From the very beginning of Rock Point's existence as a "Sanctuary in the heart of Burlington," education has been a core part of our mission. In fact, when the land that belonged originally to Bishop Hopkins was donated to the Episcopal Diocese, it was with the stipulation that it always serve as a hub for lifelong learning (read more about our history here).
There has never been a time when the opportunity for outdoor learning spaces has felt more relevant than it does today. COVID-19 has challenged educators and parents alike when it comes to envisioning what "school" will look like for our kids. And for some, going to school has included going to Rock Point.
In mid-September, Rock Point was the destination for students from The University of Vermont's Rubenstein School for the Environment. More than a hundred students enrolled in "Natural Resources 1" - one of the foundation courses for the entire natural resources school - donned their bike helmets to ride to class. But instead of going "up the hill" to UVM, they headed toward the Lake and held class at Rock Point.
Students from NR 1 learned about Rock Point's natural and human history, as well as its current role in the community, while walking our trails and visiting the shoreline. They held class, socially-distant with masks on, beneath our famous "thrust fault," and looked out at our incomparable views of Lake Champlain.
While UVM classes have been visiting here for a long time, Professor Walter Poleman made a special effort to make Rock Point part of the curriculum this year. He wanted to be sure that students would have this "laboratory" of ecological conversation as part of their curriculum even if they ended up having to work remotely. So, in his usual style, Walt went out of his way to serve his students by making videos about Rock Point that they would watch if they couldn't be there in person. Check out his Introduction to Rock Point video above that gives a great overview of how Rock Point aims to meet our goal of being a sustainable sanctuary!
Beyond the University of Vermont, Rock Point also serves as host to Crow's Path - an outdoor education program that allows children to creatively connect with the "wild world" on a weekly basis. Although Crow's Path has been around for years, their importance has been reinforced this year as programs like this have become an important alternative for families who are only able to access part-time school.
Conversations continue to arise on a daily basis with programs that might benefit from accessing Rock Point's outdoor and safe indoor spaces. For example, we are working with Burlington's "On Top" Alternative High School Program to explore how Rock Point can support them during the closure of the High School this semester.
If you know of an educational program who could benefit from visiting Rock Point, please reach out to us for more information. We would love to see how we can partner to keep kids safe, engaged, and learning as we navigate this global pandemic.