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Albert Harris Elementary recognized as Virginia Naturally School for second consecutive year




MARTINSVILLE, VA – For the second consecutive year, Albert Harris Elementary School has been recognized as a Virginia Naturally School by the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources.


According to DWR’s website, “Virginia Naturally Schools is the official environmental education school recognition program of the Commonwealth.”


The goal of the program is to “recognize the exemplary efforts undertaken by Virginia Schools to increase Environmental Literacy of its students.”


“Thank you for your continued efforts to introduce students to the environment and stewardship of our natural resources,” wrote DWR Statewide Wildlife Education Coordinator and Virginia Naturally Schools program chair Courtney Hallacher in a letter to AHES.


A key component of the school’s environmental education effort is the green schoolyard which was created by Krista Hodges of the Dan River Basin Association and AHES STEM teacher Laurie Witt.


“Albert Harris Elementary’s Green Schoolyard has expanded to include a new outside learning space with raised beds where teachers can teach hands-on lessons.” Witt said. “Students enjoy being able to learn outdoors where they can apply what they are learning about in a real-world setting.”


In addition to the raised beds, the initiative has included a vegetable garden planted by students to help reduce erosion, a certified monarch waystation created and maintained by second graders to benefit monarchs and other local pollinators, and rain barrel systems to water the school’s many plants while simultaneously reducing the amount of water entering the school’s storm drains.


This summer, a sensory garden, funded by a grant from the Community Foundation Serving Western Virginia, became the newest addition to the green schoolyard.


In the classroom, environmental education lessons align with the scientific and engineering practices found in Virginia’s Science Standards of Learning.


“This prestigious accolade serves as a testament to the profound impact that outdoor education, aligned with the Virginia Standards of Learning, has on our students’ learning experiences,” stated AHES Principal Dr. Renee Brown. “It is with utmost gratitude that I extend my sincere appreciation to Ms. Witt for her unwavering dedication to fostering a strong partnership with the Dan River Basin Association in promoting outdoor education.”

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