GLOUCESTER, Va. (WAVY) – Alongside the mouth of the York River is a first grade classroom inside Achilles Elementary that’s full of smiles, excitement and life. Teaching for 15 years now, Deborah Armentrout uses her biology background to bring environmental science into each subject lesson.

“I love when years later a child comes back and says, ‘Oh! I remember when you did this,’” said Armentrout. “I love when parents send me a note saying, ‘Oh, my daughter came home after that experiment and went through our cabinet and pulled everything out and made us do the experiment.’”

A lot of these classroom lessons go beyond the four brick walls. Armentrout takes her students outside, into the environment, to foster a love for learning. Out back by the playground, the students get their hands dirty, tending to six donated redbud trees and two gardens built with the help of the community.

“And a lot of times after we do the work and when we come back in, we can put the words to the work we did,” added Armentrout. “To me, that’s how I feel kids can learn the best.”

Armentrout implements the history of Gloucester’s environment into these gardens, using Easter Woodland Native American and Virginia agricultural plants.

“We only get one planet Earth and it is up to all of us to take care of it,” said Armentrout. “That’s what I would like to leave with my students now and future generations.”

She has also built out a lesson program focused on the needs, and importance, of the Chesapeake Bay.