Going green is not just a way of life for the newly renovated Myers Elementary School of the School District of Cheltenham Township but also a new teaching tool. Myers Elementary School is now one of only 650 schools in the nation to receive LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification for its green improvements to the building. With motion censored lighting in every room and bathroom, low-flow toilets and sinks, environmentally-friendly roofing and other advancements, the building is helping students to discover the importance of being environmentally conscious. Teachers have also been integrating the new building into their lesson plans with a dashboard in each room that indicates how much energy the school is using. Students can then track daily energy usage to follow climate changes.
Not sure if you should be using “who” or “whom?” Twelfth grade students at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School of Colonial School District have the solution — seek help at the school’s Peer Writing Center. The student-run writing center began in October 2011 as an honor’s elective and currently has about a dozen designated writing fellows. The program aims to prepare students with the tools they need to improve their writing in the long run.
Students at Makefield Elementary School of Pennsbury School District have the opportunity to go back in time to the 1700s to gain a better understanding of the Colonial era. The day-long program called “Colonial Day” occurs every two years and has been taking place at the school for almost three decades. During the day, students interact with militiamen, tradesmen and craftsmen, and even participate in activities such as quill writing and candle making. By enabling children to engage with aspects of Colonial life, the students gain a greater appreciation of our past history.
Upper Dublin High School advanced geosciences and forensic science teacher, Richard Schmidt was one of only 97 recipients nationwide to be honored with the distinguished Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching by President Barack Obama in 2012. Schmidt has taken a creative approach to his lessons on oceanography as he instructs students on scuba diving in order to complete a lab in the school’s pool. Students who take Schmidt’s classes walk away from the semester with the knowledge and training to scuba dive as well as real world experience in the realm of oceanographic studies. Even though Schmidt began performing this lab experiment for his students more than 10 years ago, he adjusts the assignment each year to give the program a fresh face.
Ninth grade Lower Merion social studies teacher Thomas Reed sponsors the school’s chapter of buildOn. A non-profit organization, buildOn empowers U.S. high school students through in-class and intensive after-school programs. In addition to tremendous contributions of community service in their own cities and neighborhoods, buildOn youth actually build schools and bring literacy to children and adults in developing countries around the world. Programs are designed to build confidence and real-world capabilities in American youth while also empowering communities world-wide to overcome the crippling cycle of illiteracy, poverty and low expectations by opening the door to education.
Lower Merion buildOn members have participated in community service projects including charity walks, working at Philabundance, volunteering at the Special Olympics, planting trees and cleaning up trails, among many other activities. During the past two years, the teams have raised more than $90,000 to construct a pair of schools in impoverished rural villages in Haiti.
The 18 members of the 2014 Trek team, which for the first time unites students from Lower Merion with Harriton’s buildOn club, has set its fundraising goal at $91,950 to fund the construction of a school in Nepal. To learn more, visit the team’s fundraising page.
Milford Middle School in the Quakertown Community School District participates in the International Paper Airplane Challenge, where students use the scientific method to research what makes the best paper airplane. The students do the research, propose their own questions and design controlled experiments in order to test their hypotheses. Their notes and data are kept on a wiki web site along with uploaded videos and graphs of their data. The program partners Milford with other schools in Australia and New York. Students are able to view the work of other student scientists at the partner schools and have online discussions about the project.
In Lower Merion High School’s Minority Achievement Program (M.A.P.), the highest achieving African American and Hispanic students are supported to take primarily honors and AP courses and be successful. The tactics have resulted in the doubling, in just one year, of the number of honors /AP classes being taken by minority students. Additionally, 84 percent of the 9th graders earned a GPA of 3.0 or above in those classes.
In the My Chinese 360 program at Quakertown Community High School, students work in real-time with Chinese teacher Ning Wu in Beijing, utilizing webcams. This interactive, online course provides the opportunity to study the Chinese language in formats that are engaging, powerful, and convenient while earning academic credit and developing skills that will help them to compete and succeed in the interconnected global economy of the 21st century. The program runs through the University of Peking.
The Future is N.E.A.R. (Nanotechnology Education and Research) program at North Penn High School is a customized education research experience designed to offer students a glimpse into the world of nanotechnology and research. It introduces the fundamentals of nanotechnology, engineering research, and higher level thinking and application of knowledge to high school students while cultivating their interest in engineering, problem solving and life-long learning.
As part of a district-wide initiative to save energy and go green, Bensalem School District ran a switch plate contest, “Flip that Switch,” to promote conservation. Students designed original artwork and winners were chosen to be reproduced on switch plates across the district. Valley Elementary School’s focus was specifically to design a light switch cover that reminded students to turn out the lights before leaving the room and to promote saving money through energy conservation. Every full-time student participated in the contest and a volunteer from Tyler School of Art created a large display of a light switch advertising the contest for the school.