The Virginia Natural Resources Education Guide is designed to provide teachers resources and lesson plans revolving around Virginia’s natural resources. The lesson plans are aligned to the elementary and middle school Virginia Standards of Learning and cover a variety of topics.
Agriculture is Virginia's largest industry and forms the basis for a number of related enterprises including food and fiber production, processing, distribution and marketing. About 20 of every 100 jobs are held in agriculture. In Virginia, agriculture spans a wide spectrum of activities, from the traditional raising of field crops, vegetables, livestock and nursery products to the breeding of commercial horses, bottling of premium wines and growing of fish (aquaculture).
Look to the sky. Air seems boundless and, for that reason, often taken for granted. Above the state of Virginia alone rests over 1 trillion tons of it. But just like water, not all of it is usable to you. Yet even with all of this volume, air must constantly be reused. In fact the air you are breathing now was in someone else's lungs earlier. Air is the ultimate recyclable material.
Wetlands are combinations of land and water. They may be covered by water most of the time or only on occasion. Plants and animals living here must be specially adapted to survive the twice daily changes of incoming and outgoing tides, resulting mainly from the gravitational pull of the moon on the water as Earth turns. Virginia's tidal wetlands include salt marshes, brackish and freshwater marshes, and swamps.
- Coastal Wetland Resources-This is a PDF document. (PDF)
- Coastal Wetland Lesson Plan-This is a PDF document. (PDF): Let the Sunshine In (Grade 1)
Forests cover 62 percent of the state’s land area making forestry the single most important land use in Virginia. Forests tend to be found on land that is unsuitable for other uses, particularly agriculture. On the coastal plain, you are most likely to see forests growing on land that is too wet (at least seasonally) for farming, such as in swamps or on land that has a high water table. On the piedmont, forests tend to grow on land that was formerly farmed but has badly eroded and grown back into forestland through a process called succession. In the Blue Ridge, ridge and valley and Appalachian plateau regions, forests occur on land that is too steep or too rocky to farm. Two-thirds of all forest land in Virginia is owned by private landowners who pay taxes on their forest land. Other forest land is owned by local, state and federal governments and held as forests and parks. As of 2016, Virginia has one national forest (the George Washington and Jefferson), 24 state forests, Shenandoah National Park and 62 natural area preserves.
- Virginia’s Forest Resources, 2016-This is a PDF document. (PDF)
- Forest Resources-This is a PDF document. (PDF)
- Changing Forests-This is a PDF document. (PDF) – Science SOL 3.6, 3.10, 4.5, 4.9, 6.7, 6.9, LS.10, LS.11, ES.11, ES.6, BIO.8
- Diminished Species (Going, Going, Gone)-This is a PDF document. (PDF) – Science SOL 6.9, LS. 9, LS. 10, LS. 11, BIO.1, BIO. 8
- Forest Succession-This is a PDF document. (PDF) – Science 6.1, LS.1, LS.9, LS.10, LS.11, BIO.1, BIO.6, BIO.8
- ID That Tree-This is a PDF document. (PDF) – Science 3.6, 4.1, 4.4, 4.5, 4.9, 5.1, 5.5, 6.1, LS.1, LS.5, LS.9, BIO.1, BIO.6
- What Would You Do?-This is a PDF document(PDF) – Science 6.7, 6.9, LS.11, ES.6, BIO.8
- Wildlife in the Forest-This is a PDF document. (PDF) – Science LS.6, LS.7, LS.8, LS.9, LS.10, BIO.1, BIO.8
Whether it’s making an arrowhead or building a Capitol, much of what people create lasts long after their creators have departed. In this way, their creations become today’s historic resources. When it comes to the environment, we are so accustomed to thinking about the things we derive from nature – from minerals, forests, rivers, the land and the ocean – that we overlook historic resources… the things we derive from history.
Minerals & Energy
Minerals are the raw materials that support much of modern life, everything from transportation to growing food. Chemists, all sorts of manufacturers, farmers and a variety of artisans depend upon minerals to conduct business. Virginia's mineral deposits are vast and varied, but coal remains most important in Virginia.
- Minerals and Energy Resources-This is a PDF document. (PDF)
- Minerals and Energy Lesson Plan-This is a PDF document. (PDF): Energy in the Balance (Grades 4 - 6)
Native plants are among Virginia's greatest natural resources with thousands of plant native species as well as various mosses and lichens. They also are part of our natural resource heritage. They provide the basis for many habitats and ecological communities and serve as valuable tools in understanding the natural world.
Open Spaces & Public Lands
In 1607, when the first European settlers landed on the coast of what would become the Commonwealth of Virginia, the natural resources they encountered appeared to be inexhaustible. The rivers, lakes and bays were clean and pure, the virgin forests seemed limitless, the fish and wildlife were abundant, and the air was clean.
- Open Spaces and Public Lands Resources-This is a PDF document. (PDF)
- Open Spaces and Public Lands Lesson Plan-This is a PDF document. (PDF): No Limits: An Activity About Invasive Species (Grades 3 - 6)
Public Policy & Environmental Management
In the 1960s, Virginians faced a wide variety of environmental problems, from the pollution of air and water to the decline of wildlife and other living resources. For example: Fish in the James River were contaminated because of illegal Kepone disposal; people could not swim in the Potomac River because of inadequate sewage disposal; and the bald eagle and osprey nearly became extinct because of DDT bio-accumulation. While many environmental problems persist, most Virginians today live in an age when the risk of human exposure to potentially harmful pollutants has dropped significantly.
Every time you step outdoors and look to the horizon, you gaze upon one of Virginia's greatest natural resources: soil. It is the "backbone" of life. Soil is at the base of every building, highway, farm road, airport and bridge. And just as the human backbone holds our frames in place, soil holds the nutrients and water needed to grow our crops, livestock and timber.
Waste Management & Pollution Prevention
Waste management is how we “handle our trash." Most communities use an integrated approach to waste management, meaning they use a variety of ways to handle the trash produced by their citizens. Some of these include pollution prevention, landfilling, recycling, composting, waste reduction, waste-to-energy plants, hazardous waste disposal and litter prevention and control.
- Waste Management and Pollution Prevention Resources-This is a PDF document. (PDF)
- Waste Management and Pollution Prevention Lesson Plan-This is a PDF document. (PDF): Waste Stream Analysis (Grade 6)
Water is vital to Virginia's well-being, as it is to communities around the globe. Water supports virtually every human endeavor, from farming and forestry to the generation of electric power and all types of manufacturing.
Virginians are fortunate to share their home with a wide diversity of wildlife. More than 10,000 species of birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates may be found from the depths of the Atlantic Ocean to Virginia's highest mountaintop, Mount Rogers. Regardless of whether a species flies, swims or crawls, it must have a healthy habitat, or home, to thrive.
Virginia Resource-Use Education Council in conjunction with the Virginia Department of Education
Sally H. Mills, Virginia Resource-Use Education Council
- Office of the Secretary of Natural Resources
- Shenandoah National Park
- State Arboretum of Virginia
- The National Energy Education Development Project
- USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service
- Virginia Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts
- Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation
- Virginia Department of Education
- Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
- Virginia Department of Forestry
- Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries
- Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy
- Virginia Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom
- Virginia Institute of Marine Science
- Virginia Museum of Natural History
- Virginia State University
- Virginia Tech, College of Forestry and Wildlife Resource