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Week of October 30, 2017

LoSU students add chicken wire to the compost bins to complete this project.

This has been our busiest off-farm activity so far! This week, the students continued to study TED talks and explore the science and agriculture of coastal plains. But they spent far more time outside working on projects, attending VSU educational farm events and exploring some of the local resources!

Monday we began by welcoming both a full-time and part-time student through exercises that pushed both creativity in problem solving as well as collaboration. Students spent the morning stretching their ability to think a bit more outside the box. After lunch, we headed outside for some raking and general yard cleanup.

On Tuesday, we followed up our morning academic time by finishing up the compost bins. A potential new student joined us as we added chicken wire to the bins and got one complete project under out belt!

VSU tour at Slade’s Farm in Surry, VA to discuss nutrient management on the farm.

The remainder of the week we spent off-site. Wednesday, we welcomed a new student and headed to Surry, VA to visit Slade’s Farm for a VSU workshop on nutrient management. Students heard Mr. Slade talk about the issues he had with unprotected nutrient losses through runoff as well as its impact on the waterways. He showed us his new pole barn designed with huge bins to hold compost and other soil amendments, keeping them clean, dry, easily accessible and out of the creeks and streams that lace his farm property. He talked about the resources available to help with these issues, things he’s learned to grow his crops more productively and some machinery he uses for this work.

After the tour, we headed to Newport News, had lunch at a great Mexican restaurant, José Tequilas, and then made our way to the Virginia Living Museum around the corner. Here, we saw some of the native species that reside in Virginia, including deer, bald eagles, vultures, bobcat, and the very rare red wolf to name a few. The animals housed at the museum are sick or injured animals being rehabilitated or permanently housed depending on their ability to return to the wild. The museum has two large exhibits on either end of the building that show plants and animals typical to the main geological areas of the state–the piedmont/mountain region and the coastal region. It served as a nice wrap up to our science studies of these areas, especially as we focused on the coastal region in which the school is located.  The museum also features an ecologically friendly human habitat, showcasing some of the ways we can reduce our energy consumption. It also hosts a lego sculpture exhibition and a large lego block building area which is as popular with teens as it is the youngsters.

Virginia Wildlife Museum visit. Coastal plains wildlife exhibit.

We couldn’t come this close to all of the waterways of the Newport News peninsula without stopping for just a bit. We found Water Street in York Town to be a great spot. The students wandered, explored, and talked about the historical significance of this area. We wrapped up this amazing day with Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream and watched the moon rise over the water as we walked back to our vehicle.

By Thursday, we had already done a month’s worth of field trips and explorations, but we had more plans! Thursday morning started with a VSU urban garden tour. VSU’s Dr. Githinji and other speakers talked about the Growing Petersburg Garden Project and winter crops before leading us on a short tour of the garden. Afterward we found Rosslyn Park, a local Appomattox River access point and termination of the the Appomattox River Trail for a picnic lunch and exploration. This will make a great place to begin or end some kayaking adventures in the future! Following lunch, we met Dr. Temu, Associate Professor, VSU’s Small Ruminant Program, for a private tour of this ruminant forage research. Dr. Temu is experimenting with reviving native grasses that had almost become extinct due to excessive overgrazing and tilling practices for feeding ruminants. His tour started in the greenhouse and ended with the machinery used to harvest, dry and separate the seeds for the grasses to continue the growing experiments. Dr. Temu then followed us to our potential long-term home for the school. This 256 acre property had been timbered and left to regrow naturally. It would serve as an interesting experiment for recovering the land through environmentally friendly animal husbandry practices as well as possibly provide an extension to his grass experiments.

Friday was a day to relax and let our minds process all of the incredible information we took in this week! We headed over to Pocahontas State Park for some outdoor recreational time. We enjoyed the rolling terrain, water views and colorful fall foliage. Some of the student had some time to fish while other explored the area around the lake. Thanks to a parent gift, we took Ledo’s Pizza back to the school for a great lunch and finished the day with independent study time.

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