Most of the programs involve partnerships that make them possible and that contribute in many ways to making them successful. As is often the case, there is little that is brand new, but no apologies are needed for adopting ideas and programs that have proven successful. Nor should a program be abandoned simply because it has been around for a while if it is otherwise working.
Aldrin Elementary School in Reston cut the ribbon recently on a new branch of Middleburg Bank. The branch will be run by students and will serve students in the school. Not a new idea since many schools have real banks in them, but it is a program that I believe will contribute to financial literacy in a way that will stick with the children.
Likewise, I like what I see children learning about the environment through the efforts of teachers and volunteers working through NoVA Outside, an alliance of environmental educators. At a recent School Environmental Action Showcase at George Mason University, I saw the results of teams from across the region celebrate the “Green or Eco” work they are doing at their school and in their communities.
The student teams applied STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) concepts to real, authentic environmental problems they identified including reducing waste, conserving energy, providing habitat for animal species, creating sustainable food programs, cleaning watersheds, and others.
The Volunteer Learning Program, a program with which I was involved when it began in 1975, continues to provide personalized volunteer tutoring to Fairfax County adults and court-involved juveniles who are seeking help to complete a high school credential while getting better prepared for work or further education.
In addition to helping thousands of young people and adults to complete their education and get better jobs, the program is one of the most cost-effective in local government. A small staff of professionals trains caring and talented adults to provide tutoring to others allowing the program great flexibility in overcoming the complexities of learners’ locations throughout the county and their work and personal schedules. The learners are current or future parents of children in Fairfax County Public Schools. These children are bound to benefit because of the positive experiences of their parents in this program.
I taught another course this semester for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute of George Mason University. This is another program with which I was involved from the beginning. It uses its more than a thousand members to teach courses and to take courses across a wide range of intellectual pursuits. No one gets paid to teach, and no one gets credit for learning. No one complains because it is all about the fun of learning. And it is fun!
Our community is truly blessed with a wide variety of educational resources for learners of all ages. Let me know if you would like to get involved, and I can help steer you in the right direction.
Ken Plum represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. Opinions here do not reflect those of Reston Now.
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