A new world, not far away, awaits
Introducing children to wildlife can be a great way to get them interested in science, discovery and nature. While many kids may be intimidated by the periodic table and microscopes, most are inherently fond of all animals, from baby penguins to exotic cheetahs. Fortunately, there are fun and affordable ways to get kids engaged with nature and wildlife, learning valuable lessons along the way.
How to Make Wildlife Interesting
Do Some Research: Take children on a virtual safari using reliable sources found on the Internet. A wide range of information and pictures on just about every known reptile, amphibian, mammal and more can be found with the click of a mouse. Once children have narrowed down the basic facts about their favorite animals, take a trip to the library and give them a challenge — find one fact about an unknown animal. This not only exposes children to exciting new information, it also gives them a chance to learn about valuable research tools.
Have a “Wild” Experience: Once children have learned more about the animal kingdom, it’s time to reward them with real one-on-one animal time. Zoos and wildlife preserves offer the perfect opportunity to get up close and personal with creatures — large or small — that kids have seen through pictures. While there, kids can meet animal specialists who are usually on hand to provide children with the information and fun stories that come from working with animals on a day-to-day basis.
Bring the Lessons to the Living Room: A family movie can be a great way to wrap up an exploration of the animal kingdom. The toe-tapping family blockbuster “Happy Feet Two,” available now from Warner Bros. on Blu-ray disc and DVD, is an excellent resource that animal lovers of all ages can enjoy. In the sequel to the Academy Award-winning “Happy Feet,” Mumble’s son Erik lacks the dancing talent of all the other penguins. Erik runs away to avoid dancing, only to have his world shaken by powerful forces. Erik and his father must bring together the penguin nations and all manners of fabulous creatures — from tiny krill to giant elephant seals — to make things right.
“Happy Feet Two” showcases the beauty of the natural world and the fragility of the environment that sustains it. With an all-star cast, including Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon, it’s an exciting family film kids will learn from and love. — (NAPSI)
Drama, literature, music blend with academics
Watch out, Broadway. Feltonville Arts and Science students are adding drama class and choir to their rosters, learning how to write monologues, direct plays and even put on a production of a Broadway musical.
No longer an after-school-based program, classes are taught throughout the week and to sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students.
“One of the things that was big for me, of course, academics is the biggest piece of the job, but the fact that the school was called ‘Arts and Science.’ I was like, ‘Why is it called Arts and Science?’ when I first came here because we didn’t have much arts or science things going on,” Principal Michael Reid said.
“So this year we added things to the kids’ roster so the kids could pick stuff that they want to take, almost like a high school roster.”
Lead teacher E. Yaffa-Kremen has been teaching reading, language arts, social studies and drama for 15 years. She said these new programs of academics are geared to encourage students to express themselves.
“The school has definitely started to improve with the implementation of the arts. I think it makes learning fun. It gets kids to want to come to school when they’re involved in something other than sitting and writing. I think it gives them a whole different aspect of learning,” Yaffa-Kremen said.
“Now some of the kids are really involved in the arts. We have a choir. It’s nice to see that there’s excitement in learning, and learning is starting to be a little more enjoyable. Kids are thinking, they’re creating because of that, they’re doing better in their other classes.”
Of Principal Reid, Yaffa-Kremen said his hands-on approach is much appreciated.
“You have to have a principal that’s willing to take chances and trust others. He definitely wants kids to want to learn. He’s always looking for ways to motivate them to want to come to school and want to make it more fun. He meets with me or the choir teacher, he says, ‘What do you need? What can I do to help you?’ He helped all of us clean up after the play and put props away. Not too many principals would do that. I think he’s on the right track to get the staff to want to do more,” Yaffa-Kremen said.
“The last performance we had in the marking period, the winter show and the one we did last year. I like the performances because we have a [teacher] who takes junior Broadway plays and produces some with our kids. It’s really unique to see our kids on stage singing, acting and dancing. There were so many kids involved. It was nice to see our kids in that light,” Reid said.
“She’s really an asset to our school,” Assistant Principal Peggy Klova-Davis said.
Students have done skits for science fairs, conflict resolution workshops and even for the annual holiday show.
The sixth-grade classes are focused on Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and are writing their own dream speeches.
The eighth- and seventh-grade classes are writing their own scripts by taking popular stories and adding their own twists.
Additionally, the eighth-graders wrote a book of monologues that was published by Yaffa-Kremen. This is the first year that she has had the student’s work published.
