In Norfolk elementary schools, students take SOLs on electricity concepts a year after they’ve been taught them. But the Virginia 4-H In-School Electricity Curriculum, supported by Virginia Cooperative Extension, seeks to provide a hands-on refresher before the SOLs — much to the delight of students and teachers alike.
By the end of the day-long session in one classroom, a student was using her necklace in place of a wire to light a circuit.
“This program accomplishes two main things: it brings out students’ creativity while engaging material they already know, and it relieves some pressure on teachers to cover material they may not be familiar with,” said Virginia Cooperative Extension agent and project lead Gregory Costanza.
Typically, students in Norfolk elementary schools are taught the SOL curriculum on electricity in late fall of the fourth-grade year, but take the test in fifth grade. Teachers and principals have expressed concerns with the gap, especially considering many fifth-grade teachers have not taught fourth grade and have little experience with the content.
Each year in the U.S., there are approximately 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths linked to foodborne illness. Twenty foodborne illness outbreaks were reported in 2013 in Virginia alone, with an average of 18 Virginia residents sickened per outbreak.
In Loudoun County, Virginia Cooperative Extension has spent the past two years delivering food safety education programming to locals. In 2015, this included a farmer’s market “Vendor Tuneup” workshop, a presentation on safe food preparation at a farmer’s market annual meeting, a pH testing workshop, two ServSafe Manager courses, on-site evaluations of farms and kitchen operations, and consulting.
In 2016, Extension added onto the program list with food safety and direct marketing workshops for growers, farmers market food safety workshops, ServSafe, a drinking water clinic, and more.
Two greenhouse operations in the area were trained on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification and food safety practices, and have implemented changes as a result of this effort.
In the City of Richmond, Virginia, 40,020 residents are food insecure and lack access to enough food for an active healthy lifestyle — roughly 20 percent of the total city population.
In July 2011, Richmond’s mayor established The Food Policy Task Force to “ensure all residents have access to healthy foods and an understanding of the impact this has on both an individual’s health and the health of the community at large.”
Virginia Cooperative Extension agents served on the task force and found that 20 to 60 percent of Richmond’s population – or between 40,000 to more than 120,000 of total residents – are going hungry or are at risk of food insecurity due to lack of healthy food access or consumption.
In 2014, the Richmond Extension office hosted the Urban Food Desert Symposium at Fifth Street Baptist Church, a church located in one of the 25 food deserts across the City. The First Lady of Virginia, Dorothy McAuliffe, gave opening remarks.
In Virginia Beach, raising awareness in public schools about the importance of environmental sustainability is a city goal. With nearly 68,000 school-age children in Virginia Beach Public Schools and only one horticulture class offered in Virginia Beach Public Schools and one college Horticulture program regionally, it’s impossible to provide sustainable horticulture education to every student.
Virginia Beach Cooperative Extension sought to fill some of that gap, through five events that succeeded in reaching over 6,200 students.
First and second graders in public schools throughout Virginia Beach participated in Ready, Set, Grow, which taught the importance of plants and how they grow.
Junior Master Gardener Camp taught environmental awareness to underserved youth through Parks and Recreation’s Rehabilitation Program.
Farm Days, sponsored by the Virginia Dare Soil and Water Conservation District, taught students about beneficial insects and habitat preservation.
At the W. W. Moore Juvenile Detention facility in Danville, detained youths are being offered the chance at a green thumb, sponsored by Virginia Cooperative Extension. It’s an opportunity that, for some, can change the course of their future.
Jane Clardy, a former teacher and founder of the facility’s 10-week horticulture program, ran into a former detainee and student, who landed a recurring construction job but had hopes of a future in landscaping.
“He told me he always shows his horticulture certificate when he applies and is interviewed,” Clardy said of the encounter. “He told me his goal is to one day be his own boss and have a landscaping company. I smiled for two straight hours after seeing him.”
The program focuses on basic knowledge related to how plants grow, effective plant care strategies, and the importance of proper plant management practices. Holding these basic skills helps make the youth more attractive to an employer in plant nurseries, lawn care companies, and various grounds maintenance careers.