School security, biodiversity and the buddy bench

Teachers and administrators from the Rappahannock County Public Schools reported on the progress of various programs at the board’s regular meeting Oct. 13.

For the second year in a row, the schools received a security grant from Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s office, part of a $6 million fund established last year to help schools around the state upgrade or install security systems. Last year, Rappahannock schools received $13,488.

Director of academic services Shannon Grimsley told the board that this year’s award of $17,483 would be used to buy additional digital key badge lock systems and security key cards for staff; additional security cameras with extra LED lighting for visibility; a remote phone alert system; two-way radios to enhance communications on the schools’ campuses and in school buses; and for extending the elementary school buzzer system to the main portico.

Grimsley recognized board member Chris Ubben, also a Rappahannock County Sheriff’s deputy, for his help in identifying security needs and available grants. “Without the strong partnership with the sheriff’s department and the work of our crisis management team, this grant and continuous progress in improving our security measures would not be possible,” said Grimsley.

Environmental science teacher Karen Sanborn told the board about the biodiversity exploration projects her high school students are pursuing as a demonstration of project-based learning (or PBL).

“PBL is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge,” said Sanborn.

Every Friday morning, Sanborn and her students visit a nearby plot of land owned by John and Judy Tole. “The sole purpose of this project is to explore biodiversity,” said Sanborn. When they first went to the Tole plot, Sanborn told the kids, “This is your classroom. Look around and think of some questions you could answer using this space.”

One student, wanting to know the kinds and number of mammals in the area, mounted a motion-activated camera that captured the range of wildlife from forest rats and raccoons to bears. Another team of students investigated the amount of rainfall under various types of trees.

“The students will be collecting data through December and then presenting their results in a student-designed project,” said Sanborn.

Elementary school principal Cathy Jones and high school principal Mike Tupper reported on the progress of efforts begun at the beginning of the year to address bullying in the schools.

Previous efforts, such as The Cool Kind Kids Campaign, team-building experiences in the elementary school and the PRIDE program in the high school, have proven successful at raising studenbts’ awareness about bullying and its effects.

Later, this month, RCES will receive its new Buddy Bench, where kids can sit if they are feeling isolated. “Sitting on the Buddy Bench signals that a kid is looking for a friend,” said Jones. “Kids who are not sitting on the bench are encouraged to ask their classmate to play and join in the fun. It’s a way for the kids to make new friends and be inclusive.”

Again, Ubben was recognized in the meeting for bringing the idea of the Buddy Bench forward.

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