Buford opens new science labs, and other school news

Buford science teacher Sarah Edwards talks to a student during a lesson about temperature. Photo courtesy of Charlottesville Tomorrow Buford science teacher Sarah Edwards talks to a student during a lesson about temperature. Photo courtesy of Charlottesville Tomorrow

Students at Buford Middle School are now learning about science, technology, engineering, and math in four state-of-the-art labs that feature 3D printing capabilities. The ribbon-cutting ceremony last week kicked off the Buford Engineering Design Academy, a $1.4 million, 9,600-square-foot renovation at Buford.

It also tagged Buford as the first public school in Virginia to become part of the Commonwealth Engineering Design Academies (CEDA)—a laboratory school that is a partnership between the University of Virginia, Charlottesville City Schools, and Albemarle County Public Schools.

Last summer, Buford students and faculty worked with UVA’s Curry School of Education and School of Engineering to design curriculum for the program. The new classrooms, which feature video-conferencing technology, will allow UVA education and engineering professors to participate in and observe instruction. Teachers using the new labs will meet with Curry and Engineering school faculty regularly to fine-tune operations.

In the coming years, CEDA will expand to include Charlottesville High School, as well as Albemarle County’s Jack Jouett Middle School and Albemarle High School.

Charlottesville-based VMDO Architects designed the new-look labs that feature indirect and solar lighting, giant touch-screen monitors, and moveable lab tables designed to promote student collaboration.

Director of Sustainable Design Steve Davis said the project pushes back against older classroom designs that resemble factories.

“Now when you talk to teachers and educators you hear a lot more emphasis on…collaborative learning, hands-on learning,” Davis said. “What it means is that the spaces and furnishings we need to support that radical change in how we teach and educate have to change.”

Both school divisions are talking about enhancing learning spaces. But during a learning spaces conversation at a September Albemarle County School Board meeting, Board Member Pam Moynihan urged her colleagues not to lose sight of the teacher’s role in student learning.

“Technology is great, a contemporary learning environment is great, but the teacher and that person-to-person individual communication is still what is going to engage that student the best,” Moynihan said.

Curry School professor Christopher Hulleman said that designing collaborative work spaces can work well because of the students’ social natures, but that doing so requires teachers to know their students’ personalities.

However Libbey Kitten, science coordinator for Charlottesville City Schools, feels that focusing too much on collaboration can skew the fact that it’s been a part of education for years.

“We’ve always had to communicate and we’ve always had to collaborate and perform critical thinking,” Kitten said, noting that students now have multiple ways to receive direct instruction. “The piece that’s different is technology.”

While Kitten doesn’t think schools can replace face-to-face interaction with technology, she thinks Charlottesville’s blended model will benefit the students.

“I think if we put it in front of the kids and watch them,” Kitten said, “we’ll learn from that.”

Charlottesville, Albemarle teachers pen digital mapping book

Two local teachers have written a book that will help educators teach history using digital mapping technology. Albemarle High School teacher Chris Bunin and Walker Upper Elementary School teacher Christine Esposito have co-authored Jamestown to Appomattox Court House: Using GIS to Teach US History.

The workbook, which offers teachers 30-45 minute activities that incorporate digital mapping into middle school U.S. history classes, is the result of a 2006 Teaching American History grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

“One goal is getting critical workforce skills in the hands of students well before they need them,” Bunin said. “GIS is one of the leading areas of need in the industry, and history is where students are looking at the most maps, so we need to get them looking at digital maps.”

Topics covered in the book include maps of the Constitutional Convention, the election of 1860, and the United States’ first census, in 1790.

The book, which is being published by Dallas-based Carte Diem Press, is due out in January 2014.


Clark Elementary 5K: On Saturday, October 12, Clark Elementary School will hold the Buzz by Belmont 5K run. Participants who have yet to register are asked to do so by 7:45am. The race, which starts in front of Clark, will begin at 8am. For more information, visit www.clark5k.org.

Charlottesville PTO Meetings: Clark, Monday, October 14 at 5:30pm; Burnley-Moran, Greenbrier, and Jackson-Via all begin at 6pm on Tuesday, October 15; Venable, Tuesday, October 15 at 5:30pm.

Johnson PTO Fall Carnival: On Thursday, October 10 at 5pm, the Johnson Elementary School PTO will hold its fall carnival. For more information, call the school at 245-2417.

Albemarle Parent-teacher Conferences: On Thursday, October 10, from 4:30-7pm, the Community Public Charter School and Albemarle High School will hold parent-teacher conferences.


Katy Compel, Assistant Principal, Baker-Butler Elementary 

How do you balance respecting your school’s history and culture while educating young people for the future?

Baker-Butler has such a rich history and culture. I believe that embracing our past while focusing on our future is the only way to ensure that we remain the best school we can be. We have so many unique aspects to our school, such as the sculpture park, that tell a story through history but also look forward to the future and what the world will expect of our students.

Buford science teacher Sarah Edwards talks to a student during a lesson about temperature.

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