CAMP UNAKITE BUILDS CLASSROOM SUCCESS
by Michael Rider
Camp Unakite is a grant-funded STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) educational opportunity for rising third through eighth-grade students in Madison County and is co-sponsored by the Madison County Public Schools and the Madison County Education Foundation (MCEF).
Students explore their natural world through STEM activities during a summer camp held at Graves Mountain Lodge. These activities include animal studies, mineral understanding, soil investigations, water cleanliness and movement, volcanic eruptions, and others.
“Camp Unakite has made a significant difference in the lives of young people in Madison. MCEF has supported Unakite for over four years. In partnership with the Madison Schools and Graves Mountain Lodge, it has provided a learning and camping experience for students that has awakened new interest in learning and confidence in their own abilities,” said Barbara Kres Beach, MCEF president.
Quantitative data for the 2014-15 school year, developed by Superintendent Matt Eberhardt, were compared to the data for the 2015-2016 school year to assess the impact of Camp Unakite. The study group consisted of sixty-seven students in grades three through seven attending Camp Unakite in the summer of 2015. Nineteen students in grades seven through eight attended in the summer of 2016.
The assessment results which have translated into the classroom are impressive:
GRADES 3-6 Participants
47.6% improved in attendance
14.3% improved in behavior
13.6% improved in reading
31.8% improved in mathematics
65.2% of Unakite students earned a Reading letter grade of B or better in the third grade year
78.9% of Unakite students earned a Mathematics letter grade of B or better in the third grade year
GRADES 7-8 Participants
31.6% improved in attendance
42.1% improved in behavior
21.1% improved in reading
31.8% improved in mathematics
The Madison County Education Foundation (MCEF) has supported Camp Unakite since its inception. It has won a line item in the MCEF budget because we believe strongly that the goals and results of the program merit our commitment.
What pays the bills for this outstanding program? Approximately half of the costs are borne by the Madison County Public Schools. The other half comes from monies raised by the MCEF.
The MCEF funds supporting Unakite are raised at the annual March Madness fundraiser. Your attendance at March Madness helps tip the scales in favor of this learning-by-camping experience.
Join your friends and neighbors on March 18. Come to MARCH MADNESS at Graves Mountain Lodge’s picnic pavilion starting at 4pm. Tickets are available online at www.madisonedfoundation.org or by calling Carty Yowell, March Madness chairperson, at 757-615-0626. Your donation and participation in March Madness makes Camp Unakite possible for hundreds of school children. Because of citizen commitment, Unakite makes a difference!
Madison High School faculty were exceptionally inventive and penetrating this year, agreed the Grants Panel of the Madison County Education Foundation (MCEF). “The applications addressed a range of needs designed to broaden the scope and depth of classroom learning and to engage all students at the high school,” observed Stephanie Mendlow, a member of the Panel. “We were very excited about them.”
Awards were presented by representatives of the MCEF Grants Panel: Clarissa Berry, Jayne Penn Hollar, and Stephanie Mendlow. They were joined by Bill Hinkes, vice president of the Foundation.
MCHS Librarian, Becky LaVoie, will extend the use of games in education. Ms. LaVoie attended a conference sponsored by the American Association of School Librarians; it focused on the use of games as instruments for learning. Teachers in her school have been working on ways to encourage students to become more active participants in learning. The games project supports SOLs, collaboration between library and classroom teachers, student teamwork, and post-game reflection.
Stephen Shilan, Mary Davis, Chelsea Taylor, and Ryan Rakow and others will work with a new program “Gizmos for Geometry,” which will enable students achieve the math credits required for their high school diploma. “Gizmos” is a web-based software program that teachers control, selecting simulations that students may log on a given day. It uses the question-and-response Socratic approach to shape student learning. The program supports Virginia SOLs for science and math in high school. The program has shown excellent results nationally and will be evaluated by Madison teachers as well.
