July 18, 2022 /
Chirstina Hester

Nature Near Schools

As part of our Nature Near Schools program, our education team has successfully provided another great year for outdoor education! Thanks to funding from the Department of Energy and the Environment, we have just completed our pilot project: Greenspaces Mapping for Outdoor Learning. Nature Near Schools is a yearlong program, where we explore the question, “How do our actions in the schoolyard impact our local watershed?”  

We were delighted to have worked with 170 fifth grade students across four schools in the District. Special thanks to teachers at Kimball, Marie Reed, Simon, and Whittier elementary schools!  

Our Nature Near Schools project followed a Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience (MWEE), where students explore issue areas, local context, and conclude their experience with a student-directed action project. Our 5th graders advocated for a cleaner campus, upcycled felled trees for outdoor classroom seating, planted a commemorative tree, and filmed an environmental PSA. (Check it out below!) By the end of the program, students increased both their comfort in natural settings and confidence in making a difference in their communities.  

This program was also successful thanks to support from our wonderful partners. We teamed up this year with Clean Air Partners, who used Airbeams to measure air quality at each of the schools. We are glad to report that air quality is good in DC, and that kids and adults alike can contribute positively to the air we breathe. Students learned that air quality has an impact on human health, and that trees can have an impact on air quality.   

The team at Green Scheme, another one of our local partners, was also able to show the students of Simon Elementary School the new garden spaces at the Well in Oxon Run Park.   

Our overarching goal for the program was for students to discover their impact on the environment and in their community. We invited local elected officials to speak at each of the schools. ANC (Advisory Neighborhood Commissions) Commissioners, Ward Councilmembers and State Board of Education Representatives shared their unique perspectives on what it means to represent our city. They also empowered students to use their voices to make a difference.  

What’s next for the Nature Near Schools program? Our funding has been extended for schoolyear ‘22-23! You may see us at 8 schools next year, getting students outside and teaching them about their watershed.