Sharing Our Progress

October 2022

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Did you know that Tuesday, September 6 was National Read A Book Day?

Written by

Renita Davis-Kelley

Chesterfield Juvenile Detention Center

On September 6, 2022 we celebrated National Read A Book Day! Believed to have originated in the US, the goal is to encourage people to pick up a book and read. Studies show that reading improves memory and concentration while also reducing stress. The goal for the class was just to read the first chapter of “The Pack”, a book by three doctors, George Jenkins, Sampson Davis and Rameck Hunt. However, what started out as a familiar read along quickly became a full class lesson. The students were intrigued by the narrative of the story which enticed us to read more of the book. The story served as a catalyst for the day’s lesson as we compared the courage and fortitude of the main characters with the skills and responsibilities it takes to be successful in the field of business ownership and operations. Overall National Read A Book Day, was a much-needed spark to encourage our students to read more.

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A New World...Explored and Colonized.

Was Sept.7, 2022 a typical school day at the Newport News Juvenile Detention School? Perhaps, but certainly not in the Virginia and U.S. History Class. During the summer High School Social Studies Teacher Mrs. Owens attended a professional development workshop at the Mariners’ Museum and Park in Newport News, VA. Later, she contacted the museum about doing a program at the Newport News Juvenile Detention School. The museum staff were quite amenable and plans were set in motion. The selected program correlated with the first unit of study in the Virginia course curriculum, the colonization of America. The title of the presentation was “A New World… Explored and Colonized”. Two staff members from the Mariners’ Museum and Park facilitated the presentation: Ms. Brandan Adams, Senior History Educator and Ms. Lydia Hester, History Educator.

The presentation was an exciting mixture of primary sources, a PowerPoint lecture, hands-on objects and an educational game. The primary sources included a world map of Africa, Asia and Europe circa 1489. The students were asked to identify any inaccuracies on the map, which they did. Additionally, the students were quick to question why there were areas on the map that indicated the location of monsters! Ms. Adams explained the reason for the locations of monsters on the map and many students joked that they would have certainly avoided those areas! The museum staff also had a large painting of the arrival of Europeans getting off ships and native Americans greeting them. (The exact date of the painting was unknown.) The students were asked to analyze the painting. Right away the students remarked that the painting was probably done from a European perspective because they felt that the Europeans had an air of “superiority” about them!

The educators included a short PowerPoint presentation as they demonstrated the usage of the following navigational tools: a cross-staff, quadrant, astrolabe and back-staff. Each student was able to handle and practice using the tools.

Next, the diet during the voyage from Europe to the Americas was discussed. The educators brought hardtack (a dense biscuit) and a tea brick (a compressed block of tea) for students to handle and smell. Ms. Adams explained that the tea bricks traveled quite well and that is the reason why they were taken on long journeys.

Lastly, the educators taught the Columbia Exchange by means of an interactive game; the students especially enjoyed this. The Columbian Exchange game was played in two groups. One group was the colonists and the other group was the Native Americans. Each person had three cards that had different products on them and students could only trade within their group. Next, Ms. Adams changed the personnel within the groups and this allowed for more diversity in trading. As the groups were trading, the educators talked about problems that occurred during trading, such as misunderstandings and language barriers. The educators also talked about problems of colonization such as diseases, that were brought to the New World by the Europeans.

The museum staff allowed plenty of time for questions and comments and expressed to Mrs. Owens that they were pleased and impressed with the number of questions and the high level of participation from the students.

At the conclusion of the presentation, Mr. John P. Day, III, School Principal, met with Ms. Brandan Adams and Ms. Lydia Hester and thanked them for taking the time to come to the Newport News Juvenile Detention School and for enriching the education of our students.

