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Farmwell Station Science Teacher Wins Environmental Excellence Award

Manju Gomathinayagam, a 7th-grade science teacher at Farmwell Station Middle School, was awarded an Environmental Excellence Award from the Loudoun County Environmental Commission for founding and conducting the school’s Young Naturalist Club. 

In 2021, on a rainy spring morning said Gomathinayagam, she attended a K-12 Outdoor Class professional development training offered by Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy at Sterling Elementary. The class provided instruction to educators on nature observation and how it can be used to reinforce skills in other curriculum areas. 

After taking this class, Gomathinayagam decided to start a Nature Journaling Club at Farmwell Station. During the after-school club, which is now in its second year, students learn nature journaling techniques. 

For each class, Gomathinayagam selects a nature journaling technique to focus on, shows a brief video or conducts a lesson on the technique, and then gives the students time to practice it. In the fall and spring, the students have some time to participate in outdoor observations. In May, Gomathinayagam will select five journals and submit them to the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy for review. At the Conservancy’s annual meeting in June, the best journals will be recognized.

Gomathinayagam says that given the time, space and freedom to express themselves through their nature journals, the students present fresh and engaging perspectives. “I’ve seen several students pour their hearts into their journals because they know it is a safe space. They are also excited to learn about nature. They are so proud of their drawings. All of this is what drives me,” said Gomathinayagam.

Gomathinayagam was humble about the recognition. “I truly think that there are many, many more educators doing far more than I am doing. I feel lucky that I was nominated. But this recognition is more than an honor to me. I take it as a responsibility to do more.”

Published April 22, 2024