“Our Learning Barge was named one of the state's top 10 "centers for environmental education excellence”- Sept. 8 by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.
"Barge on," as our students say!- Robin Dunbar, Deputy Director - Education, received the award at Natural Bridge Park
Background: The Elizabeth River is one of the most polluted tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay due to past dumping of industrial waste, and current storm water runoff that carries soils, fertilizers, pesticides and metal directly into the river. With a high-level of port activity, including several ship-repair facilities, a navy base, and the largest coal-exporting facility in the world, the river has experienced extremely high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), which led to an abnormal frequency of cancer rates in bottom- dwelling species. Taking this into account, the Elizabeth River Project sought to engage the community in the improvement of the rivers’ ecosystems. The Learning Barge was envisioned to provide a means for the community to observe the river’s restoration efforts and become directly engaged in its’ environmental stewardship.
Solution: The Elizabeth River Project's Dominion Virginia Power LEARNING BARGE is the world's first floating wetland classroom and America's Greenest Vessel. It's a "steward ship," teaching the children of the river environmental stewardship actions and showing how to make the Elizabeth River healthier!
Powered by sun and wind and equipped with live wetlands, an enclosed classroom, composting toilets and a rainwater filtration system, the 120 by 32 foot Learning Barge is designed to both model and teach ecology and sustainability to the next generation of lower Chesapeake Bay stewards. The mission is making restoration of the Elizabeth River a reality.
Impact: 64,296 have been educated on the barge since its 2009 launch. Around 42,000 were K-12 students.
Key partners: Bank of America, Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund, Chesapeake Bay Trust, Dollar Tree Foundation, Francis R. Dewing Foundation, Hampton Roads Community Foundation, Kinder Morgan, Luck Companies Foundation, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Virginia Beach Public Schools, Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority, Norfolk Southern Foundation, PRA, Rotary Clubs of Norfolk, Portsmouth, and District 7600, Southeast Virginia Community Foundation, and Virginia Natural Gas.
More information: www.elizabethriver.org