The Learning Barge Marian Anderfuren

The Learning Barge has gone from concept to classroom.

UVA officials, professors and students joined local dignitaries at Portsmouth’s High Street Ferry Landing on Sept. 15 to christen the barge, a floating environmental wetlands learning center.

The 120-foot vessel, designed and built by UVA faculty members and students in collaboration with the nonprofit Elizabeth River Project, emphasizes the importance of stewardship of the river and other waters feeding the Chesapeake Bay.

The barge is a model of energy efficiency. “The barge is completely off the grid, so we generate our own power, collect rainwater and treat that water onboard,” said Phoebe Crisman, a UVA architecture professor who conceived of the project in 2005.

Students and faculty from both the architecture and engineering schools collaborated on designing and building the barge. In addition, the University partnered with public and private groups to complete the project.

Ownership of the barge has been turned over to the Elizabeth River Project, which plans to offer student field trips during the week at various points along the river. On weekends, the barge will host programs for the public.