Seeking Hands-On Outdoor Experience
After World War II, developers transformed much of Arlington County’s open land into urban neighborhoods, destroying open meadows, forests, and other natural areas. By the mid-1960s, Dr. Phoebe Hall Knipling, Science Supervisor at Arlington Public Schools (and the first person to hold such a position in Virginia), encountered a major challenge to developing the district's science curriculum: her students’ lack of hands-on experiences with nature and wildlife.
Beginning in the 1950s, Dr. Knipling worked hard to create a more engaging, participatory science curriculum. She started the school system’s annual science fair, a relatively new educational exercise at the time, and ran a summer science program to take students on excursions through natural areas outside the metropolitan area. But Dr. Knipling found it increasingly difficult to locate natural, relatively untouched areas close to Arlington for these field trips.
Dr. Knipling spent three years searching for an undisturbed area to reserve as an outdoor laboratory exclusively for Arlington County students to observe the forces of nature at work.
You can read more about Dr. Knipling and the Outdoor Lab, and view related archival material including additional photos, in the Center for Local History's online exhibit Women's Work: Stories of Persistence and Influence.