Preschool Programs are offered at Boxerwood spring and fall and in their own schools in the winter.
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 being in nature through—and with—their children.
The Preschool Programs are the first step in outdoor education through Boxerwood. Our programs are based on the Virginia’s Foundation Blocks for Early Learning.
Our eternal gratitude goes to the Dale Waller Foundation whose generosity funded the development of the Preschool Programs for 10 years.
Boxerwood partners with all three local school divisions is an award-winning program we call Project NEST (Nurturing Environmental Stewardship Together). Project NEST is our unique multi-year sequential curriculum that takes students into nature throughout the span of their childhoods. NEST programs foster a sense of wonder and connection in our youngest children, and then build science and environmental literacy skills as the youth mature.
More than 2,500 local children participate in NEST field programs each year. Most of these students also carry out related conservation projects back at school. These NEST action projects help students develop leadership skills while also helping the Earth.
Each year hundreds of NEST students protect bird habitat, propagate native trees, and raise native brook trout.
Former NEST students are now pursuing university studies and careers in environmental science, conservation, waste management, and more. Visit our NEST website to find out more.
Boxerwood is not just for the school day anymore. We work almost every day with youth enrolled in local afterschool programs. These school-based programs primarily serve youth from low-income communities: —we ensure nature is part of their enrichment mix.
At an elementary school in Buena Vista, more than forty children each week participate in our Nature, Recycling, and STEM Clubs.
Meanwhile, our new partnership with Maury River Middle School, called SPLASH! (Students Pursuing Learning and Adventure in STEM Happenings), takes youth to creeks and rivers as adventurers and budding environmental scientists.
More than 400 lives have been impacted by our after school programs, and we hope to keep this number growing.
Chesapeake Bay Trip
How do we affect the Chesapeake Bay? This is the question posed to all seventh graders from our three local middle schools: Parry McCluer MS, Maury River MS, Lylburn Downing MS.
At the beginning of each school year, a Boxerwood educator meets with prospective Bay Club members to talk about this big question. We discuss what they can do to make positive change here in the headwaters at home.
Selected students then participate in a three-day, two-night immersion experience at a Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) resident island center. While there, they see first hand the human impacts made to the Bay. They seine for life in bay grasses, set crab pots—and if lucky get to eat their catch—canoe, interview locals, conduct habitat assessments, conserve water by taking bay dock “showers,” and make communal meals, all while soaking in the knowledge from our partners—professional CBF educators.
Back at school, all students who participate in this field experience then pay it forward.
Teacher Professional Development
Schools are powerful catalysts for cultural change, and that is why Boxerwood works closely with our three local divisions—and with their teachers. Thanks to funding from U.S. NOAA/B-WET, we have been able to offer workshops and even one-on-one coaching for more than 30 science teachers over the past eight years. In partnership with Washington and Lee Teacher Education, we have shared new methods for integrating field-based learning into the classroom, for building student leadership, for planning schoolyard action projects, and more. We’ve also introduced our friends to professional scientists and partners, expanded their knowledge base, provided stipends for special projects, and supported their presentations at conferences. Two of these teachers now serve as the first STEM-specific teachers for Rockbridge County Schools. Others are leading innovation in their classrooms. Together, we are strengthening the impact of environment-based learning in our area, and serving as a model for other communities.