Two city schools nab state environmental honors

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Landstown students, seen here in 2015, marking their outdoor classroom. Photo courtesy VBCPS.

Landstown students, seen here in 2015, marking their outdoor classroom. Photo courtesy VBCPS.

Two Virginia Beach schools are starting the new academic year with honors from the state for their environmental education programs.

The Department of Game and Inland Wildlife has named Kempsville Elementary School and Landstown Middle School as 2016 Virginia Naturally Schools, Virginia Beach City Public Schools announced on Twitter on Sept. 2. The recognition comes as part of an initiative, administered by DGIF with support from the Department of Education and the Department of Environmental Quality, to commend outstanding efforts by Virginia schools to boost environmental awareness and stewardship among students.

“Congrats to Kempsville ES and Landstown MS!” said the tweet from the city’s public schools. “They have been named 2016 Virginia Naturally schools for their support of envt’l conservation!”

This is the third year in a row that Kempsville Elementary, 570 Kempsville Rd., has earned the award, according to Suzie Gilley, DGIF’s wildlife education coordinator. A full list of the 2015 winners is on the department’s website; a complete list of the 2016 honorees is not yet available.

Last year, the state acknowledged 57 schools, including Kempsville, which was the only winner from Virginia Beach. This year, the department has recognized 66 schools, Gilley said in a phone interview, including Landstown, 2204 Recreation Dr., which is being honored for the first time. Also in the tally for 2016 are 19 first-time schools and 11 that have been recognized for 10 or more years, Gilley said in an email. All schools had to submit applications by June, at the end of the previous academic year.

Kempsville won recognition for a range of efforts, including expansion of its gardens and a scoop-the-poop initiative, to help protect local waterways, Gilley said. The school also encourages recycling and use of two-sided photocopies.

Landstown was commended for several undertakings, including construction of a greenhouse, as well as use of rain barrels, a 14,000 square-foot outdoor classroom, and raised vegetable and flower beds that are used in classes.

“This program is designed to encourage schools to get the students outside, work with community partners, [and] be good stewards of the environment,” Gilley said. “It does run the gamut statewide.”

More information about the Virginia Naturally School Recognition effort is available here.

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