Newport News Juvenile Detention School

Submitted by Jan D. Owens


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Above, from left to right:

Brandan Adams, Jan Owens, and Lydia Hester

Connecting with Students through Creative Activities

The staff at Piedmont Regional Juvenile Detention Center have begun a new book study entitled We Belong: 50 Strategies to Create Community, by Laurie Barron and Patti Kinney. In this book there are several ideas on building a sense of belonging with students which in turn begins the process of building the bridges between academics and student success. In an effort to involve all students in job shadowing and/or transition services, Mrs. Llewellyn has been working to find a common bond in student interests. Well, she sure found one! Our students love to eat and they have been working on making delicious recipes in the form of cup size proportions.

The students researched careers and culinary arts was one of the common threads. So the hunt for strategies to incorporate food service tasks within a classroom with no refrigerator, oven, sink, or cutlery became the mission. In the students’ research, they found a world of cup size delicacies that are said to make the most finicky person take notice. These recipes are said to use simple ingredients, a microwave, and a mug to transform into a one cup wonder …. Or so the recipes state. So the students put it to test!

In the classroom, students have made a variety of goodies, from vanilla sprinkle cakes to macaroni and cheese. Other projects to come include the following: blueberry muffins with streusel topping, chicken pot pie (made with tofu), coffee cup quiche, and their request for the winter holidays- sweet potato pie with toffee and caramel.

Students have a recipe file that is used to house their creations and their favorites. The recipes will go with them once they leave. Another exciting part of this project, is learning proportions and cost analysis of items. And we can’t forget learning about a healthy lifestyle, good hygiene and safety.

And as we build the sense of belonging, students are also practicing manners, sharing, and general care for each other. Pictured below is a sampling of their creations.

Mrs. Llewellyn and Dr. Matthews

Piedmont Regional Juvenile Detention Center

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Tuckahoe Library JRJDC Art Show

This beautiful flyer was created by Mrs. Stephanie Gutierrez, Exceptional Education & Art Teacher, for the Henrico/James River Detention Centers Education Programs Art Show being held at their local library in Henrico County.

Eisner Award-Winning Graphic Novelist Comes to Merrimac

Anyone who comes to Merrimac will have some new artwork to admire! The 2022 enrichment period left an impact that will be enjoyed for many years to come. The Merrimac Detention Center invited Laura Lee Gulledge to work with the students on a comic strip mural project for the wall of the cafeteria. The project, enjoyed by all, resulted in artwork that is going to brighten up students’ mealtimes for years to come.

Anyone who has been through the graphic novel section of their local library may have seen Ms. Gulledge’s graphic novels: Page by Paige, Will and Whit, The Dark Matter of Mona Starr, and Sketch Book Dares. Ms. Gulledge, who preferred to be called Laura Lee, was nominated for the Eisner Award (like the Oscars for graphic novels) for her work on Page by Paige, and is even in talks to possibly bring The Dark Matter of Mona Starr to life in a television series in the future. Laura Lee has undergraduate and graduate degrees in art education and she brought her skills to the classroom. She likes to refer to her work with other students and adults as “artnering”, a portmanteau of “art” and “partnering”.

On the first day, Laura Lee “artnered” with three groups of students, creating their own characters and conflicts. Then they structured their stories over six or seven panels of a comic strip. The different comics were voted on and a winner was chosen, Harriet’s Hair. This particular story was about Harriet getting ready for picture day at school when her hair comes to life and makes for a challenging situation. Harriet and her hair end up working together and making picture day a success. Once the story was created, Laura Lee drew the panels and the students did doodle work to color them in. The panels were then applied to the wall with an industrial strength modge podge to become a permanent fixture in the cafeteria.

Now the wall has a vibrant mural of the students’ own design for them to appreciate at their meals. Laura Lee prescribes to the instrumentalist view of art, where art should be used to make an impact or change the world. Her work with us at Merrimac certainly changed the daily experience of students’ meal times. Just like Harriet and her hair, Laura Lee and the students were able to work together to make enrichment 2022 a lasting success.

