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Harpeth Hall Winterim Prepares Students for Environmental Stewardship

February 5, 2020

The Cumberland River Compact provides unique experiences to meet people where they are in their journey of environmental knowledge so they can take active roles in their schools, homes, and communities. We do this through events like our summer Waterfest that connects environmental learning and summer fun, our River Talks series that connects our community to movers and thinkers, and finally, through a variety of youth education programs that we take to the classroom and outdoors.

When stewardship calls

For some, our biodiversity calls them to be a water steward. For others, natural beauty may be the source of artistic inspiration. Others may enjoy learning how history has shaped and been shaped the Cumberland River. 

In any case, when students select to take our Winterim course, they have the opportunity to connect with water through a variety of activities and hands-on learning experiences that foster their understanding of the natural world.

Cumberland River curriculum

Our Cumberland River curriculum is one of our most unique programs, taught each January at Harpeth Hall’s WinterimDuring the Winterim, students are able to explore their interests through experiential learning outside of the traditional classroom experience. For instance, on-campus Winterim offerings for 9th and 10th-grade girls cover things like Forensics, Jane Austen novels, typography, and more.

Our course, The Wild, Weird, and Wonderful Cumberland River, uses a project-based learning approach to explore water and the environment from art, science, engineering, and historical perspectives.

For instance, students might have the opportunity to dive deep into environmental issues on their campus or in their neighborhood looking at things like stream impairments, stormwater infrastructure (or lack thereof), or threats to biodiversity.

As these students go on to become the next generation of water advocates and environmental stewards, courses like this, as well as continued opportunities to engage with our natural world, will empower them to take action in their schools and communities. 

Curriculum highlights:

  • Viewing of “Voyage of an Adventure”, exploring John Donelson’s journey down the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers.
  • Field Trip to the Tennessee State Museum with a museum educator. 
  • Water marbling art reflects the geography and geology of our watershed.
  • A modified version of our popular Creek Critters program explores the Biodiversity of our region
  • Photography exploration of the “Taming of the Cumberland” and the implications on today. 
  • Students use green infrastructure and data from iCreek and Model My Watershed to create a plan for reducing run-off on Harpeth Hall’s campus
  • Field Trip to The River Center to see the Cumberland River, downtown green infrastructure practices, and more. 

What students get from our course

At the end of the 3-week course, students gain skills and confidence to discuss environmental issues and opportunities in the areas they care about. We are always so excited to see the new connections students form at the end of the course; from spotting green infrastructure techniques around town to watching where the water flows when it rains or having a new appreciation for the history of the river.  

If you are interested in bringing the Cumberland River curriculum to your school, please reach out to! Although the curriculum is specially designed for Harpeth Hall, there are units that are transferable to different settings. For example, there are 4 lessons that make up the campus run-off project that are replicable in high school classes. 

Our Cumberland River curriculum is modeled after the Hudson River curriculum taught at the Masters School in upstate New York. Thanks to the generous support of Mrs. Margaret Smith Warner and Mr. Overton T. Smith, on behalf of the Henry Laird Smith Family Foundation, we are able to provide our own version here in Middle Tennessee.