Ashleigh Pugh and Tiffany Kitner—high school and middle school art faculty–had another challenge: they looked for ways to keep costs down, extend the use of clay so it could be re-used multiple times (purchase and shipping of clay are costly and lowering these costs makes possible the purchase and use of other art materials in the Middle and High Schools.) Because of this grant, faculty will be able to introduce students to pottery work—a new and accessible art medium for many. The MCEF grant will help teachers purchase a “pugmill” which wedges clay, reduces risk of air bubbles, saves money, and prevents wasting recyclable clay. It will be available for use throughout the Madison Schools.
Judy Heffron and Michael Gabney proposed materials that would bring a project in environmental science to life. They called it “The Answer My Friend Is Blowing in the Wind.” Part of the alternative energy unit, it will use project-based learning techniques to create an optimal output wind turbine using Vernier technology. (We read this and agreed that we all need to go back to high school for this class!) Approximately 50 students will engage in this project yearly, and will work collaboratively with their peers to experiment with gear ratios, blade designs, generators and ways to measure weightlifting and electrical power.
“Swinging into Fitness,” a proposal from Mark Arrington, extends his mission to make fitness a part of each Madison student’s life after graduation. He will introduce students to an award-winning “BirdieBall” that responds like a traditional golf ball in flight (hook, slice, draw and fade—and instant feedback from your swing are all possible). The “BirdieBall” produces an “uncanny turbine sound” according to Arrington, after a good “wack.” More important, the program teaches the lifetime sport of golf, helps develop motor skills, skill analysis, golf etiquette, and equipment care.
“These grants initiated by our excellent high school faculty,” noted Barbara Kres Beach, MCEF president, “show how students can use programs like these to reinforce students’ excitement about learning and their engagement with it. Our teachers have the keys that unlock exactly what is needed. We applaud them!”
Four outstanding teachers from Madison County Primary School received special grants from the Madison County Education Foundation (MCEF) to support projects that will enhance learning.
Jeannette Michels and Carrie Wintersgill received a grant to purchase “Little Mice for Little Hands.” The young-child-size mouse enables a primary-age student to learn to manipulate a computer mouse to work on projects, respond to directions, and engage in computer assessments. The teachers believe the “mice” will have lasting value for the students. The grant purchases 50 “mice,” which will be used by Pre-K through grade 2 students.
Martha Clements received a grant for her project entitled “Balancing It All.” This grant will purchase 25 balance discs that research demonstrates will enable young children to “focus greater attention on learning by helping them balance their natural tendency to move around and lose concentration.” Ms. Clements said children will carry the balance disc from their seats to various learning centers. “When our extraneous movement isn’t taking brain power and creating distraction,” she says, “we have clarity to successfully complete the task at hand.”
Jennifer Taylor will engage in a special project, “KIDS and Canvas.” Noel Spence, an artist, was formerly a pre-school to third grade teacher. She will work with Ms. Taylor to acquaint students with easels, paint, brushes, and other mediums. Ms. Taylor noted that although “there are no specific SOL objectives for preschool, “KIDZ and Canvas” will show students how to follow the sequence of steps used in creating art. They will create art related to a unit of study. They will identify spatial relationships—left, right, top, bottom, side, center, front, back, over, and under—and will learn about colors, textures, lines, shapes, and patterns.” Perhaps most important, “the students will express themselves through their art work and will leave with a completed work to bring home.”
Asked recently why Teacher Grants are an important part of the MCEF mission, Barbara Kres Beach, president, answered, “We believe in teachers; they are our most valuable resource in Madison County education, and their insights into student needs are on target. We are all fortunate that the County has such a great teaching staff.” Additional grants will be announced by the middle of November.
By Laura Burbridge
Members of the Madison County community gathered on Saturday, November 5, 2016 on a beautiful fall day to dedicate the new Courtyard at the High School and to celebrate the life of Lane Warren with a fountain in his honor.
