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A head start on middle school

Fairfield program gives students a jump on their new environment
Rising sixth-graders at Fairfield Middle School got a taste of their new environment by participating in the school’s first program aimed to help them smoothly transition to middle school using the IB philosophy.

Fairfield teachers Garry Marshall and Gina Brooks created the Falcon Institute after Dr. Dana Bost, the school’s principal, asked them to spearhead a summer program that would improve students’ performance in math, reading and writing.

“We saw where, in sixth grade, the deficiencies were, so I wanted to have an idea to bridge those gaps before the kids actually get here in September,’” said Brooks. “We also thought about just the fact that they are coming from fifth grade to sixth grade. What are some of the challenges they face? One is organization. One is technology. So we just incorporated all of those components into the [program].”

During everyday class sessions, students used their laptops to participate in discussions via an online classroom tool called School Space. Also, in their technology class, students were taught how to use programs that most of their peers have not been introduced to yet.

“These are kids coming from elementary school, so they haven’t even been on a computer yet. At the end of this little institute, they can make a word document, an Excel sheet, a PowerPoint, … [and] movies,” said IB coordinator and science department chair Karyn Edwards. “Some of the kids are very good with technology; [they] catch on like that. They come around and help when I can’t get around to people.”

Because Fairfield is now an IB school, the Falcon Institute strives to incorporate the IB principles of critical thinking, problem solving, exposure to multiple viewpoints and community service into their curriculum. Edwards pointed out that by allowing students to discover their niches, they can better understand how they can serve their school and surrounding communities.

Many of the rising sixth-graders said they agreed that the institute has helped them to become familiar and more comfortable with their new surroundings. Student S’Donte Dowton said that the Falcon Institute has made learning more exciting. “I like it when we do math stuff, and also I even like it when we do games and quizzes,” he said.

In the fall, the sixth-graders will take a regional test that Marshall says will help determine the summer program’s effectiveness. “We’ve got a baseline of where they were before the program, and we are going to compare that to where they are after and then see if any of the programs have made an impact or not,” he added.

To keep the students active, the Falcon Institute had what Brooks described as a “miniature field day.” During “Thrilling Thursdays,” students had the chance to win an ice cream social by competing in teamwork events. “It’s the middle of the summer and they’re sitting in the classroom for four hours a day, so we said at least once a week we will have time for team building and free time,” said Marshall.
Community

Celebrating 106 years

Former Sandston resident Mildred Taylor celebrated her 106th birthday Aug. 9. Taylor, who now lives in Powhatan, is still a member of Sandston Baptist Church. She was visited the day after her birthday by several members of the church, who played for her a recording of the entire church membership singing happy birthday to her during worship. > Read more.

YMCA breaks ground for aquatic center

YMCA officials gathered last week to break ground on the new Tommy J. West Aquatic Center at the Shady Grove Family YMCA on Nuckols Road. The center, which will featured 7,600 square feet of competitive and recreational space, including water slides, play areas for children and warmer water for those with physical limitations, is the fourth phase of a $4 million expansion at the facility. West was president and CEO of Capital Interior Contractors and a founding member of the Central Virginia Region of the Virginia Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors. > Read more.

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.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


Enjoy the final days of summer with comedian Guy Torry, the Sam’s Club National BBQ Tour or mystery writer Mary Miley Theobald at Twin Hickory Library. Another great way to welcome the beginning of fall is to check out the UR Spider Football season opener with man’s best friend. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Bottoms up

Short Pump brewery offers more than just beer
I am still (happily) thinking about my entire experience at Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery last week. Knowing nothing about this new brewery out of Denver, I was leery of brew-pub in the heart of Short Pump Town Center – this is not what I’d usually think of as a perfect fit, and yet, it was.

The restaurant and craft brewery opened in early June and features 10 beers made by female brewmaster Becky Hammond (pictured). This is the restaurant’s second location in Virginia; the first is in Arlington. Behind glass walls, customers watched the beer brewing in massive steel barrels. For our up-and-coming beer region, it makes sense that Short Pump would jump on board.

As I walked up to the back of the mall near the comedy club, I was taken aback by what I saw: at the top of the stairs was an overflowing restaurant with outdoor seating, large umbrellas and dangling outdoor lights. > Read more.

Cultural Arts Center announces 2014 fall class schedule

The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen is now registering participants for its fall 2014 schedule of classes.

The center will offer more than 100 classes for children and adults, covering topicssuch as culinary arts, fiber arts, visual and performance arts and more. Instruction is structured to appeal to a wide range of abilities, from beginners to experts of all ages. Class sizes are kept small to ensure maximum benefit for participants with generally no more than 15 students. > Read more.

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