Hampton Roads Community Foundation Blog


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Suffolk Teens Learn to Care for Waterways
By Adia White / May 16, 2018

Alex Kmiechiak (left), Bobbi Ann Gordon and Dyontay Beale learn how to test water quality in the retention pond behind King’s Fork High School.
Two years ago, Dyontay Beale didn’t know much about sea-level rise. But learning about the Nansemond River, which flows through his hometown, inspired this Suffolk junior to work on a waterway preservation proposal for the Suffolk City Council.

Beale, a three-sport athlete and president of the King’s Fork High School Ecology Club, is among 100 students at his school learning to be good stewards of our region’s waterways. All are either in King’s Fork’s ecology club or Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. They are part of the Connecting the Classroom with the Environment program sponsored by the Nansemond River Preservation Alliance. The Alliance joins the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center and the Elizabeth River Project in helping more than 20,000 area students over the past six years understand why caring for waterways is important.

A Hampton Roads Community Foundation grant funds a part-time Nansemond River Preservation Alliance staff member and pays for equipment and supplies. The high school program builds upon a Suffolk middle school program the Alliance started in 2013 with help from a community foundation environmental grant.

Members of King's Fork High School's Ecology Club are learning to be good stewards of our region's waterways. 
King’s Fork High School students like Beale are learning how “what they do on land affects the waterways,” says Cindy Pinell, the Nansemond River Preservation Alliance’s high school program manager. Among the students she teaches is 10th-grader Jack Van Straten, who also was in the Alliance’s middle-school environmental program. His studies inspired him to create a living shoreline at Suffolk’s Sleepy Hole Park for his Eagle Scout project.

One hallmark of the environmental program is having high school students teach younger students what they have learned. Three times each semester, high school students in the program walk to neighboring King’s Fork Middle School to lead life-science classes. Through hands-on projects and experiments, they teach younger students about water quality issues and ways to care for the environment.

Educating and encouraging students to care for the environment and giving them the opportunity to pass along their knowledge creates a ripple effect. Elizabeth Taraski, Nansemond River Preservation Alliance president and CEO, says the goal is to encourage students to “make sure we leave things even better for the next generation.”

Read the full article in the Spring/Summer edition of Good Tidings and learn how two other Hampton Roads nonprofits are connecting the classroom with the environment.

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