WHRO Public Media took home the Overall Excellence in Innovation for its Immersive Environmental Learning Van Program at a recent Public Media Awards ceremony.

The Public Media Awards honor the achievements of public media stations in education, community engagement, marketing/communication, and content. The 54th Annual Public Media Awards were given in a celebration on September 18, during the 2022 National Educational Telecommunications Association (NETA) Conference and Corporation for Public Broadcasting Public Media Thought Leader Forum.

WHRO’s GreenBeats Environmental Van Program, an innovative and immersive educational experience, is a collaboration between WHRO and the Virginia Stage Company. This program, one of several under WHRO’s Batten Environmental Education Initiative, centers on WHRO’s popular GreenBeats animated musical video series.

In the summer of 2021, WHRO’s digital learning department worked with local teachers to create grade level lessons (K-5 ) and digital interactivities aligned to Virginia’s Science Standards of Learning and Virginia’s 5Cs: Critical Thinking, Creative Thinking, Communication, Collaboration, and Citizenship. Each lesson revolves around a specific environmental issue addressed in the GreenBeats videos. These lessons, designed as the centerpiece of the environmental van program, include group and individual hands-on activities as well as the digital interactivities loaded on the van’s thirty Surface Go tablets. These fun activities ask students to apply what they have learned and give immediate feedback on whether they have made wise choices to protect the environment.

During the fall and winter months, WHRO worked with the Virginia Stage Company to create a thirty-minute musical that weaves the songs from the GreenBeats videos into a story about Malia, a young girl who sings and dances her way through her neighborhood learning how to take care of the environment. The show was developed as a companion to WHRO’s new environmental van and its classroom program. As COVID restrictions eased, WHRO put the new environmental van and show into service in the spring of 2022. This program was designed to be flexible enough to meet a range of school and event needs. Schools and events can schedule the show and the van together or separately. Either way, children learn about caring for the environment. Singing, dancing, animation, digital games, and much more. Could learning be more fun?

The program was a big hit with teachers who submitted the following comments:

"You were fantastic! Thank you! These children haven't been able to see live theatre in years!"

"The whole program was awesome. It was engaging for all students. My students were singing the song for a while and they loved the Scoop the Poop video!"

"The performance was informative and engaging for the children - they still talk about it. Additionally, the game on the tablets was great as well as the van itself."

In addition to WHRO’s winning “Excellence in Innovation” award for our Immersive Environmental Learning - The WHRO Van Program at the 54th Public Media Awards, WHRO placed as finalists in the following categories:

Performing Arts - Curate 757: Swamp Dogg, WHRO 

Short Form - Curate 757: Freeman Vines, WHRO 

Teacher Professional Learning - Cultural Competence Professional Development for Virginia, WHRO

Learning Events - The GreenBeats Environmental Experience, WHRO 

Innovation in Education - Student Advisory Board, WHRO 

Social Media - Ms. Martha Reads with the First Lady, WHRO

Congratulations to everyone involved! 

Read more about WHRO's environmental education and other initiatives.