Boxerwood Nature Center
& Woodland Garden

A Virginia Center For Environmental Education Excellence

Open daily for self tours from Dawn to Dusk 963 Ross Road, Lexington VA

elise outside

School Programs


Boxerwood has been a part of Rockbridge area school children's education for 15 years!  We feel that children can best learn about nature by actually experiencing nature. Our education programs provide experiential education in an incredible natural classroom. Our 15-acre “classroom” includes meadows, wetlands, and woodlands.  

If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, then let us allow them to love the earth before we ask them to save it. -David Sobel, Beyond Ecophobia

Early education (preschool - grade 2), elementary (grades 3-5), and middle school programs serve students from all three school divisions in the Rockbridge area.  Preschool activities strongly correlate with Virginia's Foundation Blocks for Early Learning and elementary through middle school programs are alligned with the Virginia Learning Standards. Boxerwood staff teachers are trained as "Master Naturalists." Volunteers (you could be one too!) from the local community and universities join in on a regular basis.  For more information and to learn about volunteering about early education programs, contact Jessica Sullivan at; for upper level programs, contact Elise Sheffield at


colorPreschool Programs


Preschool Programs are offered at Boxerwood spring and fall and in their own schools in the winter.  These programs funded by the Dale Waller Early Childhood in Nature Program.  There is no cost to Pre Schools in the Rockbridge area due to the generosity of the Waller Family.

Children who experience being in nature from the earliest years develop lifelong connections with the natural world. As they explore and play in the wild, children deepen their sensory awareness, exercise their bodies, follow their curiosity, stretch their imaginations, and learn to walk the Earth with care and confidence. Our approach is to combine self-directed play experiences with a program of guided activities that foster learning and discovery. In addition, we strive to help the adults in their lives rediscover the joy and wonder of beingin nature through—and with—their children.

In a sample program, children ages 2 -3 gather leaves, acorns, and seeds; fiinding plants with flowers, stems or leaves that match crayon colors. Age 4 - 5 preschoolers learn how plants and wildlife need each other to survive in the natural world.


Grades Kindergarten to Second


Programs align with the Virginia state Standards of Learning. Kindergarteners have an introduction to the local watershed, collecting water at various sources, experiment with its properties, and brainstorm ways to reuse and conserve this precious resource for all who need it. First graders hike woods and meadow to gather tree and plant seeds and categorize their seeds by how they disperse. They also learn mapping skills. A photo shows second graders exploring animal “adaptations" and “survival” along our paths and ponds. They keep field journals, sketching their observations.


Upper Elementary & Middle School Programs


Activities are coordinated with Virginia Standards of Learning for science and language arts; they are multi-modal and integrate cognitive and affective learning. We conduct programs at Boxerwood, schools, and local rivers. 

Third and 4th grade on-site programs consist of half-day visits which guide students through a sequence of progressively complexexperiences in the natural world. During each visit, students rotate through three small-group activities as they record their observations in field journals. 

Third graders investigate our various habitats and animals that live in each,create tiny habitats for close-pin people, and practice mapping skills. They discover tiny recyclers turning dead matter into life-giving soil both in “natural” habitats and in our compost bins. To help protect eroding soil, they plant grass seed. After observing the wetlands and pond, watershedboardthey complete a data chart of frogs and turtles that includes informationabout the springtime weather conditions.  

Fourth Graders investigate how well Boxerwood is caring for natural resources: they track water as it picks up pollutants and hownature (and humans helping nature) re-clean that water and thus protect the Chesapeake Bay. In a “Save the Bay” role play with a contour map of the county watershed, they apply their observations to local real-life situations.Students learn from NEWTS how we use nature to clean our wastewater, perform chemical tests on our pond water, and observe our solar water heater,brainstorming ways to reduce the use of fossil fuels. These students eat their lunches at Boxerwood, track their recycling efforts and add compostable materials to our bins for decomposition lessons.

Fourth, 5th & 6th Grade Programs Take Learning to the Field. The interdisciplinary program emphasizes hands-on investigations along creeks and rivers near each participating school. “Students not only learn about local water systems; in many cases they also design and carry out water quality improvement projects related to their findings. The program fosters both intellectual inquiry and responsible citizenship in a real-world context." (Elise Sheffield)  The "Creek critters" activity yields a count of invertebrate diversity which is one indication of creek health. Students also use chemical tests. Other activities include art, poetry, mathematics, and local history. Some students extend their learning at the Chesapeake Bay. watertesting 

  solar  southriver  


Information On Boxerwood's Partnership NEST

(Nurturing Environmental Stewardship Together) 

Read More


Videos about the Education Program

Interview with Elise Sheffield, Education Director*     Overview education program*

Fourth Grade Visit about watershed issues **     Middle School - Project Next *

*The Rockbridge Report, Journalism students at Washington & Lee University  ** Produced by Waddell Fourth Grader

News articles about our Education Program  

Education Staff