Hands-On Learning Adventures Outside the Classroom in Norfolk, VA

11/20/2009  |  ERIN LUNDY
outdoor adventures

This season, whether during a fieldtrip or weekend stay, students who visit the port city of Norfolk,VA will see their schoolbooks come to life.While in Norfolk, not only will they have the opportunity to learn more about history, art, science and the mysteries of the deep blue sea, but experience them as well — and have fun while doing it!

Those interested in deep-sea exploration have also come to the right place! Located right next door to USS Wisconsin, Norfolk’s interactive science center, NAUTICUS, features more than 150 nautical exhibits, including a simulated destroyer, saltwater aquariums, computer and video interactive films on a giant screen, exotic aquaria, touch pools and national-caliber traveling exhibits.

No visit would be complete without setting sail on Norfolk’s Elizabeth River. The Tall Ship American Rover, which cruises Norfolk’s beautiful harbor, allows students to try their hand at sailing! Victory Rover is a two-hour narrated tour of the world’s largest naval base, featuring close-up views of giant aircraft carriers, destroyers, submarines, frigates and amphibious assault ships.

If you crave more adventure on the water, head over to the 155-acre Norfolk Botanical Garden where students can kayak through azalea, camellia, rose and rhododendron gardens along Lake Whitehurst.The garden’s G.E.E.K.S. program (Garden-based Environmental Education Knowledge for Students) features guided garden tours for small and large groups. Students will have the chance to observe the creepy crawlers that help plants thrive, such as butterflies and dragonflies. Learners will also benefit from the many educational resources available at the garden, including exploration of the Chesapeake Bay and learning about the different geographic regions located within the state of Virginia.

In Norfolk, learning about science is an all out adventure. After conquering the water world, students can take a hands-on approach to learning about the animals and plants that live above sea level.The Virginia Zoo, set on 53 sprawling acres, is home to more than 350 animals from all environments. Students get the opportunity to embark on a behind-the-scenes tour to witness a day in the life of a zoologist.At the end of your visit jump on the brand new Zoo Train, a one-third scale model of a C.P. Huntington steam engine, that takes visitors on a narrated ride through the beautiful grounds.

After all this outdoor activity, it’s time to eat! A downtown pizzeria offers students the opportunity to make their very own pizza in the restaurant’s kitchen. For dessert, be sure to stop by Doumar’s retro restaurant, home of the world’s very first ice cream cone.

Norfolk is brimming with historical adventures for students eager to learn. Home to many sites that helped shape the history of the United States, students can not only read about the Revolutionary War, but they can also visit St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, where a cannonball from the Battle of Great Bridge remains lodged in one of the church’s original walls. While walking along the city’s heritage trail, known as the Cannonball Trail, visitors can also experience more than 40 historic sites woven throughout downtown Norfolk.Additional attractions such as the Hampton Roads Naval Museum and the MacArthur Memorial help bright minds delve deeper into Norfolk’s military history, including the Atlantic Navy’s role in the battle off the Virginia Capes during World War II. Instead of just reading about the USS Wisconsin’s mission during the Gulf War in 1991, students can actually walk and explore its decks!

Beyond historical sites, Norfolk is also home to world-class art. While learning about the Renaissance, students can head over to Norfolk’s Chrysler Museum of Art and stand in awe in front of the works of Bernardo Cavallino and Salvator Rosa.The museum also features a vast collection of contemporary art, photography and Tiffany glass. Customized tours are also available, such as the “Ancient Worlds,Ancient Lives” tour, displaying artifacts from ancient civilizations and the “Animals in Art” tour, where learners are introduced into the world of art by searching for animals in the museum’s most popular artworks. For a more hands-on experience, visitors can stop by Norfolk’s d’ART Center where they can learn painting, sculpting and stitching techniques from local and regional artists.

Whether studying the earth’s complex ecosystems, the Renaissance Era, or the Revolutionary War, students will be immersed and entertained in the many learning adventures available in Norfolk.

For more information contact the Norfolk Convention and Visitors Bureau at 800-368-3097 or visit www.visitnorfolktoday.com.
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