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July 12, 2014, 4:37 am

Hill-Freedman embraces science

Known for its rigorous curriculum, extensive music and arts program, and various electives, Hill-Freedman Middle School continues to have its students perform at an advanced level.

“There is no other school like this one,” said eighth-grader Chyna Moore-Smith. “The opportunities here are endless. What makes this school so different is that everyone is on the same page; we help each other. I’ve learned so much at this school.”

Historically, there were two schools: Hill and Freedman. Hill housed the magnet school program and Freedman specialized in serving special needs students. Until a few years ago, both schools combined. Now students interact with one another during lunch, at assemblies, and electives classes.

“The electives is a good way for the magnet school students to have an opportunity to communicate their opinions on the interactions they have when taking classes with the special needs students,” said principal Anthony Majewski. “Before we had two separate schools, but now we’re integrating. Our goal as an international baccalaureate school is to honor students with special needs and to bring them into the fold. It’s been beneficial because it brings awareness to our magnet school students, but at the same time it build socialization for the students with special needs.”

Pamela Taylor Anderson, International Baccalaureate Middle Year Program Coordinator, says what makes this school unique is that the school provides the best opportunity for both magnet school students and special needs students through the experience of learning from each other.

“We are constantly thinking of new ways to expand on the learning experience at Hill-Freedman,” Anderson said. “We’re very active when in comes to engaging and including our special needs population. Everything that we have done so far has been very successful. The students have a natural excitement for learning here. The different electives the school offers really take their learning experience to the next level.”

Every other Thursday, students take elective classes with one another. Students learn from a range of subjects such as cartooning, baking, dance, sports fitness, international gaming, the glee project, world domination, and reduce, reuse, recycle. Students will have six session with the first elective they choose and six sessions for the second. The second sessions will start in February.

“When I was looking into the different electives, cartooning was the most natural fit me because I like to draw,” said seventh-grader Mikayla Green. “I eventually want to learn how to make a video game. I want to know more about the skills it takes to draw a video game and how that drawing transforms into the game itself.”

One of the popular electives at Hill-Freedman is the S.T.E.M. Squad. This elective provides students with additional time to learn computer programming and robotics. Students learn “Mind Craft,” a virtual world application offered through Temple University. Students will also learn additional laptop trouble shooting techniques to solve simple computer problems.

“S.T.E.M. Squad is fun,” said sixth-grader Jason Gleaton. “It’s a great way for me to know more about engineering, science, and robotics. Everything we work on has to be a certain way or won’t work. The harder we work as a team, the better the results will be when we’re done working on the object.”

For sixth-grader Dia Lee, S.T.E.M. Squad is all about taking advantage of something he already likes to do.

“I like Lego’s and building things with my hands,” Lee said. “S.T.E.M. Squad allows me to do those things, but on anther level. We build robots; it’s hard because when you’re building something every piece has to fall into place. If the pieces don’t fall into place, you’re back at the drawing board and have to start all over. It’s all worth it in the end when you see your final result.”

In addition to electives, Hill-Freedman is also implementing a S.T.E.M. course. S.T.E.M. educator Ambra Hook leads the course. The school recently teamed up with the University of Pennsylvania to work on the Zebra fish project. Students in the seventh-grade participated in the Zebra fish project.

“When Zebra fish lay eggs they develop back into an adult with 48 hours,” Hook said. “The instructors of Penn bought with them a male and female fish and special containers to keep them in. Once the eggs drop safely, the students were able to see the eggs through different stages of development through a microscope.

“When I came to Hill-Freedman, I wanted to give the students the best experience in S.T.E.M., whether it’s through robotics, computer, science, or engineering. I wanted the students to completely understand the concept of S.T.E.M. by giving them a hands-on experience through various classes. The feedback has been really good so far, and the students enjoy the classes that I teach.”

Hill-Freedman continues to expand on its academic excellence, but Majewski says there is one goal he has yet to achieve.

“We eventually want to expand the school, so that it would include a high school,” he said. “It’s something the parents, teachers, and students want. We’re still in the early stages of everything, but I think if we had our kids from sixth to 12th grade, we’ll be able to see our students grow to their full potential.”