Over this past summer, Mr. Gary Wintersgill, principal of Madison County High School was determined to renovate the senior courtyard, which had been neglected for many years. Through the cooperative efforts of dedicated personnel at the school, in the Madison County Public Schools administration, the School Board, and community businesses, such as Greenscapes Nursery and Garden Shoppe and Plow & Hearth, the senior courtyard was transformed. “This space is not only for seniors to use for lunch but serves as an outdoor classroom and extension of the library for all students,” said Wintersgill.
Brent Lohr, Greenscapes owner who designed the Courtyard, said, “I appreciated working with Gary Wintersgill and Jeanette Alexander. We wanted the courtyard to be accessible to all students—with wheelchairs, if necessary. Anything extra I could do, I did.”
Lane was a senior at Madison County High School when he died after a tragic car accident in October, 2013. His family set up the Lane E. Warren (LEW) Memorial Fund through the Madison County Education Foundation (MCEF), for gifts honoring Lane.
In attendance to celebrate the dedication were members of Lane’s family from North Carolina and Northern Virginia, Lane’s former teachers, classmates and friends. One of those friends was Alyssa Edwards, who miraculously survived the accident and now lives out of state. Ms. Edwards said, “I wasn’t able to attend any of Lane’s memorials when he passed away because I was hospitalized and recovering from my own injuries. I was determined that I wasn’t going to miss this one.”
Mr. Wintersgill spoke briefly about the how this project came together and thanked the organizations and staff who made possible the courtyard renovation and fountain installation. He presented the plaque that will go on the wall behind the fountain indicating its dedication in memory of Lane Warren.
Barbara Kres Beach, President of the Madison County Education Foundation stated, “The Warren family chose this beautiful fountain to remember Lane and this courtyard to give it a home. The fountain flows as Lane’s life flowed. He explored limitless possibilities in himself and in the world around him; he explored relationships with caring teachers, fellow students and friends. This courtyard is now—and will be—a special place at the Madison High School we love.”
On behalf of Lane’s family and donors to the LEW Memorial Fund, Lisa Warren stated, “We are really honored to be able to donate the fountain in honor of Lane. The renovated courtyard is such a beautiful and welcoming space. I know Lane would have loved it when he was a student at MCHS. The fall of 2013 was a very special time in Lane’s life, and I like to think his energy from that time will continue to flow and be felt in the courtyard, especially with the fountain to remind people of him.”
Wintersgill said that since the courtyard has been renovated, the students have been wonderful stewards by taking care of the space with care and respect. He added, “I hope that every class will enjoy this courtyard and to add to it for future generations.”
Raven Turner is on a mission to help teach students important life skills she wished she had when she was growing up. Now, thanks to the Madison County Education Foundation (MCEF), she is one step closer. “I decided to go in the Family/Consumer Science to give students the opportunity to learn the necessary life skills such as balancing a check book and preparing for college” said Turner.
In a presentation, on Sunday, July 17, 2016 held at the Madison United Methodist Church, Bill Hinkes, Vice President of the MCEF presented Raven the 2016 Adult Learner Scholarship in the amount of $500.00. This money will help Raven with earning her Master’s Degree in Education and in obtaining her teacher certification from Liberty University.
After graduating from Madison County High School in 2011, Raven returned home having earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Bridgewater College. However, she didn’t really think about continuing her education. According to Raven, “the decision to return to college was not an easy decision because of the time and cost involved. I know this opportunity will allow me to help those kids who may have thought college was out of the reach.”
Raven is currently the Coordinator for the Skyline Cap Project Discovery helping students prepare for post high school life. She is also a cheerleading coach at Madison County High School (MCHS). As a lifelong Madison resident, Raven credits her love for education from amazing teachers at MCHS, such as Dawn Tucker and Jayne Penn-Hollar. Raven stated, “Once I get my certification, I’m so excited to work in the classroom, hopefully in Madison, to give back to a community that has given so much to me!”
The Madison County Education Foundation is proud to support Raven in achieving her dreams and hopeful that Raven’s story will inspire more adults to finish their education and reach for their goals, no matter how far away they may seem. MCEF stands ready to offer financial support to those adults who are considering furthering their education.