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Providence ES Class Participates in National Geographic Explorer Challenge

Students were able to meet mapmaker and activist Hindou Ibrahaim after studying her throughout the school year

Photo of paper quilt made by students of Hindou Ibrahim's life

Photo of paper quilt made by students of Hindou Ibrahim’s life

Emma Zuidema third grade students were filled with curiosity and wonder. When she saw the National Geographic 2017 Explorers Festival, she knew it would be a good match. National Geographic highlighted several emerging explorers across a number of fields and were looking for classrooms to pair the explorers to create a biographical project about the explorer’s life and work. Ms. Zuidema’s class was selected and were matched with Hindou Ibrahim, a mapmaker and activist from Chad.

The students can be seen on the National Geographic video project along with other classes.

Ms. Ibrahim tireless efforts in Chad focuses on expanding and utilizing a 3D mapping system to spread knowledge in order to stop climate change and is also a strong advocate for girls’ education. Ms. Ibrahim spoke at the April 2017 Paris Agreement for climate change.

Ms. Zuidema’s students researched Ms. Ibrahim and read stories that connected them to her part of the world. The students specifically learned about indigenous knowledge, climate change (the water level decrease in Lake Chad), and learned about the importance of education (highlighting education for girls).

The students made a quilt based on their study and research. The quilt, made by paper pictures drawn by the students, tell the story of Ms. Ibrahim and her activism. “We loved learning about Hindou because through her we could share in her story and her hope to change the world,” said Ms. Zuidema.

“When we sent our project to her and to National Geographic, her response was so genuine and supportive. She created a space for each child to feel like they could change the world themselves — her presence was absolutely amazing.”

Students gather around Hindou Ibrahim

Students gather around Hindou Ibrahim

The highlight of the experience for the third graders was getting to meet their new hero in person. In the spring of 2017, Ms. Ibrahim surprised the students in class. “As soon as she walked in the door, Hindou even gave every person in the room a hug,” said Ms. Zuidema. “She shared with us some of her story, her fears for the future, and she asked the class for advice. One of our students in the class responded, ‘Hindou, never give up!’  She invited each child to present their quilt square that showed a piece of her story that stuck with them.  Then, she showed us examples of her 3D mapping project and invited comments and potential solutions from the class.”

As she reflects on the project, Ms. Zuidema is proud of her students and their connection to Ms. Ibrahim. “I am grateful to National Geographic and their outreach to educators for providing the opportunity for our students to make that connection with an amazing individual. I feel confident that they will take their memory of the project forward with them, and apply it in a positive and meaningful way.  I’m really looking forward to creating those moments for my students this year and for years to come – where an authentic connection to an important cause gives each and

Student's picture of Hindou Ibrahim for paper quilt

Student’s picture of Hindou Ibrahim for paper quilt

every student access to true learning and wonderful memories.”

Zuidema continues, “I would also like to thank the supportive Providence ES parent community, especially Kathleen Schwille who pointed out the project to the teachers at PES. We are so lucky to have such wonderful parents in our school.”

City of Fairfax Schools Allocates Over $230,000 in Instructional Grants to City Schools

The City of Fairfax School Board has allocated over $230,000 in instructional grant funding to its four city schools. The funds will support Professional Development, Intervention and Academic Support, Supplemental Materials and Innovative Practices.

“In these days of declining financial resources in school district budgets, I’m really pleased that we are able to continue target funds for student and staff learning; we know these funds support our schools’ efforts,” said Dr. Phyllis Pajardo, Superintendent of the City of Fairfax Schools. “We are proud to assist and enhance our schools as they focus on innovation, professional development, and academic support.”

The principals at the four schools work with the City of Fairfax Schools staff from project and material funding. The grants are divided into four main categories:

Professional Development:  Many administrators and teachers will tell you one of the most precious resources they have is time. By providing funds to support professional learning, collaboration time and money for substitutes, the City of Fairfax School Board can give them the gift of time. The grants allow staff to plan, meet as grade-level or subject-area teams, attend professional training and take time to create innovative lessons for students.

Intervention and Academic Support: Each year the four schools are able to offer additional summer programming to support transitions to new schools, strengthen academic skills, and close potential academic gaps seen throughout the school year. For more information on the summer programming, see article here.

Supplemental Materials: The City of Fairfax School grants support a variety of curriculum enhancement programs such as environmental education, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics), and high school SAT preparations.

Innovative Practices:  – During the June 2016 retreat, School Board members expressed a desire to bolster schools’ abilities to create and incorporate innovative practices. To progress this, innovative practices were added to the areas for which City Schools could request instructional grant funding (See Strategic Plan objective 2 at the bottom of this page). When DRES principal Adam Erbrecht requested $6000 of his school’s grant be designated for innovative practices, he knew just what to do: Ask his staff what they wanted. Erbrecht sent out a “request for proposals” to his staff and received over nine requests totaling $13,100. Instead of giving the green light himself, the principal turned the power back to the staff and had them analyze and review the proposals on what they felt would most positively impact the school. The challenge the staff found was that all the projects were worth funding. By combining the City of Fairfax Innovation Grant and a generous donation by the DRES PTA, all the projects received financial support. For an example of these Innovation Grants, please see article about DRES Counselor Emily Baldwin.

“We are thrilled to reward the innovative thinking of these groups and hope more can come from this in the future,” said Erbrecht. “We greatly appreciate the use of our City Grant Funds to foster these innovations.”

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In his first State of the Schools report, Principal Dan Phillips praised Providence Elementary School staff, students and parent community declaring, “Providence is a very, very special school.” Phillips and his administrators Assistant Principal Janice Suitte and Assistant Principal Harry Belch highlighted rising test scores, student growth in reading and laid plans to offer Local Level IV advanced academic services to students.

Principal Phillips also celebrated his school’s diverse and active family community. “Providence is a school where children from all over the country and all over the world come to our school from all different walks of life and create one community of learners.” Phillips thanked the PTA and the PES staff for its enthusiastic participation and support of family events such as Heritage Night, STEAM Night, Literacy Breakfast and All Pro Dads.  “Families feel welcomed and engaged and come in to the school to support their children,” said Phillips at the regular school board meeting on Monday, January 9th.

Assistant Principal Belch highlighted increased test scores and the successful reading program, Reading Intensive Care Unit or RICU. The program, began by Providence ES staff, provides individual attention to young students that are not reading at grade level. Last year 33 students in the first grade were not reading at grade level. Through the RICU program and support from classroom teachers, 82% of the students reached or surpassed benchmarks on the Developmental Reading Assessment.

Assistant Principal Janice Suitte discussed the award winning Science Technology Engineering and Math Lab (S.T.E.M. Lab) and how the lessons learned in the lab, such as collaboration, critical thinking and resiliency are being applied in other classes as well.

Principal Phillips also stressed the success of his staff. He mentioned a number of staff members that will be presenting at various regional and national conferences throughout the year on subjects such as the RICU program and STEM Lab.

Finally, Principal Phillips announced he and his staff are looking into bringing Local Level IV Advanced Academic services to those students who qualify. Local Level IV at Providence ES would allow students to stay in their base school instead of having to transfer midway through their elementary school years to an elementary school outside of the Fairfax pyramid.

“One of the happiest days of my life is when I was selected as principal of Providence Elementary School,” concluded Phillips. “I feel so fortunate to be in the City of Fairfax. The City provides funding to supplement teacher development, reduced student field trip fees, offered summer programs such as Young Scholars and help fund our wonderful STEM Lab.”


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