April 23, 2010

Spotlight on two VA public schools!

Today, two Virginia public schools (Learn and Serve grantees) presented at a federal interagency service-learning and environmental-education forum at the Corporation for National and Community Service. I was fortunate enough to have received an invitation to attend this event, and was thoroughly impressed and touched by the students and their presentations. Students from both St. Paul High School and the Chesapeake Bay Governor's School for Marine and Environmental Science will take part in the Environmental Protection Agency's Earth Day Celebration on the National Mall.

St. Paul High School (in Wise County) students spoke about Team Estonoa. In a town with a population of less than 1000 people, and a school with a student body population of under 200, the students on Team Estonoa have started to restore the wetlands of Estonoa. They have built a learning center, which serves as an outdoor classroom, to help educate the students and their surrounding community. This learning center boasts a conference room, solar panels, observation deck and a green roof.

According to their data, the students at St. Paul have logged at least 2000 man power hours per year, and are on track to do so again this year. With multiple state and national awards, this team of students has continued to positively impact their community and the Clinch River watershed. Hopefully, even with the talks of consolidating their school with a rival school across county lines, the students of Team Estonoa will be able to continue their mission! Please visit their website for more information about Wetlands Estonoa!

Side note: These plucky students came to DC with t-shirts for President Obama and the rest of the First Family. I hope that those t-shirts do make it to the First Family!

The second school to present was the Chesapeake Bay Governor's School for Marine and Environmental Science (CBGS). These students are required to perform 120 service hours, 60 of which must be environmental service. These students participated in educational outreach to other local schools, restoration at Belle Island State Park and the Urbanna Oyster Festival Marine Science Day.

The CBGS students spoke in depth about their unique education outreach opportunities. The first is the "Hot Days School Science," a hands-on summer science camp. The second is "Squid for Kids," where the students toured eight local schools with a Humboldt Squid (donated by NOAA). Think of the impact that these young people are making on their community and other young people!

As a product of the Virginia Public School system and a coach of a local high school swim team, it was refreshing to see that the school system is still producing great students and has dedicated teachers. I am a firm believer in the public school system, and these students showed what can happen when service-learning is utilized and done well. Even so, when asked by a state school board member what was the one thing they needed, the students answered funding and support. Funding and support!!

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