“I think it builds self-confidence and self-esteem. I think it gives them a different perspective of literature, because usually they’re reading it, almost like a spectator, their just looking at literature on paper. This gives them an opportunity to walk in the character’s shoes. Be the actual character, see what it feels like, experience empathy,” Yaffa-Kremen said.
“I think it makes them better readers, better writers, better literature analysts. In my opinion, theater encompasses such a large spectrum of skills from page to page that makes you a well rounded student.”
Providing a culture of success that focuses on developing students into leaders who are equipped with the key 21st century skills of critical thinking, problem solving, self-empowerment and multicultural competence in order to excel academically and as community leaders is the motto for students attending Horace Howard Furness High School.
“As the new principal of Furness High School, my staff and I commitment has been to continue to provide a safe, nurturing learning environment focused on academic excellence and collaboration,” said principal Daniel Peou. “We want to make sure that we provide the best academic experience for all of our students. We not only want to prepare them for college, but we also want them to be successful in life.
“We support innovation and embrace a student-centered approach to problem-solving and personal empowerment,” Peou continued. “We challenge all of our students to put their best foot forward in everything that they do. They’re not just our students, but we’re a family.”
Furness offers its students a variety of AP courses including art history, biology, calculus AB, composition, U.S. history, foreign languages and physics, which the school has a partnership with the University of Pennsylvania. The school also offers students various activities and programs including BuildOn, GEAR UP, yearbook club, National Honor Society, debate team and student government.
“Furness is a good school,” said ninth-grader Amina Bibi. “The school offers different programs and activities for all of the students. The teachers at the school do a good job of helping you, especially if you need help in a class. You’re always learning something new in each of the classes. I’m really like going to this school.”
Other academic programs at Furness include hotel, restaurant, travel and tourism academy, Urban Education Academy, and English as a Second Language/Multicultural Academy. In In addition to the schools core curriculum and programs, Furness is known for being a diverse school. Of the 600 students, 48.9 percent are Asian, 29.9 percent African American, 12 percent Latino, and 2 percent are American Indian. There are 22 different languages spoken at the school.
“In addition to the classes, programs, and activities, what makes this school so unique is the diversity,” said tenth-grader Rosa Maria Tellez. “Everyone here comes from different background and cultures, so we are all learning from each other. It really is the ultimate learning experience. I really like going to Furness. The principal and teachers are great and they all want us to succeed.”
During the school’s spring break, Sophomore’s Isaiah Randolph and Derek Samoul Seang lived with a host family in Haiti for two weeks and experienced the simplicity and challenges of life in a developing nation without resources like running water or electricity.
The trip was through the BuildOn and Trek Knowledge programs. BuildOn is breaking the cycle of poverty, illiteracy, and low expectations through service and education. BuildOn runs youth service programs that mobilize urban teens to change both their communities and the world through intensive local community service and by building schools in developing countries.
Every year, select students from BuildOn’s afterschool programs participate in Trek for Knowledge, where they help construct a school in a remote village. Students mix concrete, make bricks and form walls by hand alongside villagers. They also spend time every day on the worksite constructing the school, and also attend cultural workshops to help learn more about the people and the country they are working in.
“Building the school was hard work,” said Samoul Seang. “We would work for about three hours a day on the school itself. Because it was so hot there, we were told to drink a lot of water, so that we wouldn’t get sick. I was moving and picking up rocks, sometimes the rocks would actually cut through my gloves.
“We all gave it 100 percent. It wasn’t about us, it was really about the kids and that’s why we wanted to go. We never been through anything like that before, but in the end it was worth it, because we did it for the kids and the community.”
For Randolph, the trip wasn’t just about helping those in need in Haiti, but it was also about be thankful for the blessings in life.
“The people in Haiti didn’t have a lot, but they had enough,” Randolph said. “Seeing what they have to go through day in and out really made me appreciate everything that I have. I use to complain about not having this or that and their resources are limited and they didn’t complain at all.
“The Haiti trip really made me see the bigger picture and be appreciative for life and everything that I have. I went there to help them and in the end they helped me. I’m grateful, humbled, and appreciative for this experience. I will definitely do it again. I want to do it again.”
On Feb. 10, Albert M. Greenfield School was awarded $500 for being Pennsylvania Recycle Bowl 2012’s Runner-up in the state-wide recycling contest (sponsored by Keep America Beautiful, Keep PA Beautiful, Keep Philadelphia Beautiful and Greenstar Recycling). Greenfield staff and students successfully recycled 19 pounds of paper per student over a four-week period. The Greenfield community strives to protect the environment through its recycling program, rainwater conservation project and solar panel project.
