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Submitted By

Roger Searles

Williamsburg, VA, United States


Waller Mill Elementary Schools (WMES) nature trail/field classroom will provide an easily accessible location for hands-on, multi-disciplinary, environmental education and Virginia Standards of Learning structured activities for all students in grades K-12. The primary goal of the field classroom and walking trail is to provide the students with a better understanding of nature’s wildlife, their responsibilities and relationship to the natural environment of Eastern Virginia, Virginia Science Standards of Leaning, and promote a healthy active lifestyle.


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Award Winning Entry: Pennington Habitat Hero

Friends with Nature Trail and Gardens

Hello, I’m Roger Searles and it’s a pleasure to have the opportunity to share about our Nature Trail Project. The trail began 4 years ago as an idea to help develop an environmental awareness project to educate our students, parents, and community members. It is very gratifying to see the trail as it is today and know that my vision became a reality with the generous support of multiple educational and environmental agencies, hard work of volunteers and the support of our school and division.

The second picture is a Google Earth picture of our school campus at Waller Mill with the location of the trail highlighted for you. As you can see, it is located in the wooded area behind our soccer and baseball fields at the rear of the school. There are three entrances, each marked with a trail head sign.

To get the project started on the right foot, I contacted local resource protection and water management representatives, local vendors, experts specific to birds, plants, and trees, landscape specialists, YCSD/W/JCC schools and colleges. We began with the intention of creating a program that would provide a quality environment education.

After four years of grant writing, preparing the actual trail, field science kits were purchased and I was ready to reveal the project to our students, teachers, parents and community.

On Earth Day 2014, we held a ribbon cutting ceremony to formally open our trail. The whole school and lots of parents were there for our special day. We had several speakers, students shared poems, and the Waller Mill Chorus performed. This kicked off a day-long event that included guided tours of the trail by students, and activities that involved plant and bird identification at the learning centers.
Students worked with the resource teachers to create trail markers with QR Codes for visitors to learn about over 30 different varieties of plants and animals. This special feature not only brings art to the outside, but makes our trail highly interactive for our guests.

We are thrilled that people in the community are coming to enjoy the Nature Trail. Professors from the College of William & Mary and Thomas Nelson Community College visited the trail with their students.

Since the first day I started the nature trail, I’ve been able to see it grow and turn in to a lovely spot to not only enjoy the great outdoors but to also learn about how it important it is for us to take care of the environment.

Mr. Searles at one of the trail heads leading into the nature trail.

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