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For two weeks, Douglas Freeman students can enter an immersive portal and meet people around the world

It’s long been the stuff of science fiction: step into a portal and be instantly transported to the other side of the globe. And while students at Douglas S. Freeman High School won’t technically be leaving their Three Chopt Road campus, a new student-driven project might give them the next best thing.

RVAHub Staff

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It’s long been the stuff of science fiction: step into a portal and be instantly transported to the other side of the globe. And while students at Douglas S. Freeman High School won’t technically be leaving their Three Chopt Road campus, a new student-driven project might give them the next best thing. From Feb. 17 to March 1, students at the school will be able to step into an immersive, audio-visual chamber and interact with residents of Afghanistan, Uganda and other places far from Henrico County.

The Douglas Freeman portal is constructed from a repurposed steel shipping container, painted gold. It and similar portals are dimly lit and include a floor-to-ceiling screen, giving people at each location the illusion of being in the same room. The portal will sit at the front of campus, where the HCPS Technology and Facilities departments have run power and internet lines.

The portal, one of more than 60 worldwide, is the creation of Shared_Studios of Brooklyn, NY. Douglas Freeman students proposed bringing one of the portals to campus, and funding from the Henrico Education Foundation made it happen. The Foundation supports innovative teaching and learning in Henrico’s 72 schools and program centers.

“One of our roles as a school is to expose students to new ideas and different ways of thinking — to broaden their view of the world,” said John Marshall, Douglas Freeman principal. “The school’s diversity is a strength in this regard, and embracing that is one of our core values. The portal gives us the chance to do this at an even greater scope. It highlights the fact that we’re creating global citizens who learn much more than just facts and content during their time at DSF.”

Douglas Freeman is the first public school in Virginia to host a portal. Teachers plan to use the portal to add a new dimension to coursework. For example, Freeman students studying art, geometry and Spanish plan to talk with street artists using a portal in Mexico City, who use ratios in their designs. Photography students hope to learn from artists in a refugee camp in Lesvos, Greece, who use that medium to tell their stories.

The public is invited to use the portal on two successive weekends to interact with people in other nations:

  • Feb. 22 (9-11 a.m. with Herat, Afghanistan; 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. with Mexico City)
  • Feb. 23 (Noon-2 p.m. with an Erbil, Iraq camp for displaced persons)
  • Feb. 29 (10-11:30 a.m. with Lagos, Nigeria; Noon-2 p.m. with El Progreso, Honduras)
  • March 1 (Noon-2 p.m. with Kigali, Rwanda)

Find out more about the Douglas Freeman portal at freemanportal.org. A short video produced by Shared_Studios explains more about the project below.

The portal project is an example of the concepts laid out in the Henrico Learner Profile, the school division’s framework for the skills students need and how they can best attain them. It uses many concepts included in the Henrico Learner Profile, including global citizenship and the idea that learning should be student-owned, authentic, connected and take place anytime and anywhere.

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Current Proposed Plans for the Richmond Public School Year

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Richmond like every city in the nation is in the midst of weighing their options for the fast-approaching school year. School Superintendent Jason Kamras released a statement on Friday that took a look at how the school board sees the current situation and five plans for going forward. There is more information and plenty of charts and graphs on the RPS website.

Current Situation

  • Central Virginia continues to see declining “percent positivity” – that is, the percent of tests that come back positive – while still testing at a very high rate.
  • The infection rate for children is quite low, as is their risk of serious illness when infected.
  • The risk of child-to-child transmission, especially in young people 10-years-old and younger, appears to be quite low.
  • Similarly, the risk of child-to-adult transmission appears to be quite low.
  • The risk of adult-to-adult transmission is much more significant.

 Proposed Plans

Plan A

  • A fully virtual option PLUS
  • A hybrid option that includes 2 days of in-person instruction and 3 days of virtual instruction each week PLUS
  • 5 days of in-person instruction each week for students with greater academic needs (e.g., certain students with IEPs and certain English Learners)

Plan B

  • A fully virtual option PLUS
  • A fully in-person option

Plan C (Broken down by grade)

  • Only a fully virtual option for middle school and secondary students
  • Only a fully virtual option for high schoolers

Plan D

  • Fully virtual, except for students with the most academic needs

Plan E

  • Fully virtual for everyone

No staff member will be required to work in person no matter what a virtual option will be offered.

