Windsor Elementary proposes environmental science curriculum

Published 1:37 pm Monday, March 4, 2019

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In an effort to make Windsor Elementary a more unique experience for students, Principal Ellen Couch has put forward a proposal for all students in kindergarten through fifth grade to receive hands-on environmental science lessons every week, beginning next school year.

The plan calls for the construction of a greenhouse, which will be used by all students during their scheduled environmental science labs, and the transformation of Windsor Elementary’s lobby into a hydroponics lab so students can see how vegetables and fruit can be grown using water rather than soil. It also calls for the hiring of an environmental science teacher, who would co-teach with each classroom teacher, and for collaboration with Isle of Wight County Schools’ working farm (land lab) located directly behind Windsor Elementary.

According to Couch, K-2 students would receive an average of one to two 30-minute environmental science sessions per week, with students in grades 3-5 receiving an average of three sessions. The school’s budget request states that these sessions would incorporate aspects of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and also standards of learning (SOL) topics such as weather, force, motion, energy, scientific investigation, animal and plant life processes, earth patterns, cycles and change, living systems and earth resources.

The cost of hiring an environmental science teacher has been budgeted at $71,364. This is what a teacher with more than 30 years of experience would receive under the current Isle of Wight County Schools teacher pay scale. The actual cost of said teacher’s salary could be less, depending on that person’s experience.

Construction of the greenhouse has been budgeted at $10,000, and construction of the hydroponics lab has been budgeted at $15,000. The school division briefly entertained the idea of saving costs by having Windsor Elementary students use the existing greenhouse at Windsor High School, but determined that doing so might not be age-appropriate.

Additional costs include $10,000 for one laser cutter, $3,000 for plant supplies, $2,500 for microscopes, $8,000 for weather equipment and $1,500 for other materials such as gloves, protective glasses and lab coats. Lynn Briggs, Isle of Wight County Schools’ director of community and media relations, explained that the laser cutter would allow students to create environmental science projects in-house.

All costs are incorporated into Isle of Wight County Schools’ proposed 2019-2020 budget. The School Board will further discuss its budget at a work session on Thursday, March 7, at 9 a.m., in the School Board Office behind Westside Elementary School in Smithfield.