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Stafford 350th history projects funded

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Capt. John Smith’s Chesapeake Bay explorations, cross-river balloon spying on Confederates troops, famous folks such as Pocahontas and George Washington, or turn-of-the-century flying machines plunging into the Potomac River.

Those are a few of the real-life stories that Stafford elementary, middle and high school students will tell this winter and spring as part of Stafford’s 350th-anniversary celebration.

Their research into the county’s long history was recently green-lighted by the School Board, which approved grants from the Stafford Education Foundation enabling teachers to undertake the special projects.

Last week, the board awarded 14 stipends through the foundation’s Innovative Teaching Grants program. The Stafford 350th Committee, which guides the county’s yearlong celebration, provided $10,000 to support the effort.

That means, for example, that Heidi Sloan’s Ferry Farm Elementary pupils will be able to visit Ferry Farm, Chatham, Marlborough Point, Government Island and the White Oak Museum. They will create instructional packets that can be used by social studies teachers.

At Gayle Middle School, Don Mullen’s students will discover how the invention of the military telegraph—which débuted in Stafford—changed nearly everything during the American Civil War.

The projects proposed by Stafford educators cover various topics.

Beth Halterman, a teacher at Rockhill Elementary, said she most wanted to convey “the gratitude teachers feel for financial assistance that allows us to dream of ideas and programs that make a difference with our students and community.”

Thanks to Stafford 350 support, all of Rockhill’s second-grade students will be able to visit Stafford’s Government Island—where quarrymen harvested the stone for the White House and U.S. Capitol in the early 1800s—on a science and social studies “exploration adventure.”

“These wonderful hands-on opportunities enrich our curriculum and excite children about learning in our community,” Halterman said.

The education foundation’s sixth year of giving grants would not have been possible without the generosity of Stafford’s 350th Committee, said local historian Jane Conner, who suggested the idea to the nonprofit group.

The closure of Cannon Ridge Golf Club meant the foundation couldn’t host its annual Golf Classic, which raised money for programs including the teaching grants, she said.

A retired teacher, Conner chairs the foundation’s ITG panel, which will give out 20 grants of $500 apiece.

In the spring, the committee will solicit more proposals. They’ll enable six additional teachers to undertake projects during the 2014 school year, starting in September.

On the fog-shrouded evening of Jan. 14, each of the 14 initial awardees—or their stand-in, often a principal—was recognized by the School Board and Stafford Education Foundation President Bob Hunt during the board’s meeting.


Clint Schemmer: 540/368-5029


Jennifer Burch, Hartwood Elementary: Will create a replica longhouse with assistance of the local Patawomeck tribe.

Melinda Goodin, Brooke Point High: Will take special education students to Government Island, Belmont and White Oak Museum. students will create a history timeline and compare what they discover at each site. Teacher will prepare a field-trip guide for other educators, include SOL objectives.

Catherine Clark, Falmouth Elementary: Students will create 24 mixed-media paintings on canvas depicting historic architecture in Falmouth to be permanently placed in their school’s new library.

Summer Craig, Stafford Middle: Students will create graphic novels, bringing together “visuals, history, modern artwork and writing devices” after researching Stafford history.

Beth Halterman, Rockhill Elementary: Students will photograph, sample water and gather data at Stafford’s historic Government Island, produce school display of their findings.

Joyce Leatherwood, Winding Creek Elementary: Students will create tile mural, emphasizing Stafford’s historical significance, to be permanently installed in the fourth-grade hallway.

Don Mullen, Gayle Middle: Students will will discover how the new military telegraph provided almost instant communication between President Lincoln and his generals, building and operating their own telegraphs and exploring electromagnetism.

Karen Peery, Conway Elementary: Students will visit Chatham, Government Island and Ferry Farm, collect data and create scrapbooks.

Heidi Sloan, Ferry Farm Elementary: Students will visit Government Island, White Oak Museum, Ferry Farm, Marlborough Point and Chatham, do research and create packets to be used by social studies teachers.

Britta Shaver Stafford Middle: Students will research their choice of Stafford historic topics, create a children’s book published via, which will be donated to the Grafton Village Elementary library.

Miracle Snyder, Widewater Elementary: Students will paint mural of sites such as Aquia Church and Aquia Landing and historic figures such as Capt. John Smith and Widewater artist Palmer Hayden.

Catherine Bacon, North Stafford High: Col. Bacon, a NSHS/AFJROTC instructor, will have students research Thadeus Lowe’s Union Balloon Corps launchings in Stafford during the Civil War and Samuel Langley’s pre-Wright Brothers’ flights off Widewater’s shores.

Mary Ellen McCabe, Stafford Elementary: Students will research important Stafford people such as Pocahontas, George Washington, Margaret Brent and Moncure Daniel Conway, and portray them in a time-machine “Meeting of the Minds” newscast.

Katie Gnadt, Drew Middle: In field trip to Friends of the Rappahannock, students will learn what Capt. John Smith reported from his journey up the Rappahannock, map the river and collect macroinvertebrates to assess today’s water quality.


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