WILLIAMSBURG — The State of Virginia has certified Walsingham Academy as a Virginia Naturally School. Walsingham is the only school in Williamsburg receiving this honor.
According to the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resourses, the Virginia Naturally School Program is the official environmental education school recognition program of the Commonwealth, administered by the Department of Wildlife Resources. This program has also been officially recognized by the Virginia Board of Education as the environmental education school recognition program for the state.
Certification as a Virginia Naturally School recognizes efforts to increase environmental awareness and stewardship.
“Your efforts toward environmental stewardship are to be commended and we appreciate your hard work. We love the diversity of hands-on experiences your students receive! We also love that you were able to add science-themed leveled reading texts to the library. Thank you for your continued efforts to introduce your students to the environment and stewardship of our natural resources.” the Department of Wildlife Resources said in a statement.
The previous year’s plan included activities such as student-assembled and prepared raised garden beds near the school’s greenhouse using the “lasagna method.” This method incorporates layering logs, leaf litter, soil, tree debris, and such to establish a bed that is self-sustaining and self-nurturing. All materials were collected by the students from the school’s Building and Grounds Department’s debris piles.
In addition, students also expanded their study of the life cycle of a plant to add to the existing Learning Garden. They also improved upon the weeding method used in the Learning Garden by layering wood chips from fallen trees as ground cover around pollinator plants, so fewer chemicals would be utilized to stop the spread of weeds throughout the summer months.
This is the fourth year that Walsingham Academy has been so recognized by the state of Virginia. Walshingham Academy was presented with a pennant featuring Virginia’s state shell — the Oyster — to hang in the school.
“We are being recognized for our special activities like planting and harvesting vegetables in the Greenhouse, raising and giving away milkweed plants to the community, and by studying the plants and animals in the Chesapeake Bay — just to name a few,” Kim Ward, Walsingham Academy’s Science and STEM Coordinator at the Lower School, explained while accepting the award. “Each student at Walsingham Academy is a steward of the environment and is applauded for even the smallest efforts to help keep our environment clean and healthy.”
With the previous year’s efforts, the school hopes to continue to expand the Learning Garden area during the upcoming school year, including adding a sensory bed for early learners, pathways for independent student exploration, and bluebird boxes as well as bird feeders.
There is also a plan to include a “book to bed” cross-curricular garden featuring designs from the reading specialist, art, and religion teachers. Plans also include utilizing the Journey North program to enhance Spanish studies, and the Symbolic Butterfly program will be used to explore the migration of the Monarch butterfly across all grade levels.