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Submitted By

Leslie Hudgins

Mathews, VA, United States


Inside Outside Nature Trail and Garden

Award Winning Entry: Pennington Habitat Hero

Nature Trail/Garden

Outside Inside Out is a project that is designed to get the students, staff, and community of Mathews outside to enjoy nature and all it has to offer. This approximately one and a quarter mile nature walk will be available on a continuous basis to teachers, students, and community members during and after school. This project includes outdoor classrooms and a nature walk that will give students the opportunity to enjoy the natural environment firsthand. Students will be able to have hands-on experiences to reinforce concepts learned in the classroom, in books, and on the worldwide web. Many students, for the first time, will see direct and indirect evidence of wildlife that live in their community. This nature trail will be adjoining a salt water marsh, a mature arboretum, fresh water wetlands, and open fields, thus affording opportunities for learning that other schools would have to go on field trips to experience.
The Outside Inside Out advisory committee consists of students, staff, administration and other local clubs and associations. To date we have been working with the Boy Scouts, Mathews Women's Garden Club, local Native Plant Society, VIMS (Virginia Institute of Marine Science), Mathews School Board, and private citizens to develop a plan for maximizing the use of the land available without disturbing what nature has provided.
Our project will include a perimeter trail, four outdoor classrooms, an undetermined number of observation areas, fresh water and salt water labs, a raised ground area for an amphitheater, a butterfly garden, native plants/planting beds, areas for testing water and soil, and bird and bat houses. The sides of two buildings have also been designated as spots where Mathews art students can design and paint eco-murals. The nature trail will serve the community at large and offer future generations many years of enjoyment and opportunities for learning.
In addition to our nature trail in progress, we currently have a garden and greenhouse program. Our garden and greenhouse program has been a huge success with our students with special needs. We are able to design a garden that meets students' needs, demonstrates gardening tasks for students with varying disabilities, plan garden-related activities in and out of the classroom and promote “hands-on” and “multi-sensory” learning. We have also started a successful herb business dehydrating the herbs that we grow and pick. The students plant, grow, care for, pick and dehydrate some delicious herbs and spices that are sold at the local farmer’s market and community center. Garden activities can be used to teach multiple disciplines and create connections across the curriculum. They help students feel empowered by their ability to make improvements to their environment and contributions to their community.
Attached is a picture our students celebrating their Blue Ribbon for their garden display at the Virginia State Fair.

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