Extension agents now certified to teach inclusion and diversity principles across state

BLACKSBURG, Va., Dec. 16, 2014 – Nine Virginia Cooperative Extension employees recently came to Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus where they participated in a week-long inclusion and diversity program.

All 9 are now qualified to take what they have learned back to their respective communities to teach others how to create and maintain environments in which all community members feel valued and respected.

Participants included:

  • Jennifer Bowen, Prince Edward County
  • Tara Brent, Northumberland County
  • Katherine Carter, Botetourt County
  • Corey Childs, Warren County
  • Sam Nagurny, Fairfax County
  • Daniel Nortman, York County
  • Molly Parker, Bath County
  • Drexel Pierce, Greensville County
  • Christina Ruszczyk-Murray, Northampton County

During the week-long program, participants attended several Diversity Development Institute workshops, including Fundamentals of Diversity, Fostering Inclusive Environments, and Communicating Respectfully in a Diverse World. At the end of the week, they received their Diversity Ally Certificate.

The Diversity Ally Certificate is one of the many certificate programs offered through University Organizational and Professional Development in Virginia Tech’s Department of Human Resources. A total of 73 faculty and staff members have earned the certificate, which is open to all Virginia Tech employees who want to develop their skills in diversity and inclusion content and practice.

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Virginia Cooperative Extension encourages Virginians to prepare for winter

Do not overexert yourself when shoveling snow or stay outdoors for long periods of time. Photo credit: Extension Disaster Education Network

Do not overexert yourself when shoveling snow or stay outdoors for long periods of time. Photo credit: Extension Disaster Education Network

BLACKSBURG, Va., Nov. 26, 2014 – The National Weather Service and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management have set Nov. 30-Dec. 6, 2014, as Winter Preparedness Week.

“We live in an area where snow, ice, and low temperatures are common, and winterizing your home is a good first step in preparing for winter months,” said Michael Martin, Virginia Cooperative Extension emergency response and preparedness coordinator. “Make sure that your home is well-insulated and that water lines are protected from freezing.”

According to Martin, Virginia is vulnerable to severe winter weather that can bring extended periods of freezing temperatures, high winds, heavy snow accumulation, freezing rain, and ice accumulation.

“The effects of these storms can include power outages, downed trees and tree branches, blocked roadways, and broken water pipes,” Martin said. “Residents may also find themselves without power or heat for several days and may be unable to leave their homes due to the storm’s effects.”

Martin encourages Virginians to prepare for power outages.

“Some things to consider include heat sources, light sources, food, and water. Don’t forget your pets and livestock as well,” Martin said. “As with preparation for all emergencies, get a kit, make a plan, and stay informed.”

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Virginia Cooperative Extension part of network helping military families across America

The Military Families Learning Network helps military family service professionals with family development, military caregiving, personal finance, and network literacy topics through engaged online communities. Photo credit: U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Mozer O. Da Cunha

The Military Families Learning Network helps military family service professionals with family development, military caregiving, personal finance, and network literacy topics through engaged online communities. Photo credit: U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Mozer O. Da Cunha

BLACKSBURG, Va., Nov. 26, 2014 – The Military Families Learning Network (MFLN) has received a grant from the Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Agriculture that will allow it to continue and expand its work serving military family service professionals around the world.

Virginia Cooperative Extension Specialist Sarah Baughman and Extension Project Associate Brigitte Scott are working with the MFLN as part of its leadership team. Baughman is the national project leader, while Scott is the evaluation and research leader for the network.

Kyle Kostelecky, project director at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Elbert Dickey, principal investigator at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, announced that the new award will be housed at the Chez Family Foundation Center for Wounded Veterans in Higher Education on the University of Illinois campus.

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Trout in the classroom

4-H Extension Agent Beth Hawse works with students in an activity where they learn the anatomy of trout.

4-H Extension Agent Beth Hawse works with students in an activity where they learn the anatomy of trout.

By Emily Halstead, Virginia Cooperative Extension Communications and Marketing Intern

Fish are playing an active role in helping sixth-graders in several Virginia schools learn more about the natural environment.

The Trout in the Classroom program, created by 4-H Extension Agent Beth Hawse, allowed students to raise trout and monitor their growth as well as to experience the release of the fish at the end of the yearlong curriculum.

“I offered presentations on trout of Virginia, the trout life cycle, external and internal trout anatomy, trout dissection, and trout adaptions,” Hawse said. “The unit culminated with a field experience to release the trout. The students had a blast.”

According to Hawse, the project provided students with a meaningful watershed educational opportunity, ensuring that their experience releasing the trout offered more awareness of the importance of environmental education.

“Freeman Tilden wrote a book called ‘Interpreting Our Heritage,’ where he stresses the importance of the idea that ‘through interpretation, understanding; through understating, appreciation; through appreciation, protection,’” Hawse said. “His point was if people don’t understand why they should care about resources — cultural, historical, natural —- they won’t care. If we can help lead them to care about resources, if we can relate those resources to something important to the individual, they’ll learn to care.”

The Trout in the Classroom curriculum was originally offered to 67 students from Rockbridge Middle School, but as a result of the program’s success, several other local schools have asked to implement the project. Hawse is now offering the program in Bedford County where she recently transferred.

“The success has been two-fold. When I started in Rockbridge County, it had been years since 4-H had outreach in schools. I focused on getting back into schools and making partnerships,” Hawse said. “When I transferred to Bedford County, Rockbridge had scheduled every sixth-grade student in the county to participate in the program. I think for me, there’s also success in the impact that environmental education has on the students.”

The Virginia 4-H Foundation and the Virginia Resource Use Education Council are funding the program in Bedford County. Hawse said she hopes to use the grants to provide Bedford with a trout tank.

 

 

Student researcher studies the core of cider production

Virginia Tech senior Meg McGuire works at Foggy Ridge Cidery in Dugspur, Va. She helps process the apples, which involves washing, milling, and pressing to remove juice, which is then fermented on-site to make hard cider.

Virginia Tech senior Meg McGuire works at Foggy Ridge Cidery in Dugspur, Va. She helps process the apples, which involves washing, milling, and pressing to remove juice, which is then fermented on-site to make hard cider.

BLACKSBURG, Va., Nov. 20, 2014 – It’s been said that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. But one Virginia Tech student researcher is interested in a different phenomenon: howmany apples fall from the tree, and how does this affect cider quality?

Meg McGuire of Dublin, Virginia, a senior majoring in food science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is interested in how the crop yield of apple trees affects the apple quality and ultimately, cider quality.

Over the past 10 years, entrepreneurial cider-making has enjoyed a boom in Virginia with more than 10 licensed commercial cideries in operation. This industry is expected to continue to boost Virginia’s economy for a long time to come.

Wine production is also popular in the region, but McGuire believes that cider making could equal or even bypass that industry, noting that in many areas of the state, climate and soil are much more conducive to apple growing than grape growing.

McGuire works with two College of Agriculture and Life Sciences faculty, Amanda Stewart, an assistant professor of food science and technology and Fralin Life Science Institute affiliate, and Greg Peck, an assistant professor of horticulture, to better understand the optimal orchard management practices for hard cider production.

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