Good for the river

Published 9:52 pm Friday, August 23, 2013

For most folks, the best way to learn something new is by doing it. Whether playing the piano, using power tools, operating a computer or driving a car, most people seem wired to learn better when the experience is hands-on, rather than just a lecture heard from behind a desk.

A new educational opportunity from the Nansemond River Preservation Alliance recognizes the role hands-on learning can play in teaching the young people of Suffolk to appreciate and protect the city’s natural resources, especially those found in and around Suffolk’s waterways.

A group of middle-school teachers got an early look at the new, SOL-friendly program this week during a training session. All of Suffolk’s seventh-grade public-school students will be exposed to it beginning next month.


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Lessons include an overview of Suffolk’s waterways and their history, water quality and data collection, local watersheds and oyster reefs and the environmental impact of human activity. Teachers will be armed with detailed lesson plans, augmented with maps and informative DVDs and CDs.

Unlike other lessons developed to match up with Virginia’s Standards of Learning, however, this program will include a field trip to the Nansemond River to help NRPA volunteers plant oysters in an effort to replenish what was once a great and seemingly endless stock of the mollusks. Students will also learn about other organisms living alongside oysters, such as sea lettuce and skilletfish, and take pre- and post-lesson tests to chart their level of understanding.

The program has a dual benefit. It will give students a memorable and memory-strengthening hands-on experience with the river and the life that depends on it, and it will give the alliance a couple thousand extra hands to help rebuild the important and beautiful resource that runs through the heart of Suffolk.

Once the students have handled those oysters and stood with the water lapping their toes, the lesson about the importance of good stewardship when it comes to natural resources will become vibrant and real for a whole new generation of Suffolk residents. That can only be good for the river and for those who love it.