Nature program funded

May 15, 2008

The Virginia Museum of Natural History and The Harvest Foundation have announced a new initiative titled the Children and Nature Educational Network, in which nature will be used as an educational laboratory.

The Harvest Foundation has given the museum a three-year, $215,350 grant for the program that will offer children an interactive approach to outdoor learning and will complement what they learn in area schools.

“This is a unique concept,” said Harvest Foundation Program Officer John Estes. “The program and the partnerships that will be developed by the VMNH will be one of a growing number of efforts around the country that have a common aim of getting children and adults off the sofa and into exploring, learning about and appreciating the local natural resources.”

VMNH has successfully developed community events that have enabled the public to take advantage of the museum’s state-of-the-art facilities and exhibits. However, with the help of this initiative, the museum hopes also to shed light on how valuable a resource nature can be in education, according to a release from Harvest.

Providing learning opportunities for children in an outdoor setting not only helps children appreciate the environment, but it also has been linked to helping them develop lifelong creative thinking skills as well as healthy and physically active lifestyles, the release states.

“Put simply, the purpose of the ... program is to provide more opportunities for children to learn, enjoy and just be outdoors,” said Dr. Dennis Casey, director of education and public programs at VMNH. “Today, people are spending less time outdoors and many of the experiences are now electronic or virtual. Without real-world, outdoor experiences, the knowledge and experiences communities enjoy from natural spaces will not be passed on to future generations.

“This program is designed to not only provide new programming but also to tap into the many existing resources our community has to offer. And, as a natural resource agency, this project is a great fit. We will be able to participate in other efforts both statewide and on a national scale that are aimed at re-connecting children and nature,” Casey said.

The Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville is accredited by the American Association of Museums and is a member of the Association of Science-Technology Centers, Virginia Association of Museums and Heritage Preservation. It is an agency of the Secretary of Natural Resources for the commonwealth of Virginia.

The Harvest Foundation was established in 2002 from the sale of the Memorial Hospital in Martinsville.



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