Apr 5th, 2015

Stranded Dolphins in the Garden? Only for the Sake of Education!

Text & Photos by Jonah Holland, PR & Marketing Coordinator, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Bravo group working on a toy dolphin

Some serious learning going on!

Earlier this month we hosted some of our favorite people — educators — for our Natural Connections symposium. This three-day collaborative conference provides valuable professional development opportunities for Pre-K – 6th grade educators, administrators and pre-service teachers. Natural Connections is a chance for teachers to get to learn by doing. We think the best learning happens by inspiring teachers to make natural connections using interdisciplinary teaching approaches. Also, it helps if the children get to learn outdoors using real-life applications to engage them. For this one day, the teachers get to be the students in the same projects that they will take back and use in their classrooms, inspiring opportunities.  Presenters modeled ways to blend science, social studies, language arts and mathematics standards for authentic learning experiences.

We were also thrilled to bring Natural Connections to educators in collaboration with our partners: The Virginia Department of Education’s Division of Instruction, the Virginia Initiative for Science Teaching and Achievement, and the Virginia Resource Use Education Council.

Collaborative learning at it's best! All these first responders to the dolphin stranding are 4th- 6th grade teachers.

Collaborative learning at it’s best! All these first-responders to the dolphin stranding are 4th- 6th grade teachers.

We wanted to share some photos of what hands-on teacher learning looks like and also wanted to share some comments with you about what our teachers liked about our conference. I think it’s a safe bet that they will try to duplicate the things they liked about our workshop when they do the same lessons with their own class later this year! As you can see, the photos are from a mock dolphin stranding. In Dolphins ASHORE – Assuring Students Have Opportunities for Researching our Environment, participants  learned how to implement a mock dolphin stranding at their school.  This is guaranteed to excite and engage students and teachers get to integrate your stranding with multiple math concepts, reading, scientific investigation, ocean, natural resources and the study of water.

What was the most valuable aspect of the conference?

·       Getting to learn & listen to other educators. Sharing was wonderful & beneficial.

·       Sharing with other educators and getting new ideas for teaching weather concepts to my students. It was great that many of the teachers were also preschool level.


·       I have attended this conference for the past four years. I really do feel that every time I come, I learn something new that I can teach my  students! Thank you.

dolphin alpha

Teachers learning teaching by being students. Here Alpha dolphin is stranded and the response team of teachers must find out what happened by using their science skills.

Teachers carrying toy dolphin float

Perhaps these teachers are having some fun while they are learning too. What do you think?

Jonah Holland is Digital Content Manager at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, where she has worked for 14 years overseeing social media, the blog, and the website. She is also a mom, yogi, open water swimmer, gardener, and seeker. She's been known to go for a walk in the Garden and come back with hundreds of plant photos, completely inspired to write her next blog post.

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