E.M. Stanton receives grants to support cultural program
Students at E.M. Stanton School will benefit from two grants that support the arts. Bainbridge House, a community partner with Stanton, received $6,551 from The Philadelphia Cultural Fund and $816 from the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance. Bainbridge House has received grants from the City of Philadelphia and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania respectively for the last six years which support teaching artists and programming in visual arts, music, drama and dance. Bainbridge House and E. M. Stanton School thank Mayor Michael Nutter and City Council as well as Gov. Tom Corbett and the Pennsylvania General Assembly for their confidence and support.
Walk into Sheryl Barreto's eighth-grade social studies class and see students hands raised and discussing various topics in history including the Civil War, Battle of Gettysburg, and the role African-American soldiers played. As Berreto writes the answers on the board, students continue to talk about their thoughts on the lesson and how what happend in history then has impacted the country today.
“This class is one of my favorite classes; I really like learning about History,” said eighth-grader Thomas Mars. “The teacher really gives us various activities to really understand what we are learning. With this class, we don’t do an overview of historical events, we really learn everything that took place during that time period. The lessons are very detailed. I’m looking forward to what we will be learning next.”
With the motto “Anchored in Excellence,” Meehan continues to prepare students for the next phase of their academic career - high school. A two-year program, students who attend Meehan perform at high levels and are prepared academically and receive the ultimate learning experience through various programs.
“Meehan is a really good school,” said eighth-grader Heather Hanson. “The teachers do a really good job of helping us excel academically. If we need help with something, they are willing to help. The just don’t prepare us for school, but also for life. They incorporate life lessons into our school lessons everday. I couldn’t have gone to a better school.”
For eighth-grader Erica Graham, going to Meehan wasn’t as big of an adjustment that she thought it would be. This is Graham’s first year at the school.
“I was a little hesitant to come here because I wasn’t sure want to expect, but I’m glad that I did,” Graham said. “The teachers are really nice and do a good job of helping us succeed academically. The atmosphere is great and the school offer’s a lot of different programs. I think this school has helped prepare all of us for the next level. I’m really enjoying my school experience at Meehan.”
In addition to the core curriculum, Meehan offers its students a wide range of different programs including computers, robotics, chess, student council, and a art and music program.
“The school does a really good job of offering us different opportunities,” said eighth-grader Leslie Ayala. “Because of the different programs the school has, it really gives us a chance to find out what we like to do. I personally like the art and music program. I play the cello in orchestra. When it comes to art, it’s a good way for me to express myself. I think that everyone has a creative side of them and in art I get to display mines. I’m really into the arts; it’s a really good program. I really like everything this school has to offer.”
The school also has various sports programs including basketball, soccer, baseball, and track field.
Eighth-grader Nassir Coleman takes full advantage of his experience at Meehan.
“My experience at the school has been good,” Coleman said. “When I came here I wanted to make sure that I took full advantage of my expeience while I was here. I do that, by participating in sports at the school. I play basketball. I also use to run track, but I had to stop. For other students who are looking to go here you won’t be disappointed. It’s a good school and it will help you grow personally and academically.”
Eighth-grader Maxwell Pena also participates in the sports program at Meehan. He plays soccer.
“There are so many programs and activities to do at this school that it would really be hard to find something you don’t enjoy doing,” Pena said. “Something that I like doing at the school is playing soccer. It’s a really fun sport to play, competitive, and it keeps me active. Meehan is a good school. It’s really up to us to take full advantage of everything the school has to offer. If students do participate in the programs at the school, they won’t be disappointed.”
The community and parents at Meehan also play a vital role with the school. Parents of the school are involved with home and school, school advisory council, and after-school and classroom volunteering.
“Meehan is the ultimate learning experience,” said eighth-grader Beverly Nwani. “We’re constantly learning, whether it’s in the classroom or through the programs the school has. We all want to succeed academically, but this school has helped all of grow personally. Because of Meehan, we will all be ready to enter high school. We will be able to embrace our full high school academic experience, because of the things we learned at this school. This school has helped prepare us for our future, and that is a lesson that none of us will ever forget.”
At Penrose Elementary School, students are learning more than reading, writing and arithmetic. They are also learning history lessons, how to solve math problems and how to write stories — lessons that show how their education relates to everyday life.
