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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

Garden tails

The threat of bad weather didn’t keep visitors away from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden July 10 for the facility’s weekly Flowers After 5 event (which pairs music and food with a chance to stroll the garden) and its monthly Fidos After 5 (which allows dog owners to bring their pets with them to enjoy the evening). > Read more.

Western Henrico Rotary helps fund Midwives For Haiti Jeep


Thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from the Western Henrico Rotary Club, another bright pink Jeep modified to travel extremely rough terrain has been delivered to Midwives For Haiti so that more pregnant women in the quake-ravaged country will have access to prenatal care and a greater chance of surviving childbirth.

The funds were raised at the annual casino night held in February, club president Adam Cherry said. The Rotary Club also helped purchase the Virginia-based charity’s first pink jeep three years ago. > Read more.

Agencies combine on new entry point to Chickahominy


Canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts soon will have a new access point to the Chickahominy River. VDOT, the James River Association and Henrico County Parks and Recreation are teaming up to establish a new site in Eastern Henrico.

The James River Association negotiated the deal with VDOT to procure official access to the area located just east of I-295 on North Airport Road in Sandston. The site includes a park-and-ride commuter lot bordering the Chickahominy River and has been an unofficial launch site used by paddlers for years. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


An eclectic array of events are taking place this weekend throughout the county. In the West End, we have the Richmond Wedding Expo, the Under the Stars Family Film Series and Henrico Theatre Company’s production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes.” In the eastern part of the county, we have a blood drive at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center, Gallmeyer Farm’s annual Sweet Corn Festival and an origami workshop at Fairfield Library. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

New Italian restaurant opens in Short Pump

Charlottesville's Bella’s Restaurant recently opened a location in Short Pump Village, at 11408 West Broad Street. The restaurant is owned by Valeria Biesnti, a native of Rome who arrived in the U.S. at age 21 and later became a U.S. citizen. With her restaurants, Bisenti has sought to create an ambiance that welcomes diners in a casual setting, like her favorites from her hometown. > Read more.

Henrico native to appear on Travel Channel show


A Henrico native will appear on the third episode of the Travel Channel's new grilling competition series “American Grilled.”

The episode, filmed in Charlottesville, will premier July 16 at 9 p.m. and feature Glen Allen-native Rex Holmes, a patent lawyer who operates http://SavoryReviews.com a blo,g centered around tasty recipes and BBQ.

The show features hardcore grilling enthusiasts from across the country going head-to-head for a chance to compete for a $10,000 cash prize and bragging rights when they are crowned the ultimate “grill master.” > Read more.

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