Youth Outreach Program Growing Strong

NRLT campers play in the child-sized birdhouse at the Nature Play Space in Heritage Park.

Exploring streams and discovering birds, making art with vegetables and flowers, and visiting a working farm to learn how food is grown—these are just some of the things kids in our area are doing this season with New River Land Trust’s Youth Outreach Program.

We expanded our Stream Field Trips for 4th graders to five schools in Montgomery County. On a conserved property, students do a macroinvertebrate sampling from a stream, participate in a stormwater and watershed awareness activity, and complete a history of the land activity. Funding for the program comes from the Town of Blacksburg, and our volunteers are from the Virginia Master Naturalists and the Canaan Valley Institute.

“It’s great to get kids out on the land, in the water, learning about water quality, stream ecology, and the uniqueness of our local watersheds,” Melissa Henry, Coordinator of Youth Outreach said. “It’s much more exciting for them to learn about the life within our streams by actually catching and observing aquatic insects, which are important indicators of stream health.”

A new program this year is Kids in the Dirt, a series of workshops in collaboration with Glade Road Growing. From seed starting to harvesting, garden art to feeding the animals, this fun and interactive series gets kids up close to local food production and continues into August. To register for a workshop, visit GladeRoadGrowing.com.

Another first is our new summer camp. In partnership with Children’s Garden, it’s nature-based learning for kids ages 5-8. Each morning for a week, campers spent time outside, primarily at NRLT’s Nature Play Space in Heritage Park, exploring, learning, and playing. We plan to offer several camps next year.

Early Birders, a program we started last year to introduce kids to bird watching, is also growing. Our birding kit, which includes 30 pairs of binoculars and field guides, is free for schools and youth groups to borrow. We are seeking additional funding to make Early Birder kits available to five more counties in our service area.