“I have learned so much from this school so far,” said third-grader Morgan Thomas. “If I haven’t learned something from my teachers, I’ve learned something from other students. We all push each other.”
For third-grader Amruta Holavanahalli, any class that she takes with Mrs. Scalon is fun.
“Mrs. Scanlon is a great teacher,” Holavanahalli said. “I’ve learned so much in her classes. She makes sure we do everything to the best of our ability. She’s willing to help when we don’t understand something. She makes learning fun. I’m really happy she is my teacher.”
The mission of Penrose School is to provide opportunities for all students to reach their personal best. The school strives to consistently deliver research-based, quality instruction in the core content areas of reading, math, science, social studies, and 21st Century technology. The school has 642 students.
“My favorite subject this year would have to be math, but I really just like learning about new things,” said third-grader William Quiros. “The teachers that I have make every subject interesting and fun, so it’s kind of hard to not like something at this school. I learned a lot so far, but I’m looking forward to learning more this school year.”
In addition to the school extracurricular activities, other highlights of the school include art, computer, gym classes, a fitness workout room, and a state of the art library. The school also has a parent volunteer program and an Eagles Vision van program.
One initiative that is new at Penrose this year is “Nickles for Sickles.” The initiative is the school’s way to bring awareness to sickle cell disease. For three months, students learned about the disease through various projects. The culminating event took place on Nov. 16, where all students participated in a walk. The money that was raised from the fundraiser went to the National Sickle Cell Society of Philadelphia.
“We wanted to look at sickle cell disease because there are people in our community who have the disease as well as students in our school,” said principal Huie Douglas. “The fundraiser was our way of educating both the community and the students about the disease itself. It was truly a collective effort between the students, staff, teachers, parents, and the community. The money we raised went to a good cause, but I also wanted the students gain knowledge from the research that they did. We wanted to use our means at the school to help and impact the community, and I think we did just that through this project.”
Eighth-grader Bafode Keita said the fundraiser helped bring the community and the students together.
“It’s never easy for anyone to have an illness or to be sick, but I think what made this project so unique is the support everyone received,” said Keita. “A lot of the students didn’t really know what sickle cell was, but once we researched it and learned more about, we all knew how important it was to bring awareness to it. This project was a learning experience for everyone. I’m just happy we were able to make a difference.”
For eighth-grader Ndeen Al-Barqawi attending Penrose has not only helped her become a better student, but also person. She has been attending the school since first grade. She wants to attend Academy at Palumbo for high school.
“We are getting so many experiences at this school,” said Al-Barqawi. “We’re not just learning at the school, but we are also learning about the world. Everything is hands-on and everything that we learn connects with what happens in everyday life, which makes going here a life lesson. I truly learned a lot her. This school has helped me become a better student and person. I’m looking forward to building on what I learned here in high school.”
Producing Philadelphia college bound scholars is just one job of George Washing Carver High School for Engineering and Sciences. The other is producing future leaders in engineering and sciences — scientists and doctors, well rounded and ready for the world.
“The workload here is definitely challenging; no grade on a test or subject we’re taking is easy, but everything we’re learning is preparing us for our future,” said senior Kiana Bland. “You learn very early how to balance your work out, but my experience here have paid off tremendously. I’ve already been accepted to Arcadia. I also want my major to pre-forensics. Going to Carver has made easier to figure out a plan for me future.”
Carver High is a magnet school with a curriculum that specializes in science and technology. Nearly 100 percent of students at Carver go on to college. Students also receive about $9.6 million in scholarships including Gates Millennium and QuestBridge scholars. The school also hosts a college fair every year with over 65 collegiate representatives, some even offering on-site admissions. There are currently 725 students attending the school.
“Carver is a really good high school,” said junior Steven Snipes. “The opportunities we receive are endless. Everything that we learn here is preparing us for college and the real world. Everybody here works really hard and is very dedicated. We’re the innovators of the future.”
Engineering classes offered at the school include: Principles of Engineering, Digital Electronics, Civil Engineering and Architecture, and Biotechnical Engineering, which will hone more advanced skills in biology, physics, technology, and mathematics and applies them to real-world biotech fields.
“What I really like about this school is the engineering courses that they offer,” said junior David R. Walter II. “I learned how to build imaginary circuits on our computer programs. Another thing that we do is if the school has problems with the computers they come to the engineering students. In the beginning and the end of the school year, we will bring the systems back on line or assembly them. Any minor problems they school comes to us. The program is very hands-on and the experience I receive here is incredible.”
