2001 Governor's Conference on Education: Promoting the Positive Image of Public Education
Nearly 1,000 educators including teachers, superintendents, legislators, and governing officials attended the annual Governor's Conference on Education in Richmond, Virginia on July 24, 2001. The purpose of the conference, sponsored by the Office of the Governor and the Virginia School Boards Association, was to offer school board members, superintendents and other participants an overview of successful educational practices throughout Virginia.
The featured luncheon speaker, Governor James S. Gilmore, spoke about education reform and revision in the Commonwealth. Governor Gilmore stressed the importance of maintaining effective and excellent education and encouraged new levels of success. The education conference provided an exciting agenda of inventive ideas, successful practices, and a sharing of current educational issues.
Among the 90 invited presenters at the Governor's Conference on Education were Pat Ferrell, education specialist at Richmond National Battlefield Park, and Debbie Hollowell, resource teacher for Seven Pines Elementary School. Their mini-workshop "Penguins Across the USA: A Partnership Between Seven Pines Elementary School and Richmond National Battlefield Park" provided brief overviews of an exciting and effective partnership that provides students and teachers with instructional projects that tap learning to support today's curriculum.
Year One -- Students at Seven Pines Elementary School set off on an exciting year-long school-wide learning expedition in which four stuffed toy penguins were boxed and mailed along a predetermined route of National Parks. At each destination, park rangers entered a log of information about location, history, weather, important sites, and photos. "Ranger Pat" shared travel information during Thursday morning announcements and monthly PTA meetings. In April the penguins returned wearing a collection of pins and badges from their National Park tours. The children connected classroom learning about animals, habitats, weather conditions, landforms, plants, people, and historic places through shared log entries and numerous photographs. The rangers who were on the receiving end of the penguin program were so inspired that they took the penguins on "field trips" to nearby parks that weren't originally on the list. In some cases the penguins went on school trips, representing Richmond National Battlefield Park all over the country.
Year two of the project was called "Penguin Kids Running and Reading Across the USA." This project was designed to enrich learning experiences for students, encourage reading and research, and provide innovative curriculum-based programs that targeted the Standards of Learning and used "Parks as Classrooms." Each class selected a "penguin-visited" park from the previous year, and determined the number of miles it would take to go from Seven Pines Elementary to that park. The children counted each book that was read as one reading mile. Ten laps around the school's track was a running mile. The school's goal was to "read and run" to 24 National Parks (59,000 miles). Through correspondence with park rangers, daily running and reading and mileage graphs this program integrated the Standards of Learning in a fun and exciting adventure. As an added benefit to the students, the physical fitness tests showed a passing rate of 75% for the boys and 80% for the girls in the one-mile run. This was up from the previous year (39% boys/51% girls).
Seven Pines and the National Parks have continued to bond in other ways including the following:
- field trip to Richmond National Battlefield Park's Gaines' Mill and Cold Harbor battlefields--grade 5
- Civil War Travel Trunk--classroom learning kit--grade 5
- field trip to Colonial National Historical Park, Jamestown--grade 3
- field trip to George Washington National Monument--multi-age grade
- "Reading to the Coral Reef" Buck Island Reef National Monument, Virgin Islands National Park--school-wide project
- "Running and Reading to Yellowstone National Park"--school-wide project
- "Reading and Running to Pago Pago National Park Preserve" (Capital of American Samoa on Tutuila Island)--school-wide project
- National Park Service Northeast Region Educational Conference-"Riding the Wind"--June H. Murphy, Principal/ Debbie Hollowell, Resource Teacher and Seven Pines students presented opening program
Due to the success of the Seven Pines partnership, Richmond National Battlefield Park has teamed up with other area schools including Longan (Henrico County), South Anna (Hanover County), Holton (Richmond), and Crestview (Henrico County) Elementary Schools to help inspire the children to learn about their National Parks.
These partnerships provide students, teachers and park rangers with exciting learning opportunities and adventures that support curriculum education.