Students hiking through Prince William Forest Park on a NatureBridge school program

Sense of Place: Prince William Forest

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NatureBridge's environmental science educators lead interactive online sessions designed to introduce the unique ecosystems, cultural features and natural history of Prince William Forest Park, the largest protected natural area in the D.C. metropolitan area. 

Program Format

Two educators lead each 40- to 60-minute session as presenter and host using a video conference platform such as Zoom. Attending teachers participate as chaperones who observe and assist students as needed. Interactive technology tools may include Prezi, Jamboards, Google Earth, breakout sessions and participant polls.

Session 1: Community Building and Intro to Prince William Forest Park 40- to 60-minute live session
Students will meet NatureBridge Educators and work as a group to establish community norms and guidelines. Students will engage in team-building activities that help to create a fun and safe learning space to share and interact for future lessons. Educators will then introduce a variety of Prince William Forest’s abiotic, biotic and cultural features. From spies to salamanders, students virtually explore the trails of this Piedmont forest with Google Earth and investigate what makes the park unique.

Session 2: Create a National Park 40- to 60-minute live session
Students explore the National Park Service mission statement to answer the essential question, “Why do our parks exist?” Educators challenge students to create their own national park, incorporating their choice of abiotic, biotic and cultural features from Prince William Forest. 

Session 3: Solutions for the Future 40- to 60-minute live session
Students come together to envision how they would adapt their park in response to environmental and social problems like climate change and inaccessibility, and discuss how green spaces can be part of the climate solution. 


Students will be able to: 

  • Locate Prince William Forest Park on a map.
  • Define abiotic, biotic and cultural features of an ecosystem and identify them in Prince William Forest Park.
  • Visit points of interest within Prince William Forest Park and hear about their cultural history.
  • Make connections between the ecosystems in their home communities and those found in Prince William Forest Park.
  • Design a national park with biotic, abiotic and cultural features and share their work.
  • Think critically about the effects that current issues like climate change, entrance fees, litter, invasive species and increased visitation would have on the biotic and abiotic factors of their parks.
  • Work together to think of ways to adapt their parks.

State and National Standards

Virginia Standards of Learning

  • LS.9 The student will investigate and understand that relationships exist between ecosystem dynamics and human activity. Key ideas include variations in biotic and abiotic factors can change ecosystems.
  • LS.5: Abiotic and Biotic factors and their interactions in a larger ecosystem.

NGSS Standards

  • MS-LS2-2. Construct an explanation that predicts patterns of interactions among organisms across multiple ecosystems.
  • MS-LS2-3.Develop a model to describe the cycling of matter and flow of energy among living and nonliving parts of an ecosystem.
  • 5-ESS3-1. Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth’s resources and environment.
  • Disciplinary Core Ideas: LS2 Ecosystems, LS2. A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems ESS3.C: Human impacts on Earth systems, ETS1: Engineering Design, ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions
  • Practices: Developing and using models, asking questions/ defining problems, constructing explanations, Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information
  • Crosscutting Concepts: Systems and System Models; Patterns; Cause and Effect



Materials Needed

Access to a computer, tablet or other online learning compatible device. Building materials to create a model of their own national park and paper/pencil.

Adult Expectations

At least one teacher will be present throughout each live online session. Other adults may attend by invitation from the teacher or group coordinator. All attending adults must complete NatureBridge’s Participant Registration Form in advance of the session. 

It is the responsibility of attending adults to support student learning and safety during large group instruction and small breakout sessions by following the expectations listed below. 

  • Support students in staying on task. 
  • Address discipline concerns, while allowing students to be engaged and answer questions on their own. 
  • Demonstrate a positive attitude and model inclusive behavior.
  • Communicate with the group’s NatureBridge educator about the educational plan and offer constructive feedback when appropriate.

Schedule this Program

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