Newport News Public Schools update – November 2022

Woodside High and CNU partner as part of “Fear to Hope” project

At Woodside High School, students in Michael Platt’s environmental science classes are partnering with the biology department at Christopher Newport University (CNU) as part of a research project investigating the effects of salt water on Atlantic white cedars. 

The research supports “Fear to Hope,” a project designed by Dr. Robert Atkinson, CNU biology professor, to study and increase awareness of sea level rise and appreciation of wetlands and their importance. In the project model, environmental biology students from CNU mentor high school science students as they conduct hands-on research.

Allison Burbach, a CNU senior studying environmental biology, is the project manager for the Woodside High collaboration. She visited the class to introduce the program and assist students in planting cedar seedlings for their study.

The class has learned how, as sea level rises, salty and brackish water encroach on coastal forests, killing trees and causing “ghost forests” to form. Platt’s class of mostly ninth graders will study how Atlantic white cedar saplings are affected by saltwater and attempt to determine if the saplings can recover from saltwater exposure. 

The students are preparing to present their findings to other area students and CNU faculty in a symposium next spring.

Hines Middle School students hope to eat their homework

Students at Hines Middle School hope to harvest ingredients for salads and salsa from the garden of vegetables and herbs they planted in and outside their English and science classes.

The garden project is an interdisciplinary project funded with a grant from the Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Eat Smart, Move More initiative. The grant is intended to give students experience growing healthy food and being active participants in nature. Teresa Redden, who teaches physical science, and Joan Rodriguez, who teaches English, have collaborated before on environmental literacy projects and hope to build on their success in establishing a wildlife-certified native plant garden on the school’s grounds.

Through their partnership with Alison DeWitt, a Newport News master gardener, they connected with extension agent Kelsey Kennedy, who presented them with the grant. Ms. Kennedy shared healthy recipes, and the young students hope to create healthy snacks for a future harvest celebration. 

Students will conduct a controlled experiment comparing the effects of sunlight to artificial lights indoors. 

The classes record and compare germination rates, preferred growing environment conditions and yield time between the indoor and outdoor plantings. Local master gardeners provided some starter plants, and others were started from seed. The students are growing cool weather crops, including lettuce, kale, arugula, herbs and onions.