Educational Programs

Educational outreach is an important and major part of what districts contribute to their communities. Whether its brochures, flyers, websites or one-on-one meetings, it is critical your education community is aware you serve as a trusted resource for them. For example, Bonnie Mahl of Eastern Shore SWCD visits multiple schools and libraries weekly throughout the school year and speaks with teachers and superintendents about the statewide poster contest and Envirothon program. Elise Corbin of Peter Francisco SWCD organizes lesson plans by grade for SOL-based programs and shares them with teachers at the beginning of the year’s teacher orientation.

Below are some additional highlights of the great work being done at the local level, as well as details on many statewide programs your VASWCD Educational Foundation hosts on behalf of districts that may be applicable to your own local SWCD.



The Culpeper SWCD works with public and private schools to help incorporate the outdoors into their teaching. Sometimes this includes converting a parking island into a rain garden (to improve the quantity and quality of stormwater runoff), planting water-loving trees in wet areas and installing mulched beds and converting turf to native warm season grasses to reduce erosion. Culpeper SWCD has been successful in finding grant money to assist with costs but has requested previously a minimal match by the school.

The Henricopolis SWCD I ? SOIL! returned for its third year in 2015. This program, designed especially for third graders explores the importance of soil to plants and animals. The program included hands-on activities like making an edible soil profile to make learning fun! Students made “soil sundaes or a real soil profile card and received a copy of Soil Story by the Natural Resource Conservation Service. Teachers received the beautiful NCRS Virginia Soils poster and their own copy of Soil Story. Virginia Standards of Learning 3.7 is addressed in this program.

Amanda Hancock and Robin Buckalew of Piedmont SWCD created an Envirothon Video to be shown this fall at area high schools during their morning announcements. The Envirothon video features the Fuqua High School team participating in the 2014 Piedmont SWCD Local Envirothon held at Longwood University’s new Environmental Education Center. The video encourages students “who are wild about nature” to check out the Envirothon program at their high school. Watch the Envirothon outreach video here The district is also working on developing a Jr. Envirothon team. Currently Piedmont SWCD does not have a team at one of their local high schools. However, with two very active sixth grade science teachers at the middle school, their goal is to start a junior Envirothon team at the middle school to get students interested, excited, and prepared. The hope is the excitement and interest carries over when students reach high school. Piedmont SWCD also sends out quarterly education newsletters that get mailed to 3rd-12th grade science teachers about their educational programs and district current events.

The James River SWCD includes rain barrel construction and painting as a part their demonstrations. The district recently visited a local school with three rain barrels and provided a brief lesson on water use in addition to rain barrel construction and painting. They divided the class into three teams, allowing each team to construct a rain barrel. When finished, teams rubbed their hands in paint and made designs on the barrel. JRSWCD has donated several barrels to schools for art teachers to decorate. Depending on the teacher’s budget, JRSWCD has also donated the supplies need for the painting and some sponge brushes.






The annual Poster Contest provides K-12 grade students an opportunity to convey their thoughts about soil, water and related natural resource issues through art. Plan ahead for the 2016 “We All Need Trees” theme. Each year, the poster contest starts at the district level. District winners advance to the state competition and state winners move on to the national contest. Additional information about the Poster Contest can be found at  Poster entries are due to VASWCD


A Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience (MWEE) is an investigative or experimental project that engages students in thinking critically about the Bay watershed. MWEEs are not intended to be quick, one-day activities; rather, they are extensive projects that allow students to gain a deep understanding of the issue or topic being presented. Students participate in background research, hands-on activities and reflection periods that are appropriate for their ages and grade levels. A successful MWEE includes activities both within and outside of the classroom, often including full-day field experiences outside of school. For more information about starting a MWEE in your district visit


The Virginia Envirothon is a team based natural resources competition for high school students. Students who participate learn stewardship and management concepts and work to solve real world environmental problems. The program is field-oriented, community based and gives students an opportunity to work with natural resource professionals. Outreach materials including brochures, posters, and rack cards are available from the VASWCD. An oral presentation problem focused on the 2016 special topic invasive species along with many helpful Envirothon resources are available at state competition will be held May 15-16 at Eastern Mennonite Univsersity.


The 40th year of Youth Conservation Camp (YCC) will be held July 10-16, 2016. Districts are encouraged to send at least 2 campers to the week long camp at Virginia Tech. Any student enrolled in grades 9-12 during the 2015-2016 school year are eligable to attend. All applications are due to the VASWCD by May 11. VASWCD is also seeking counselors for 2016 YCC. If you are interested in serving as a counselor or want to learn more about Youth Conservation Camp visit or contact Beth Sokolik, VASWCD Education & Training Coordinator.


The VASWCD Educational Foundation scholarship program provides financial support to students majoring in or showing a strong desire to major in a course curriculum related to natural resource conservation and/or environmental studies. Annually the Foundation provides four $1000 statewide scholarships in addition to the many local SWCD scholarship opportunities. For more information on 2016 available scholarships and application information visit