There must be nothing cooler than seeing an idea go from a doodle on paper to a sucessful finished product. So I would imagine that when Uva Professor Phoebe Crisman and her team of architecture students cut the ribbon to their brand new Learning Barge in 2009, there were no words to describe their feelings.
The project started in 2005 after Professor Crisman participated in a cleanup project on the Elizabeth River, located in Southeast Virginia along the Hampton Roads Harbor. The Elizabeth River has been home to naval and industrial uses since World War 1, and is consequently one of the most polluted rivers on the Chesapeake Bay. This fact fueled the barge’s design, which is an emblem of sustainability. It it completely off the grid- generating its own power and collecting its own water and treating it onboard.
The learning barge is essentially a floating classroom, bringing in students of all ages every day to learn about wetlands, restoration, and environmental stewardship in interactive, hands-on exhibits. The barge serves as a great experience for adults and children, allowing them to learn about a natural estuarine environment while floating through an area of high industrialized activity and urbanization. It is a model of education beyond textbooks and monitors, teaching important lessons about the impacts of water pollution on the Chesapeake Bay and the importance of sustainable technologies. This project proves that visions really can come true, it just takes some real passion a great leader. Kudos to the Elizabeth River Project and its sponsors for collaborating with such gifted UVa minds!