In addition to the science and engineering programs, the school also has a three-year BioMed program. The program is designed to prepare students for careers in the medical sciences, research, and university pre-med programs. Students receive hands-on learning in the program through internships, university visits, field trips, SAT Prep, and talking with various speakers in the field.
“It’s the academics, teachers, and endless opportunities that make this school so special,” said senior Algeria Brisbon. “Dr. Basu has helped me in so many ways. I’ve done internships in my field and gotten into Drexel and UPenn because of his guidance. I plan on majoring in pre-med. The experience that I received here you cannot get at another school. When I go to college, I will be fully prepared because of the hard work and experiences I received while attending Carver.”
Sophomore Yonelkis Gutierrez has also learned a lot from Amit Basu’s sciences classes.
“I always wanted to be a doctor, but after taking a few science classes with Dr. Basu, I want to be a veterinary neurosurgeon,” he said. “What makes him a good teacher is his open door policy; I can always go to him for advice. He has also set me up with a mentor at Temple.
“It’s teachers like that, that truly makes a difference in our life. They want to see us succeed and are willing to go the extra mile to help us achieve our dream. Its nice to be at a school where everyone wants to help you prepare for your future.”
In addition to the programs and extra-curricular activities, Carver is also known for its numerous achievements. Carver continues to achieve AYP. Some awards the school has received over the years include: the National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence (2008), Middle States Accreditation (2010), National Academy Foundation Accreditation (2011), U.S. News and World Report– Bronze Awards (2008-2011), and the U.S. News and World Report– Silver Award (2012).
“There has been so many success stories at this school, that its hard for you not to want to succeed,” said junior Jaime Scott. “It’s really up to us to take advantage of everything the school has to offer. This school teaches us skills that we will use on an everyday basis. I’m interested in computer and environmental science from an engineering standpoint.
“Both have influenced me since I was young and as I entered into high school my passion for both grew over time. I want to make them into professions. Mr. Koehler has definitely helped me with my dream, because of him I already have experiences in subjects that I’m interested in. As far as my future, I’m interested in being a programmer, environmental scientist, or physicist. My experience at Carver has been amazing; I love everything about the school.”
Hearing the harmonizing sounds of vocalists and seeing students playing various instruments are some of the activities going on during a normal school day at Girard Academics Music Program (GAMP).
Known for its academic excellence, GAMP allows students in grades five through 12 to pursue music as a major subject. GAMP students engage in a triad of musical fields including choral, instrumental, and theory, making this school one of the top performing magnet schools in the district.
“The music and academic programs are excellent,” says seventh-grader David Hiester. “All of the music programs are very well-rounded and there are so many options that students can chose from. I play the piano, clarinet, bassoon, bass, bass clarinet, and guitar. I use to play the alto saxophone. I’m learning everything about music and performing at a young age. By the time I graduate, I will have excelled academically and gained more experiences than students at other schools.
There are three choirs at GAMP including Middle School Choir, High School Choir, and the Concert Choir (for which students must audition). It is the Concert Choir that does most outside school performances and travels nationally and internationally. The students study a variety of choral repertoires, ranging from Classical, to Jazz, to Pop, to Broadway music.
“I always wanted to do something in music, so GAMP was a natural fit for me” says eighth-grader Camille Porter. “What makes this program so beneficial to me is that everything is hands-on. All of our classes are not too big, so we really get that one-on-one time with our teachers. I think that’s the best way to learn, because we learn things at a much faster pace and have more time to rehearse it.”
Students at GAMP also have music theory three times a week. Students are grouped by grade level and ability. In theory class, students learn the basic building blocks of music, including sight singing and ear training. Sixth-grader Claire Gunawan has only been at GAMP for two years. She said the most challenging class is music theory.
“Music theory is definitely hard,” she said. “It’s very complex and it’s so many different elements to it. I do think the class will help us perfect our skills. In order to become great, you have to know what it takes to be great. Some of the things we learn, great vocalists use when they perform. It’s hard, but I’m embracing the challenge.”
The school includes a music tech lab, science laboratories, high tech Cybrary and open study for collaborative work with peers and teachers. In 2009, GAMP added a full size, regulation gymnasium and cafeteria. The school also has a state of the art theater/auditorium to showcase their music and theatrical productions. GAMP has two shows a year; a talent show in the fall and a theatrical production in the spring.
