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Henrico schools ‘dot’ landscape in green

From left, Mary Greenlee and Chris Lundberg, Steward School teachers; Steward mentor Nina Zinn of Urban Backyard Edibles; Jonathan Gosney, Varina HS teacher; and Allison Powell, BCWH architect and Varina mentor.

Henrico schools took two of the five awards at the Second Annual Connect the Dots for Green Schools Awards Ceremony, hosted Nov. 10 by The Steward School. In addition to hosting the ceremony, Steward – winner of the second place Leadership Award – also provided a hard-hat tour of the Bryan Innovation Lab, a state-of-the-art instructional center slated for completion in the spring.

Sponsored by the James River Green Building Council (JRGBC), the Connect the Dots Green School Challenge encourages area schools to devise and implement creative, effective and low-cost sustainable practices for their schools and communities.

Schools team up with professional “green mentors,” who help the schools (the dots) connect to the resources in the local and national community as they promote community outreach and instill ideals of environmental stewardship in the students.

At the first Connect the Dots awards ceremony in 2011, for instance, Henrico’s Holman Middle School took the third place Leadership Award for its work on a water conservation project and a green curriculum for math and science classes, with assistance from mentor Carrie Webster of Moseley Architects.

Some 14 schools participated in the 2012 challenge, said Gwen Murray of JRGBC, with participants from Varina High School and The Steward School among those that earned special recognition awards for going “above and beyond” the basics.

Special recognition
Winner of the second-place Leadership Award, The Steward School (and mentor Nina Zinn of Urban Backyard Edibles) incorporated programs in composting into both the Lower School and Middle School curricula, holding poster contests for the younger students and composting workshops with the older. Older students learned what foods are needed to form good organic soil, and Upper School students built compost beds and analyzed organic material in the soil produced.

Varina H.S. took the third-place Leadership Award for devising a garden plan designed to help meet the needs of higher functioning students with autism and intellectual challenges.

The program includes plans for an edible classroom that will feature a bamboo fence, rainwater irrigation, nutritional education and a historical garden incorporating information about the area’s early Native Americans inhabitants. Mentors from BCWH Architects worked with Varina on projects and activities, including taking students on a field trip to Tricycle Gardens.

Among other participating schools that received special recognition at the ceremony were Bellevue Elementary School and the Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts in Richmond, and C.C.Wells Elementary School in Chesterfield County.

Bellevue E.S. won the first place Leadership Award for a project that converted an empty side yard into a learning space, and efforts in which parents, teachers and students worked together to build raised beds for gardening, install bh or bb and had rain barrel. working with teachers to implement in curriculum. Wells E.S. won the Community Outreach Award with help from members of the popular Ecology Club, which led efforts to hold a Beautification Day, plant bulbs and bushes, decorate trash cans for recycling, hold a recycling relay, and promote the creation of posters and eco-art made from recyclable objects.

Patrick Henry earned the Outstanding Sustainability Curriculum Award for establishing a gardening curriculum and activities that included a garden clean-up, planting bushes for a butterfly garden, and growing lettuce to be used to make fresh salads on selected school days.

Living classroom
Following the awards ceremony, Becky Lakin of sustainRVA described recent clean-up initiatives and events such as an EcoArt Exhibit, as well as plans for future programs that include a Farm-to-Restaurant Week. Lakin was followed by Steward Upper School science teacher Chris Lundberg, who capped off the ceremony by leading two dozen visitors through the Bryan Innovation Lab.

Plans for the Lab, said Lundberg, grew out of the desire to provide a “living classroom” -- a place for interdisciplinary, hands-on study that connects the built environment and the natural environment in a way that provides enhanced opportunities for students to explore and learn.

With current pushes toward sustainability, 21st-century schools, and the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math, said Lundberg, the premise behind the Bryan Innovation Lab was, “Wouldn’t it be neat if there was a building on campus where we could put all that together?”

The building exterior and its surroundings will include a green wall with growing plants, a covered patio, outdoor picnic pavilion, and doors that facilitate an easy flow between indoors and outdoors. On an adjacent storage building, students will construct a green roof. “[Students] can be outdoors one moment,” said Lundberg, “and the next moment be inside getting on their iPads.”

In a wooded area outside the building, an educational playground is planned that will feature such objects as simple machines, and perhaps a “musical contraption” that Lundberg saw in a Dutch building, in which rainfall creates music as it makes its way to the ground through a series of tubes.

