Field Trip Program
Our longest-running education plank is the Field Trip program (formerly called “School Tours”). An average of 2,000 school children per year since 1980 has come through ICNA for a guided natural walk. Led by the Education Coordinator or a trained volunteer guide, the content of the walks is geared toward the request of the teacher and the age group. Trip numbers showed a marked decline in recent years, with a low of 1587 in 2012-2013. However, there has been a rebound in tour numbers since 2013. The largest subgroup that comes through is elementary school children, ages five-to-nine years old.
School tours depend on trained volunteers able to interpret the natural world with young visitors. The Education Coordinator does guide training in Fall and Spring quarters.
We open the reconstructed barn to the public on Saturdays and Sundays from 2-4 pm from April to Thanksgiving. Visitors are greeted by Barn Docents who explain the history of the barn and walk them through the exhibits and displays as needed. Approximately 1500 people come through the barn per year. There is a wild fluctuation in how many people come per weekend, based on weather (the barn has no climate control) and competing weekend activities. Education would like to see our Barn hours expand and to become a part of the Buy Local/CSA/Local Harvest education network in some form.
This is a lecture series is run by the Education Committee and began in Spring 2014. It offers three programs in Spring and three in Fall. Geared toward adults, Ivy Talks uses Ivy Creek as the lens to filter 3 natural and 3 cultural history topics. This lecture series has been popular since introduction, with a low attendance of 24 and a high beyond the building’s code capacity of 65. It happens on the second Sunday of the month in February, March, April (using May as the Spring rain date if snow cancels an event), September, October, and November.
Little Naturalists (formerly Toddler Time) is an “educational play date” for the under-K crowd. Geared toward 3-5-year-olds who each come with their chaperone/parents, the content is always fresh and age-appropriate, and it has a high rate of repeat attendees. With an average class of 20 children per month, it’s a definite success and Education recently expanded it to two days per month: second Mondays and last Thursdays, from 10:00 to 11:30 am. It is run by volunteers who have a particular affinity for working with this age group and is facilitated by the Education Coordinator.
ICF-Generated Public Programs
In addition to the above, we provide approximately 30 public programs per year. Many of these are nature walks of one form or another, such as Butterfly Walks, Learning Native Trees, Songs of Frogs & Toads, The Dragonflies of Ivy Creek, Insects of the Night, and Animal Tracks. Frequently these groups gather at the Education Building for a brief (15 minute) introduction before setting out on their exploration with one or more guides.
The Education Committee suggests one to two registration-driven workshops per year. Ideally we would hold one in Spring and one in Fall. For example, in 2015, we offered pollinator workshops geared toward teaching adults how to cultivate gardens and lawns that attract and promote the health of pollinators. These workshops were introduced in Spring 2015 and were run by Marilyn Smith and Mary Lee Epps. There is a registration fee to cover training and materials (whether for plantings or for instructional handouts) with a little extra to cover administration, but these rely on volunteer time, organization, and interest.
Boys & Girls Club Program/K-12 Supplemental Program
This initiative was created in response to a Strategic Plan goal to offer an after-school alternative to the Field Trips. Originally piloted in Spring 2014, we ran one session with the Southwood Boys & Girls Club using Diana Foster’s Forest Discoveries program. It was expanded in Summer 2015 to include three local Boys & Girls Clubs with volunteers provided by Ivy Creek and the Rivanna Master Naturalists working with Project Wet and Project Wild materials. Both sets of classes offered to date featured nature- and water-centric education, e.g., teaching children about wetlands ecology and aquatic habitats. We have considered offering a modified, age-appropriate version of our pollinator workshop content and, as of 2016, are applying for grants for training and equipment to run and modify the “Voices from the Land” program, developed by EIRC. “Voices” is more language and art centric than the other two programs, teaching the skills of observation, interpretation, and communication. We want “Voices” to become the next piece in our educational arsenal. (For purposes of distinguishing our program from the original module, we have renamed it “Voices of Nature” in our grant paperwork)
Partner-Generated Public Programs
As the “home venue” for such active groups as the Va. Native Plant Society, Monticello Bird Club, Central Va. Beekeepers Assn., and Rivanna Master Naturalists, we also provide the setting and, when needed, the support for monthly bird walks, beginners and advanced training classes, workshops, lectures, open meetings, and other fora for enthusiasts of the natural world. We are working to expand these partnerships to more fully include the cultural and historical groups which also frequent ICNA, like the Central Va. History Researchers.
Reference and Resources
We try to provide information to the public on the most frequently taught subjects through our brochures, our hand-outs, our website, and a small library of books. Most frequently, we serve as a hub to connect the public with another live source for such information—recommending partner organizations and expert volunteers to help resolve a question. Through our signage around the ICNA, we also provide a passive educational experience.