A Talk on the Wild Side.
Belvedere students weeding a pollinator garden. Photo by Stacy Evers
Over the summer, Headquarters staff had the pleasure of connecting with nearby Belvedere Elementary School, the first elementary school in Fairfax County, Virginia, to be designated as an International Baccalaureate World School. Belvedere strives to help its highly diverse student body learn about, get involved in and make a difference in the world. The school also works to develop the next generation of conservationists.
A few fifth-graders contacted the Service through a school mentor to ask questions about foreign endangered species and what students could do to help protect them. After that initial connection, the Service discovered that Belvedere has a strong environmental education program that is making a difference.
Belvedere’s school grounds include a native plant garden, a butterfly garden, a rainwater collection system, a composting system and a permeable paver patio. Students engage in outdoor learning activities on school grounds, an adjacent park and other locations via field trips. Outdoor learning activities include bluebird monitoring, removal of invasive plant species, trail maintenance and raising trout to help stock local streams.
Belvedere has also been designated as a Virginia Naturally School. The recognition is part of a program administered by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. To receive the designation, a school’s environmental education program must meet specific requirements that increase with each successive year to promote student environmental awareness and stewardship.
Clearly the Service and Belvedere share some common goals. So the Service did more than simply respond to the inquiry from students, also providing posters and other educational materials. In addition, the start of a new school year provides Service members an opportunity to participate in educational events to share their knowledge and experiences with students.
The connection made with Belvedere is only one small example of how conservation goals are met through collaboration. And every day, across all programs and regions, Service staff are demonstrating their commitment to conservation and the American people by connecting and collaborating with diverse people and groups to achieve conservation goals for the benefit of all.
EDWARD STOKER, External Affairs, Headquarters