The Vernal Pool Project
Empowering students and restoring habitats
In 2015, 4-VA awarded Dr. Cindy Klevickis complementary funds for the project Collaborative development of pre-service and in-service teachers to address STEM challenges through outdoor classroom learning in partnership with Eric Fitzgerald and Pamela Pulver. The original grant was awarded at GMU to Dr. Thomas Wood for $16,150. Dubbed the Vernal Pool Project, the team combined funding from the 4-VA grant, a grant from the JMU Center for STEM Education and Outreach, and grants to Rockingham County Schools to enhance the environmental quality of a vernal pool at Buck Hill Camp in Mt. Solon, Virginia.
With the help of 4-VA, we were able to take the project to a much higher level. The partnership allowed the middle school teachers to have more access to resources and materials that would otherwise not have been possible. It also gave expertise in the subject area.
The Vernal Pool Project allows JMU and middle school students to engage in scientific concepts first learned in the classroom, giving students a better understanding of environmental science and how they can make a difference in creating, restoring and managing habitats. Two JMU student interns worked with Mike Long’s 8th grade agricultural leadership class at Wilbur Pence Middle School to develop and present related lessons and to plan an overnight field trip at the project site.
With other grant funds, JMU Roop Learning Community students and Rockingham County 8th grade students planted over 100 Virginia native trees to provide a buffer between the camp’s vernal pool and adjacent croplands. An ongoing project, the team is also focused on the following exciting prospects:
- Purchasing a camera capture system to record wildlife visiting the site
- Removing invasive species and cataloging native species in the area
- Purchasing educational signage
- Developing partnerships to take drone photographs of the area over time
As the team continues student research on the vernal pool habitat, they will collect species population counts, gather data from wildlife cameras and build an educational website that will be available to the public. In the fall of 2017, JMU students will help coordinate an environmental day for middle school students which will expose them to the environmental significance of vernal pools. In the spring of 2018, JMU and Rockingham County Schools will host the award-winning author Dr. David Sobel for a series of presentations and workshops about the philosophy of place-based education.
Dr. Cindy Klevickis
Professor of Integrated Science and Technology
Dr. Thomas Wood
Associate Professor of Integrative and Interdisciplinary Studies
If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, then let us allow them to love the earth before we ask them to save it. What’s important is that children have an opportunity to bond with the natural world, to learn to love it and feel comfortable in it, before being asked to heal its wounds.
I hope that this will be a first step to develop more partnerships between Rockingham County Schools and JMU. It is a win-win situation for pre-service JMU teachers to assist the schools with hands-on, place-based experiences. I hope that JMU students will help our teachers develop unique opportunities in science for school students.