Residents are encouraged to send comments to [email protected] for a school board meeting on Tuesday or to email the superintendent directly at [email protected].

Also on Friday, both the Chesterfield and Richmond Education Associations released statements in favor of returning with 100% virtual instruction rather than putting students in the classroom “should be a non-controversial position on returning to school during a global pandemic.”

The REA statement points out that the reliance on schools to provide daycare, meals, healthcare for children so that workers can get back to work is an indictment on the economic disparity that grips our nation. Additionally, the lack of funding support for teachers and school infrastructure does not put them in a position to achieve success.

Full letter below.

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Library of Virginia reopens to researchers by advance appointment beginning today

During the initial reopening phase, researchers will be able to use the collections by appointment Tuesday–Friday, 10:00 am–4:00 pm.

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The Library of Virginia has announced that its reading rooms will reopen to researchers by advance appointment beginning at 10:00 am on Tuesday, July 7, 2020.

During the initial reopening phase, researchers will be able to use the collections by appointment Tuesday–Friday, 10:00 am–4:00 pm. To make an appointment, please call 804.692.3800.

COVID-19, which prompted the Library’s closing to the public in mid-March, continues to pose a serious public health risk. The Library’s reopening plan includes new health and safety protocols based on the latest guidance from the Governor’s Office, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

What to expect when returning to the Library:

  • Appointments required to use the reading rooms in order to ensure space availability on a researcher’s preferred date
  • Signage describing coronavirus symptoms – Please do not enter the building if you feel unwell or have a fever
  • Face coverings required in the building at all times
  • Physical distancing of six feet required in all public spaces
  • Face masks and hand sanitizer available for the public
  • Frequent cleaning of restrooms and surfaces in public areas throughout the day
  • Returned books quarantined for three days before being available for use again
  • The Exhibition Gallery, the Virginia Shop, our conference rooms, and the reading room at the State Records Center will remain closed

For additional information about what to expect on your visit, take a look at the COVID-19 Update: Guidelines for Researchers, page, which will be updated regularly.

For more on how to use the collections, click here.

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Education

U of R professor mails science-themed kits to incoming STEM students

When biology professor Shannon Jones realized the global pandemic would prevent her from bringing students to campus this summer for the University of Richmond’s signature URISE program experience, she figured out a way to send science to them.

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When biology professor Shannon Jones realized the global pandemic would prevent her from bringing students to campus this summer for the University of Richmond’s signature URISE program experience, she figured out a way to send science to them.

From beakers and pipettes to summer reading material, Jones, longtime coordinator of the URISE program, put together 24 kits containing everything a young scientist might need to begin exploring their fields of study.

URISE, which stands for the University of Richmond Integrated Science Experience and is a part of UR’s Integrated Inclusive Science Program, is a pre-first-year program that focuses on skill development, provides authentic research experiences, and builds a community of support for selected students ahead of starting classes in the fall.

The program received the 2018 Inspiring Programs in STEM Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine and has been modeled after at other institutions of higher learning.

“These students are from all around the world and many represent backgrounds that have been historically underrepresented in STEM fields,” said Jones. “Our summer program is so important in beginning to introduce them to our science programs, the lab, each other, and their faculty, and we wanted to figure out a way to still have an enriching experience.”

Jones and additional science faculty are also hosting virtual sessions with the incoming first-year students out of their labs, and their efforts have paid off.

URISE student Daisy Brooks said, “The program has been an amazing opportunity with lots of great people. Even though there are some obvious barriers, such as not being able to collaborate in person, I think completing the sessions virtually has been a great way to get to know new people — building connections with other students and faculty before arriving on campus and making it less daunting.”

Incoming student Christopher Torres echoed those sentiments. “At the beginning when we were introduced to the tools in the kit I thought that it was a great idea because I could participate in the activities from home, and they were also very informative and a way to tie the lesson together at the end of the day,” said Torres. “It was also a great way to conduct experiments at home similar to the ones we learned in the sessions.”

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