by guest blogger Amanda Godbold Payne, Blue Sky Fund
Editor’s Note: Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden was honored to be a part of Blue Sky’s pilot program for 7th grade Explorers program, the students participated as part of the Grow Works program that includes education and service. The volunteer component allow the Garden to waive the admission fee for these participants.
In December, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden partnered with Blue Sky Fund to bring 7th grade students from Franklin Military Academy and Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School to the botanical garden as part of Blue Sky’s Explorers program. The Explorers program works with 11 different Richmond City Public Schools to provide hands-on, experiential learning field trips at various parks, farms, and other open spaces in the Richmond area. The Blue Sky participants attended the Garden via the Grow Works program, an opportunity that involves education and service; the volunteer component allows the educational program’s fees to be compensated. This is a great opportunity for middle schools and high schools who might be lacking funds for field trips.
Blue Sky’s Explorers program aims to support teachers by providing SOL-relevant experiences and lessons that augment their classroom teaching. Last school year, the Explorers program reached over 600 students at nine schools and saw a significant increase in the average science grades of the participants. This school year, the Explorers program expanded from only 3rd grades to adding 5th and 7th grade field trips as well. During their visit, the students focused on tree identification and classification as they explored Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Nicki, the Garden’s Youth Programs Developer explains: “I think horticulture is an especially great volunteer opportunity — it creates social interaction, team-building, connects community, offers physical fitness, and can be meditative as well as therapeutic….Movement stimulates memory so volunteering paired with an educational program is a great match.”
Blue Sky seeks to invest in young lives through on-going outdoor programming. These 7th grade Explorer students will be given the opportunity to continue their learning in a pilot summer program focused on STEM job training, or to join a weekly Outdoor Adventure Club, or eventually to go on wilderness trips in our leadership training program.
Blue Sky is on a mission to provide transformational experiences for urban youth through outdoor education. We will give every young person the opportunity to discover themselves by actively engaging the natural world. Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s passion is connecting people and plants to improve communities. Like-minded organizations working together to make Richmond a better place — it doesn’t get any better.