful Watershed Experience Program that is a joint venture between several natural resource conservation projects in the Northern Neck.

The class divided itself along the gender line, so while the boys started over at the house, the girls took place in an interactive math and graphing experiment design to measure the volume of water in a riverbed.

This involved….MATH. And…..SCIENCE.  And……CRITICAL THINKING.  And, to be fair, a good amount of GIGGLING (these were 6th grade girls, remember).

The exercise worked like this. The girls formed two rows (representing flowing water sources) that converged at a few points and eventually narrowed into one end point. The flowing water was made up of dried beans, which were passed from person to person, heading downstream at a quick pace.  The people at the convergence points had the toughest job – receiving beans from two directions and then trying to get them on their way downstream at the same time. Naturally, a lot of beans got dropped at these points, which represented the tendency of water to overflow or flood at these points when the volume is greater than the channel.

What thrilled me beyond all measure was that they were ALL participating. No one was hanging back. No one whining about being bad at math or science.

I wished out load that the beans were magic and would grow a beanstalk so we could steal the golden goose and fund our building project. This daydream led to the naming of their project as The Menokin Magic Bean Stream.

The beans that made it all the way downstream were counted and subtracted from the original starting number. This information was calculated by season and other variables. That data was then plotted on a bar graph to visually represent the information gathered.

I was so thrilled to watch our STEAM program at work and targeting the demographic of students that is traditionally left behind in this kind of study. I would like to thank these girls and their mentors and teachers for taking advantage of our education programs at Menokin, and for making my day!

  • Find out more about our education programs and initiatives on our website.
  • Be sure to check out the best deal around in summer camps: Junior Duck Stamp Camp!
  • The Smithsonian Institution’s Water|Ways Exhibit is coming to Menokin for six weeks starting on July 15th. Details here.



Exploring The Watershed Through Art

web_Complete-MuralThe students of Mrs. Ptucha’s 6th-grade science classes at Richmond County Intermediate School had the opportunity to dive into the Chesapeake Bay Watershed recently – with paint and brushes. The students participated in a Project WET activity, Make-a-Mural.

They created a mural depicting various aspects of the Northern Neck watershed area, including its landscape, people, cultures, and natural residents – both plant and animal.

The objective of the project was for the students to define the term watershed;web_mural-painting identify their local watershed and illustrate it, including water resource issues within it.

Using resource information such as an Enviroscape of Menokin and Watershed Maps, and a diagram of the main components of a watershed (Air, Land, Water, People & Transportation, Architecture, History and Tradition) the students listed examples of each category that are included in their local watershed.


Lastly they studied History & Traditions: what are ways resources have been used in the past that are different from how they are used today? Using the example of Menokin’s cultures and traditions, these ideas were discussed:

  • The biggest influence on the watershed can be understood through the categories of People and Traditions.
  • Menokin’s people begin with the Rappahannock Indian Tribes, Francis Lightfoot Lee and subsequent owners, including the current Menokin Foundation.
  • The Land and its use has changed some over time. Originally used mostly for farming and grazing, most of the land is now under a conservation easement and only a small portion is cultivated.
  • The Menokin Foundation is now developing the site as an educational and cultural center with a focus on historic and environmental education. As a result, more buildings may be added to the landscape to accommodate these goals. There are also plans to further develop the trail system for visitors use. In doing so, what sort of BMPs (best management practices) should need to be considered for each area of the watershed?

With all of this new-found knowledge and food for thought swirling in their heads, web_paint-and-brushesthe students were then asked to begin on the mural. Using foam core panels, and acrylic paint, each student worked on designated portions of the watershed – air, land and water.

As you can see from the finished mural above, the results are outstanding. Using color and expression in a way only children can master, the finished product is a true work of art web_kids-paintingand is hanging in the hallway at the school.

Funding for the A River Runs Through Us Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience was provided by the Chesapeake Bay Trust.

Programming funds were also made possible from a generous environmental grant from the Dominion Foundation.

The program was coordinated by TREE (Three Rivers Environmental Educators) and Alice French, Education and Outreach Coordinator at The Menokin Foundation. This was the first of several programs developed by TREE for Richmond County School and their STEM initiative.