Education is an essential link between research and conservation. Education leads to understanding and appreciation. The decision makers of tomorrow are today’s young people. From pre-school to college interns, the results of The Foundation’s work is celebrated and measurable.
The Nature Foundation at Wintergreen Connects All Walks of Life To Nature through Education
Educational outreach is a significant element of TNFW’s mission. TNFW provides classroom programs to Nelson and surrounding county schools. These programs are science based and focus on enriching the Virginia Science Standards of Learning. As the curricula of the standards shift focus towards Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) TNFW incorporates the STEM state standards as well. TNFW also incorporates the recent Virginia Department of Education (DOE) Science Instructional Plans (SIPs) into lesson plans for each grade level and discipline that were created by VA DOE to engage students as they build science conceptual understanding using the Science Standards of Learning.
Utilizing extensive outreach programs to other populations, we strive to encourage understanding, appreciation, and conservation of the natural and cultural resources of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. In conclusion we strive to make passionate environmental stewards in our local and surrounding communities.
TNFW staff and volunteers offer a plethora of activities at our nature center, on our trails and deep within our ancient forests. These onsite programs, related to natural and cultural history give unique hands-on meaningful outdoor experiences to audiences such as school groups, and families, both within and outside Wintergreen community, and organized groups. It is our goal to provide an immersive experience, and encourage lifelong environmental stewardship.
Summer Camp Experiences for Nelson County Students
TNFW researcher Dr. Chuck Bailey with NCS Campers
Since 2020 TNFW has been collaborating with Nelson County Schools to provide summer experiences for county students. To a significant degree these summer programs are designed to address pandemic-related learning declines through environmentally related, SOL driven activities. These summer programs feature environmentally focused, hands-on, field-based activities and field trips as well as TNFW staff and associated researchers.
Signature Natural and Cultural Events
TNFW’s annual “Spring Wildflower Symposium” is a signature weekend event that is held high esteem by those that have attended since its inception in 1983! Every year since then TNFW has invited a variety of subject matter experts (SMEs) in the field of natural science, history and environmental studies. These SMEs share their wealth of knowledge regarding the wild flora and fauna of the Blue Ridge and tie together the complex ecological relationships that they have in common in order to survive and flourish in this unique environment. Participants learn of Wintergreen’s uniqueness and the region through dynamic lectures and interpretive walks in and around the Wintergreen property. At the conclusion of this annual nature fest, people will better appreciate the utmost importance of our natural environment and understand the precious significance of preserving our natural resources.
TNFW hosts an annual Winter Lecture Series to the adult population, featuring guest speakers who are authorities in their field of study. Each winter a specific theme is selected to focus on a natural or cultural history topic such as weather, karst lands and astronomy. Participants enjoy staying on top of new discoveries and being engaged with thought provoking topics.
There are unique opportunities to take extended filed trips to unique sites in and around Virginia that has become very popular. TNFW staff provides these trips for active adult learners. Field trips have coincided with historical events like Thomas Jefferson’s escape from capture by Tarleton, Patrick Henry’s estate, the presidential retreat of Theodore and Edith Roosevelt and much more.
TNFW staff is a resource for the community. We provide information on landscaping such as native plant gardening. We assist with area schools’ placed- based outdoor projects. We work with other organizations such as the Master Naturalists in utilizing citizen science and with DWR as advisors for the state’s natural resource plans. And thanks to generous support from the Nelson County Community Fund, TNFW has be able to donate thousands of dollars-worth of science-related classroom supplies to the Nelson County Public Schools.
Encouraging the Stewardship Through Education
Informed decisions is one of the foundations of responsible citizenship, and voluntary action is increasingly important as a way to ensure environmental stewardship. When Environmental Education (EE) becomes part of the curricula; then awareness of environmental issues can blossom. Students exposed to rich and engaging EE, could become advocates for protecting our natural resources. When students are exposed to EE early in their lives they are more likely to become active in and aware of their impact on the environment. Taking that knowledge into adulthood may encourage environmental stewardship to preserve natural and cultural heritage for future generations.