A great STEM model

Published 8:50 pm Wednesday, June 26, 2013

It’s hard to find a teacher with good things to say about portable classrooms. The structures, which have more in common with mobile homes than schools, are usually the sign of a school system facing growing pains. It’s inefficient to provide climate control for them, they require students and teachers to be subject to the elements as they change classes, they are subject to vandalism and burglaries and they can make the teachers assigned to them feel disconnected from their colleagues inside the brick-and-mortar facilities where those teachers are ostensibly employed.

All those things are true of the portable classrooms at John Yeates Middle School, but, thanks to the help of the Suffolk Education Foundation, at least one teacher there has found a way to turn his portable classroom into a unique experiment and experience for his students.

Eighth-grade science teacher Louis Garland has received a $2,000 grant from the SEF that he hopes will help him turn his portable classroom into a workshop in which students can explore alternative forms of energy, perhaps even making the structure energy-independent.


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Garland will use his grant, one of 10 totaling $12,000 that were announced recently, to help complete a project begun by John Yeates’ CHROME Club. CHROME stands for Cooperating Hampton Roads Organizations for Minorities, and Garland and students from the club hope to connect a wind turbine to provide partial power to the portable classroom. In the future, they hope to add solar and hydrogen power to the mix.

A grant from the Armed Forces Communication and Electronics Association kickstarted the project, and Garland hopes another will come through from Dominion Virginia Power to help complete it.

It’s forward-thinking stuff, especially for students at the middle-school level. Garland should be proud of his role in getting youngsters thinking about such high-level topics that have so much pertinence to the world where they live. And the Suffolk Education Foundation should be proud to have a hand in the project.

It’s a great model for the vital science, technology, engineering and mathematics curriculum.