“The academic standards at GAMP is very high,” says eighth-grader Anthony Grillo. “The teachers here demand a lot from all of us. They want us to be organized and work hard on all of our assignments. The workload at times can be tough, but so is the work in college. I want to be a lawyer, so being organized and working hard are qualities I will need to achieve my dream.”
GAMP has a 98-100 percent college acceptance rate among each senior class and scholarships valued at over one to two million dollars yearly.
For senior Kailah Liggons, going to GAMP helped her realize a new passion for theatre. After graduating, she wants to continue her education and wants to attend Sarah Lawrence College. Her major will be theater.
“Theater was something that I never wanted to do until I came to GAMP,” she said. “The first play I was ever in was Hairspray a few years ago, and I fell in love with performing. In addition to theater, I’m a part of College Bound for Girl and the Orchestra. I also might become the manager for basketball.
“This school has definitely helped me prepare for my future. Because I’ve been a part of so many things while I’ve been here, it won’t be that big of an adjustment when I go to college. With so many students accomplishing their dreams after they leave here, it’s hard not to want the same thing for yourself. This school motivates you. I know that I can succeed and my future is bright.”
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.”
As you walk through the hallways of Russell H. Conwell Magnet Middle School and take a look around the classrooms, art room, music room and math classes, you’ll begin to notice a theme — hard working students, and a dedicated community of faculty, staff, administration and parents, all striving for excellence.
“In addition to the core curriculum, high academic standards, service to the community, high quality staff, and good programming for students in and outside of school are just some traditions we are continuing to build on at Conwell,” said principal Dr. Tamara Thomas-Smith. “Our school prepares students for high school both academically and socially. We give students opportunities to be of service to the community through service learning projects that actually comes from the students themselves. We just want to provide our students with the best opportunities academically and personally. We not only want them to succeed in the classroom, but also in life.”
Conwell, which is the first middle school in Philadelphia, has one of the most challenging and finest programs in the city. The academic program focuses on the academic achievement of every student. The school offers instruction in vocal and instrumental music, computers, and the visual and performing arts.
“One of things I like about this school is the music program,” said eighth-grader Zackery Brezina. “I play the trombone, so I love everything about music. I have learned so much from my music teacher. He gives us the opportunity to play different pieces from different genres of music. His class pushes us to our limits musically, but in the end it will help us become better musicians and performers. I appreciate everything he has done for me.”
In art, students at Conwell learn the introduction to the elements and principles of art, design, drawing, landscape and sculpture. Conwell’s latest art project was based on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech, where students had to do a response artwork piece based on that particular speech.
“I try to bring a mixture of real life experiences with artwork in my art classes,” said art teacher Peter Koller. “With the Martin Luther King project, I thought it was a good way to analyze the speech, celebrate his memory, but it was also a good way for the students to look at the speech artistically. I just want my students to gain an appreciation of art, but I also want them to develop their 2D (dimensional) and 3D (dimensional) skills. Art is really another function that students should master in addition to writing and reading.”
Extra-curricular activities include Readers Café, Cooking Club, Keyboards, Go Green! Environmental Club, 24 Challenge and student council.
“This is a good school because it offers us a variety of programs and the teachers are preparing us for our future,” said sixth-grader Dirk Gooden. “All of the teachers at the school are willing to help us when we’re struggling in a class. They make learning fun. I’m always looking forward to going to a class at Conwell, especially if it’s a math class.”
For eighth-grader Dashana Palmer, going to Conwell has not only helped her succeed academically, but also grow personally.
“Going to Conwell has been a little bit of struggle for me, especially last year because I lost my mom,” Palmer said. “Dr. Thomas has helped me tremendously. She talked to me and let me know that just because my mom is no longer here, there are still people out here who really care about me. She let me know that I can still succeed if I work hard. Conwell is a really good school and I really enjoyed my time at this school.”
Seventh-grader Ryan McIlherny says what makes the school is the special bond the school has with the community. In the past, Conwell has raised funds and given donations to Toys for Tots, and relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy.
“What makes this school so unique is all of the charity work the school does,” McIlherny said. “We are all fortunate to have what we have, so doing the charity work gives the students a better understanding of what is taking place in the community and the world. It always feels nice when you do something good for someone else. Conwell is a hands-on school. Everything that we learn connects with what is going on in the world. This school not only has helped me become a better student, but also a person.”