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School Building Closed? Try a Park
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School Building Closed? Try a Park

Families across Northern Virginia are challenged with online education. This is the most challenging for elementary school children with shorter attention spans.

For those parents looking for additional resources to help their young learners, your regional park may have some of the answers. Even during a pandemic, in-person learning can happen, particularly when that learning is taking place outside, with masks and socially distanced. That is exactly the formula that is being used at Potomac Overlook Regional Park in Arlington with their Schoolyard Explorers Series.

Schoolyard Explorers is a program of in-person classes taught by a naturalist that ties in with the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs). There are two one-hour sessions on each subject and appropriate for each grade:

Weather – designed for 1st graders

Forces and Motion – designed for 2nd graders

Ecosystems – designed for 3rd graders

Water – designed for 4th and 5th graders

This is a great way to supplement online learning with some in-person instruction in a fun park setting that reinforces the materials covered in the state curriculum for science.

“I have participated in several of the Schoolyard Explorers classes at Potomac Overlook with my 1st grader,” remarked Arlington mother, Mary Sanders. “The topics and content of the programs are a great supplement to his distance learning, and the classes offer a fantastic opportunity to get outside and away from screens,” she continued.

The Carlyle House in Alexandria recently had a program for 3rd – 6th graders called “Discoveries through Trash,” which introduced children to archeology.

For those wanting a fully online or hybrid experience, the https://www.novaparks.com/ web site has a new interactive virtual tour of Aldie Mill. This innovative and interactive tool uses the 200-year-old mill to teach both history and science. There are three educational experiences available: Simple Machines, History of Aldie Mill, and Eyewitness to the Civil War. After exploring this information-rich site, you can tour the mill in person on the weekends and see where it all happened.

The remarkable historic resources of our region provide many opportunities to learn for people of all ages. Carlyle House in Alexandria, Balls Bluff Battlefield in Leesburg, or Mt. Defiance Battlefield in Middleburg all offer a variety of tours on the weekends. Bring your face mask and hand sanitizer and explore a part of our areas that is new to you. You can find information on the schedule and registration information on the https://www.novaparks.com/ web site.

While fun and recreation is the first thing most people think about parks, they are also places of learning. With schools online and children struggling to learn, getting outdoor and learning is a win-win for everyone.