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School News and Notes

 Armstrong Elementary students collected a total of 131 paper penguins, each one representing 60 minutes of reading, to celebrate Read Across America Day. Principal Shane Wolfe (center), pictured with Assistant Principals Debra Hill (left) and Erin Wilhelm (right), kept his promise to dress as a penguin if students met their reading goal. (Photo: Courtesy David Mathis)

Students, Administrators Aim for Peace

Nearly 1,500 students, teachers, counselors, administrators, parents and community volunteers from Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS), and schools in Arlington County, Alexandria City, Loudoun County and the District of Columbia participated in the 16th annual Northern Virginia Regional Student Mediation Conference, Pathways to Peace, at George Mason University last week. Participants learned skills and strategies to reinforce the work that they do to make their schools safe and respectful learning environments.

Raptor conservancy of virginia Handler Kent Knowles (left) introduced Oakcrest School students to various nocturnal and day-time birds of prey as a supplement to their sixth grade “Adaptations of Animals” study. Among the birds shown were a Barred Owl (shown here), a Red-tailed Hawk and an American Kestrel Falcon  to name just a few. (Photo: Courtesy Christine White)The conference’s theme focused on conflict resolution skills through workshops encouraging mediation, communication, teamwork, listening, trust, respect and anger management. High school peer mediators from approximately ten high schools helped facilitate the workshops. The first day of the two-day conference was dedicated to around 400 middle school students from the 20 schools that were in attendance. Tricia Jones of Temple University addressed students and those from the Education Section of the Association for Conflict Resolution in her discussion on “Changing the World: Youth Mediators Across the Globe.” Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Gerry Connolly delivered the welcome message.

The last day of the conference was designed for the 1,000 elementary school students from about 80 schools. Mediators from Hayfield Secondary School presented a skit showing the young mediators how their skills in conflict resolution can help resolve everyday conflicts at their schools. Newly trained mediators focused on managing the mediation process. Experienced mediators gained advanced skills for mediating difficult situations and using conflict resolution skills outside formal mediations. Highly experienced mediators went on to learn strategies for mediating group conflicts. Additional workshops focused on building peaceable schools and communities, marketing mediation and using improvisational skits to promote conflict resolution skills in the school community.

 

HS Students Argue Supreme Court Cases

Seniors at Langley High School held the school’s annual Case Day with a moot court of the controversial Supreme Court case, the District of Columbia vs. Heller. The case questioned whether the District of Columbia’s law that permits ownership of rifles and shotguns, but bans handguns, infringes on the right to keep and bear arms as outlined in the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Langley students taking Advanced Placement (AP) government argued the case, with students Owen Masters, Tracy DeMocker, Sasha Amini and Jordan Slick serving as lead counsels before a mock Supreme Court. The mock court consisted of attorneys, law professors, school administrators and student justices Katy Money and Liam Phibbs. In addition to the oral arguments, the school invited interest groups related to the case to come and hold debates on similar issues, bringing the case to life and enabling students to learn more about the U.S.’s legal process. Over 300 AP government students worked on committees to plan the details of the day.

 

Raptor Birds Fly by Oakcrest

Sixth and seventh graders at Oakcrest School welcomed the Raptor Conservancy of Virginia (RCV) last week as a supplement to sixth grade adaptations of animals study and to the seventh grade animal unit. RCV education presentations utilized the display of live, non-releasable raptors to inform children and adults about native wildlife, raptor rehabilitation, preservation of habitat and respect for these wild neighbors. Raptor biology was the main focus. RCV has found that allowing people to see some of the native raptors up close helps increase both appreciation of these wonderful birds and understanding of their place in the wild. The presentation included a discussion of the work involved in caring for 250 new raptor patients a year, in addition to the RCV resident birds. RCV is a nonprofit volunteer organization dedicated to rehabilitation and release to the wild of injured, ill or orphaned native Virginia birds of prey.

 

2008 Triennial School Census

The Falls Church City Public Schools will join Virginia’s 131 other school divisions in conducting the 2008 Triennial School Census of children. The census count is conducted every three years, and the data is used to determine how much sales tax revenue should be returned to local communities.

“It is important for all families with children up to age 19 to respond to the census, even if their children attend private or parochial schools, are home-schooled, or are away in the military or at college,” said Hunter Kimble, Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations. “Otherwise, the city will receive less than its fair share of state sales tax revenue.”

An accurate count of school-age children is expected to generate nearly $1,000 per child per year for Falls Church City. Even if residents don’t have children, it is important that they respond to the census to ensure a complete count that includes all households. The school census count of all children will help school divisions measure current population trends and make projections for future needs. This data includes information on preschoolers, toddlers and infants.

The commonwealth returns 1.125% of the revenue collected through the 5% state sales and apply the tax to localities to support public education, which is approximately $1.1 billion for the current fiscal year. The money may be used by school divisions for operations, maintenance, capital projects and debt service. Falls Church City residents will soon receive information in the mail regarding the triennial school census. City residents may respond online at www.fccps.org/census or they may return the form by fax or mail to the school board’s central office.

 

Armstrong Uses Bulbs to Fight Global Warming

Armstrong Elementary School will use its 2008 Johnie Forte, Jr., Memorial Litter-Recycling grant to purchase compact fluorescent light bulbs for every student and then challenge each student to purchase a second compact fluorescent bulb to be installed in his or her home. Johnie Forte, Jr. grants, worth $500, were awarded to 18 Fairfax County public schools in February by the Clean Fairfax Council and the Fairfax County Recycling Program. The ultimate goal is for families to purchase the bulbs from area businesses, thus forging a collaborative partnership with the community. Armstrong stands behind the Environmental Protection Agency’s research showing that if every American home replaced just one incandescent bulb with an ENERGY STAR-qualified compact fluorescent bulb, the U.S. would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars. Through this initiative, Armstrong Elementary hopes that these environmental-based lessons empower the students and make them understand that they are now doing their part to help change the future of the Earth. “The role of a school is to equip students with the motivation and tools to help them change their lives and make the world a better place,” says Armstrong principal Shane Wolfe. “With the simple gift of a fluorescent light bulb, we have helped students on an entirely different level.”