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School projects awarded funds
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Joel Bunn (standing at right), a biology teacher at Magna Vista High School, describes to local educators and business people Tuesday a school project that was awarded a Partnership In Excellence grant by the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce’s Education Foundation at the chamber. (Bulletin photo by Mickey Powell)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Gardening helps students grow in different ways, according to some local educators who received grants for projects pertaining to the pastime.

One way, they say, is growing things — fruits and vegetables to eat, as well as flowers and plants to see nature’s beauty unfold. Another way is growing as people by gaining a better understanding of the world around them.

For example, they learn about economics, such as in figuring out how many people can be fed with a tomato they grow, said Janice Hodges, a teacher at Albert Harris Elementary School in Martinsville.

They also learn about the joy of giving as they donate some of the fruits of their labors to people in the community, such as nursing home residents, said Barbara Stanley, a teacher at the city’s Patrick Henry Elementary School.

Three projects pertaining to gardening were among the 18 recipients of Partnership-In-Excellence grants awarded Tuesday by the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce Education Foundation. The grants total $6,026.74 and fund innovative classroom projects at local schools and colleges.

Three of the funded projects pertain to gardening.

An Axton Elementary School project aims to help children learn about what plants need to be able to grow — such as water, air and sunlight — and how plants change as they are growing.

Albert Harris students will observe the life cycles of plants in a greenhouse and learn about the work involved in caring for greenery. Meanwhile, Patrick Henry pupils will receive plants to care for, according to a document.

Educators say they can tie gardening lessons into the state Standards of Learning. For example, students learn math skills by measuring plants and making predictions about how much a plan will grow, a document shows.

If they do not learn about gardening at school, some students might not have another opportunity, educators said.

“Seeds are kind of expensive” and due to economic factors, “it’s kind of hard for parents to buy plants” now, Hodges said.

It also is hard for parents to afford to take their children to the coast, said Anne Stultz, coordinator of 21st century programs for the city schools.

Martinsville Middle School received a grant to take students on a field trip to the Virginia Air and Space Center in Hampton.

The center has “a lot of interactive exhibits,” such as ones that let students launch a rocket and pretend to pilot a space shuttle, Stultz said.

Since the students and faculty members on the trip will be so close to the coast, they might as well stop by the beach, too, she reasoned.

Students on similar field trips in the past have told her they never had been to the beach, she emphasized.

Magna Vista High School is receiving grants to buy technology for students to learn how to take tests that do not involve multiple choice questions, as well as acquire, store and print information electronically.

Joel Bunn, a biology teacher at the school, said the county school system has done a good job overall of funding schools’ technology needs.

But there are “a few missing links,” Bunn said, such as a certain type of printer that helps students retain research done on tablet computers.

Schools received education foundation grants between $200 and $500, said Sharon Shepherd, the chamber of commerce’s deputy director.

Other funded projects include:

• Visits by students at the Clearview Early Learning Center to the Danville Science Center, where they will study insects and human senses.

• A Carlisle School project focused on “how we organize ourselves” that involves identifying real-life problems and finding solutions to them.

• Providing culinary students at Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) tools they need to properly display food they prepare.

• Bringing PHCC science students to the Virginia Museum of Natural History to observe work in laboratories that enhances their classroom experiences.

• An event at Campbell Court Elementary School that helps parents teach their children collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking skills by playing with a popular brand of plastic children’s building blocks.

• A project at Fieldale-Collinsville Middle School that teaches intellectually disabled students about emergency services jobs, which many of them are interested in.

• Starting a running club at Axton Elementary to promote self-respect and healthy lifestyles among girls.

• Buying tablet computers for students at Albert Harris to record and edit videos as part of geography, economics and history lessons. The videos will be posted online for students elsewhere to use, according to teacher Greg Hackenberg.

• Buying electronic devices to help accounting students at the New College Institute (NCI) figure out solutions to problems.

• Buying books for NCI to distribute to kindergarten students as part of its “Reading for Life” program.

• Activities of a performing arts troupe being formed at PHCC.

• Buying cameras for Albert Harris students to take photos they can write about, thereby helping them to improve their literacy skills.

Violet Nelson, the school’s instructional coordinator, said some pupils this year have been “kind of slow to find something to write about.”

Students are proud of photos they take, Nelson said, and “they do better” when they write about them versus, for example, writing about drawings in coloring books.

Shepherd and Brenell Thomas, chairman of the education foundation, said there were at least 28 applications for Partnership-In-Excellence grants this year but not all could be funded.


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