Yearlong James River grant getting HCPS students onto the water, into environmental education

*Note to reporters and editors: HCPS students will be visiting the Presquile National Wildlife Refuge and James River Ecology School on Oct. 11, 15 and 17, and Nov. 11. The grant-funded trips will resume in March. To arrange for media coverage, please contact Andy Jenks, director of HCPS Communications and Community Engagement.

Henrico, Va., Oct. 8, 2019 – From Native Americans to English explorers, the Richmond area was settled because of its location along the James River. Some area children, however, have limited exposure to the region’s defining geographic and natural landmark. A $15,000 grant coordinated by the Henrico Education Foundation is aiming to change that this year for nearly 800 Henrico County students. The grant, funded by Dominion Energy and the Chesapeake Bay Trust, is getting HCPS students onto the James for real-life science instruction. Students learn about the river, its watershed and what they can do to protect it.

Students walking with instructors
Seven schools in eastern Henrico County are taking similar trips during the 2019-20 school year as part of a yearlong grant-funded science education program.

The grant is paying for fourth- and fifth-graders at seven schools in eastern Henrico County, and their teachers, to take field trips to the Presquile National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge, on an island in the James River, is run jointly by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the James River Association. Educators with the James River group take students out on a boat to trawl for fish and see wildlife such as bald eagles. Finally, the boat takes them to the James River Ecology School to explore the island.

“This grant makes valuable, authentic science experiences accessible to students who might not otherwise have these opportunities,” said Judy Christopher, HCPS education specialist for elementary science. “Students aren’t just learning about the food chain from pictures – they’re immersed in the watershed, seeing eagles, picking up fish and learning about our ecosystem from science experts.”

Students petting wildlife with instructor
Sandston Elementary School students learn about the James River ecosystem on a visit to Presquile National Wildlife Refuge in October 2017.

Christopher said that the project uses important community resources to beef up science instruction and make it more equitable, while solidifying concepts that are part of Virginia’s SOL assessments.

Find out more about the James River education program and see a video of Henrico Schools students exploring the Presquile National Wildlife Refuge at

The Henrico Education Foundation supports all schools in Henrico County, working to provide every student and teacher the support and resources they need for success. For more information, go to