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The Compassion Project


Chesterfield Juvenile Detention Center to The Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU

Written by

Renita Davis-Kelley

Chesterfield Juvenile Detention Center

The students at Chesterfield Juvenile Detention embraced the idea with open arms of The Compassion Project. What is the Compassion Project? Glad you asked. The Compassion Project was about individuals thinking beyond their current situations in order to provide help and assistance for someone else who was in need. Starting off with positivity cards, the students creatively reflected on images that promoted kindness and motivation. Additionally, the students “lived” the words and images by making 60 No- Sew -Blankets. The recipients were students who are currently patients at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond. Ranging from infancy to age eighteen, the students were delighted to receive these thoughtful acts of kindness. A project of this magnitude would not have been possible without the assistance of our Summer Intern, Ms. Layla Powell. She served as a one of our major illustrators for the students and served as a positive role model during her time with the students. We’re hoping to continue this project for years to come.

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Cross Curriculum at CCCA

It is well documented that students have increased engagement and have more meaningful connections to material when the learning experience is treated as a whole.

This year the Commonwealth Center for Children and Adolescents is emphasizing cross-curricular learning opportunities for its students by offering lessons linked across content areas as they move from class to class.

Some recent examples of those lessons have included learning about the solar system in Science class paired with readings on the latest space news in English class, and plotting points and slope in Math class paired with using computers to map topography in technology class.

Other combinations to coming up are Math and Science: taxonomy and quadrilaterals; Elementary Social Studies and Art: Introduction to Native Americans; World History and Art: Ancient Egypt; English and Art: Symbols of Identity and Memoir Vignettes.

By linking across subject areas, we hope our students will have a truly authentic, engaging learning experience where they can apply new skills in a multitude of ways.

Richard Elias

English and History Teacher

Commonwealth Center for Children and Adolescents

Processing Feelings through Art

Building on Community Connection, Personal Strengths, and Self-Esteem

Diane Miller


Prince William County

September's Character word was Responsibility and the Social Emotional Learning goal centered around Self-awareness. Using the combination of those objectives we began by asking the students several different questions about themselves and their strongest emotions. We hung posters in each of the classrooms which included the different things each of us can do and the kinds of responsibilities each of us has.

During the month we asked the students specifics about their emotions; what they felt, and what social or environmental situation occurred just prior to their feelings and emotion. We asked how their body felt at those times, and what, if any “reaction” they had. The students wrote their answers in a journal. We did several different short writing exercises throughout the month to explore the different ways they respond to their feelings and emotions. We included the way that their bodies physically felt as well as what they were thinking at those times.

We discussed many different forms of responsibility each of us has and how our emotions can impact our behaviors as they relate to responsibilities in either a negative or positive manner. Some of the types of responsibility that we discussed included: personal, family, school/educational, and social, with a concentration on personal responsibility. We discussed how being angry and explosive could derail behaving responsibly. We discussed how to identify the underlying feeling and strategies they can use so they “act” responsibly and not “react” in ways that are not responsible.

We introduced the Anger Iceberg. And explored how Anger is the “most widely accepted emotion” and what we express most often when what we feel is often extreme vulnerability.

We discussed how we may behave or express ourselves differently to different groups of people and we often show and behave in ways that are not consistent with how we feel inside. The consequences of those behaviors are often grave.

Initially, the primarily 14-18-year-old male students did not want anything to do with “feeling their feelings” or participating in the writing exercises. By the end of the month, they were writing significant answers and self-reflecting. For the month wrap-up, each student made a mask that represented how they feel others see them, how they see themselves, or how they would like to be seen. The mask painting project was scheduled for one class period, but the students were so invested in expressing themselves that they requested a second period to finish their artwork.

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Another successful cook out

The annual Chesapeake Juvenile Services Back to School Cook Out was a big success. Mr. Al Alexander presented Principal Spruill with a check from the New Chesapeake Men for Progress Education Foundation. Everyone enjoyed burgers, hot dogs, BBQ, and fried fish. What a wonderful kick-off to the 2022-2023 school year!

Wesley Lewis

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