Hands-on Education for Local Students

  • Cherry Blossoms at Bladensburg Waterfront Park
Photos by Carly Brockinton — Prince George’s County Planning Department

Bladensburg Waterfront Park –– Patricia Rhodes, a community referenced instruction (CRI) teacher at Dodge Park Elementary School in Landover, kept her eyes steady on the 20 or so children trapezing through the playground by the water.

As one tried to make a run for it and head out of the mulch-covered area, she sat him down on a bench for “reflection time” during one of the elementary students’ regular outings. Then she paused to explain to another student what mulch was, because the little girl did not recognize the new vocabulary word.

The special education students are part of a self-contained program within the school, where they experience inclusion as part of lunch, art, music, and gym. As part of their specialized classes, the educators take the students on outings, or community-based instruction (CBI) to teach the students—who have two or more qualifying disabilities—how to interact.

As she glanced around the revitalized Bladensburg Waterfront Park, Rhodes said, “This situation is wonderful. We really like the parks and playground. The upkeep is very, very good. It’s hard for us, in the winter, to get out.”

As part of the 2007 Approved Bladensburg Town Center Sector Plan and Sectional Map Amendment, the Prince George’s County Planning Department envisioned the revitalized Anacostia waterfront as “a draw to the community and an attractive western gateway, balanced by the cultural features of the town’s eastern gateway at the Publick Playhouse.”

The students were burning off energy at the playground, but had come to the newly revitalized area to get “first-hand experience of what we’re learning in class”—bridges, columns, and sidewalks.

Bladensburg Waterfront Park is open sunrise to sunset every day and offers canoe, kayak, bike, tricycle, paddle boat, rowboat, and fishing rod rentals; interpretive river boat tours; a riverside walking path; picnic pavilion; hiking trails; playground; Battle of Bladensburg Visitors Center; and programs for students.

When they are not at community parks, the CRI students visit local retailers to buy supplies for the classroom. Rhodes says they learn how to interact with a cashier and handle a money transaction. Or they visit local pet stores and have scavenger hunts for different animals.

“We really appreciate the parks and our community stores,” Rhodes said.

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