Silverman receives statewide recognition

Melissa Silverman, lower school science teacher, was selected as one of three teachers statewide to receive the Virginia Association of Independent Schools’ (VAIS) 2016 Innovation of Education Award.

Silverman received her award before an audience of 400 educators on Friday, Oct. 14 at the VAIS 2016 Leading Learning Conference in Richmond. The conference was themed Seeding the Future, Growing Through Failure.

Silverman, who played an integral role in the development of Collegiate’s Outdoor Learning Lab, was selected for her methods of promoting students success through individual and small group tutoring sessions within our Learning Resource Center and for her efforts spearheading the Outdoor Learning Lab.

“I was very surprised by the award,” said Silverman. “I went to the VAIS conference as a presenter. Cleteus Smith, head of the lower school, and I presented two sessions about the Outdoor Learning Lab and how our students have found success and failures along the way within their projects. At the end of the conference, the award was announced, and I was very touched,” she continued. “All teachers work very hard to provide meaningful teaching experiences to their students, and we all care so much about each child. It is nice to have our efforts recognized and appreciated.” 

Collegiate’s Outdoor Learning Lab, which opened in May 2016, features four vegetable gardens, a green house, a flower garden and a chicken coop with five buff orpington hens. Our students tend the outdoor spaces and donate a portion of the eggs and produce to the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore. 

Silverman gives great respect to Smith, who inspired the vision for the lab.

“The Outdoor Learning Lab at the lower school affords our students with hands-on engaging activities where they are able to take ownership of their learning,” said Smith. “This couldn’t be possible without the tutelage of Melissa Silverman who has been such an incredible asset to not only our science program and our students but to our school as well. Her engaging lessons, her scientific knowledge base, her compassion for learning and her genuine care for all of our students and hens is why this outdoor learning program is thriving and flourishing at our lower school.”

“This lab means so much to me because I see the pride on students’ faces when they look at the plants they have grown and the hens that they have raised,” said Silverman. “I love the knowledge and life experiences they are gaining. Most especially, I am touched by their desire to give back to those in need. I am overwhelmed by how excited they get to be able to deliver eggs and vegetables to the Foodbank. It clearly demonstrates what great citizens our children are. I'm very proud to be a part of the Norfolk Collegiate family because of our students.”

The Outdoor Learning Lab has provided our lower school students with many learning experiences, including the concepts of soil content, weathering and erosion, plant growth, seeding, animal life cycle, photosynthesis, habitats, water cycle, insects, flower studies, weather, measurement, rocks and minerals and more.

So far this school year, our students have planted fall vegetables that such as cabbage, kale, collards, spinach, lettuces, tomatoes, beans and cucumbers, as well as herbs such as basil, thyme and cilantro. Our hens are also thriving and each hen is laying an egg every one to two days. Our Oaks have delivered 24 eggs to the Foodbank and also given eggs to two Collegiate families. 

“Melissa is a true faculty leader at our school,” said Headmaster Scott Kennedy. “Not only did she take an idea and make it a reality, she also integrated lessons and learning opportunities throughout the curriculum. None of this great work would have happened without her.” 

For more information about our Outdoor Learning Lab, please click here.

To view a video on the Outdoor Learning Lab, please click here.