The Lab’s entryway will feature an electronic dashboard so that students can see “what the building has been doing,” said Lundberg, whether they are at home or school. Students will be able to track output from passive solar devices, monitor data from the unit’s geothermal wells, and analyze the amount of roof run-off collected in underground cisterns (providing recyclable graywater for the building’s commodes).

While the Lab will be what Lundberg calls “a very spartan building – mostly steel and concrete,” students will be able to take advantage of that spartan interior to learn.

“The floor,” said Lundberg, “is just a concrete surface that was ground down to exposed aggregate . . . because it’s interesting for kids to see what’s in the cement.” In addition, interior beams will be exposed to display their numbers, helping students to understand how the building was put together; and ductwork will be color-coded so that students can visually track the flow of air.

Flexible design
The building is designed with relatively few fixed objects and extreme flexibility in mind, with classroom walls built on wheels and the ability to reconfigure smaller rooms into one multi-purpose room. Students will sit on wheeled ottomans that they can easily move. “Everything rolls away . . . [it’s designed] to get away from the traditional classroom,” said Lundberg, noting that with any luck, the multi-purpose room will be the site of the 2013 Connect the Dots Awards Ceremony. Another advantage of the flexible design, he said, is that it leaves room for changing technology, as well as the acquisition of funds that could allow expansion of the building.

In considering various design options for the Lab, representatives of Steward not only visited local models such as the VCU Rice Center and the Children’s Museum of Richmond but also crisscrossed the country, visiting sites from Massachusetts to California. “We wanted to see what people are doing with space instructionally,” said Lundberg, adding that architects at 3North and RVA Construction also contributed valuable feedback. “It’s really been a collaboration,” said Lundberg, “not ‘Here’s the idea, we build it, and there it is.’”

And just as the community has served as a resource for Steward, Steward officials hope the building will serve as a resource for the community, providing space for meetings and forums and hosting student tour guides to explain how the building works.

But most of all, said Lundberg, “the building we want to build is an innovative place for kids to learn, a mish-mash of the natural environment and the built environment, where students can discover their talents.

“We hope it will be a place where students have fun while they learn in non-traditional ways.”
Community

Rotary donates to ‘Bright Beginnings’

The Sandston Rotary Club recently donated $1,000 to the Sandston YMCA for its Bright Beginnings program, which helps provide children in need with school supplies for the new school year. > Read more.

Author, child abuse survivor to speak at Henrico event

To help celebrate twenty years of service to advocating for abused and neglected children in Henrico County, Henrico Court Appointed Special Advocates, Inc. (CASA) will host an evening with bestselling author K.L. Randis on Tuesday, Aug. 26, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Belmont Recreation Center in Lakeside.

Randis is best known for her bestselling novel, Spilled Milk, which tells her painful – but ultimately triumphant – personal story of abuse and of child abuse prevention. The book is her first novel.

The event is free to the public, but seating is limited Reservations may be made by e-mailing .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Belmon Recreation Center is located at 1600 Hilliard Road. > Read more.

Philippines ambassador to the US visits Filipino Festival in Henrico


The Ambassador of the Philippines to the United States Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. attended the Ninth Annual Filipino Festival at Our Lady of Lourdes Church earlier this month. Cuisia (pictured above with festival performers) was welcomed by County Manager John Vithoulkas and Brookland District Supervisor Dick Glover (below) at the church, which is located in Lakeside.

While enjoying some of the cultural performances at the festival, the ambassador and his wife had a private lunch with Vithoulkas, Glover, Eldon Burton (an outreach representative from U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner’s Office) and Father James Begley, the pastor of OLL. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Restaurant watch

Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.

Cultural Arts Center seeks artists, designs for holiday displays

The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen is seeking artists, crafters, and creative groups for three opportunities allowing creative thinkers and doers to design and display imaginative holiday decorations.

The center is seeking designs for:

• Illumination 2014 – A Festival of Trees: Artists can celebrate the holiday season by creating a one-of-a-kind Christmas tree filled with decorations to suit any unique or traditional theme. Past trees exhibited have included Buzz Lightyear; HEROES; Santa tree; Musicology; and many others. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


There are several fun events planned for families this weekend. CMoR Central will offer free admission to those who have completed their HCPL Summer Reading Club goal; Walkerton Tavern is hosting a family game night; and family-friendly karaoke will take place at Aunt Sarah’s. Families can also get Movin’ & Groovin’ at Dorey Park or purchase children’s books at Tuckahoe Library. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

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