Students in Pittsburgh's west suburbs head back to school
September 11, 2015 12:00 AM
Second graders at St. Philip School in Crafton, watch the virtual tour of the San Diego zoo at school.
Principal Kimberly Stevenson said the focus at the school in Robinson will continue on STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — in the curriculum. STEM education integrates concepts taught as separate subjects in different classes and emphasizes the application of knowledge to real-life situations.
To spark students’ interest in math and science, hands-on opportunities to apply this information will be provided through STEM competitions, such as Best Robotics and the STEM Design Challenge, a school science fair, and the Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science.
Technology in the building continues to be enhanced, with the addition this year of 31 new Dell computers and 65 Samsung Galaxy Tablet 4 seven-inch color Nooks with cases.
The computers will allow students to use products such as Inventor, a 3-D CAD software program that enables mechanical design, documentation, and product simulation. Students will be able to create three-dimensional models in class.
The computers have Pentium 7 processors, along with 22-inch monitors. Students currently learn keyboarding and how to use Microsoft products such as Excel, Word and PowerPoint. The middle school students also will work with coding and logic programs and use Mindstorms Lego Robotics.
The Nooks will enhance learning by allowing students to read novels on them and access the Internet for research.
The school will implement a technology fee of $20 per family with students in K-8. The fee will provide the school with resources to maintain and upgrade its technology.
Classes began Aug. 24 with an enrollment of 327 for K-8.
— Shannon Nass
Students returned to the district Aug. 24.
The Carnegie Science Center’s Fab Lab, a mobile digital fabrication laboratory, will visit Forest Grove and Burkett elementary schools in October.
Using 3-D printers, laser and vinyl cutters, a ShopBot and other items, the mobile trailer will allow students to take part in the science, technology, engineering and math-based maker movement. The elementary Parent Teacher Association will pay for the cost of the visits.
Elementary students will begin using the pilot application Project Playground, created by Pittsburgh-based educators.
The app, recognized for its innovation at the Pittsburgh Startup Weekend Education event, uses student and teacher feedback on students’ collaboration skills while helping teachers enhance project-based learning.
Forest Grove second-graders will employ Project Lead the Way Launch curriculum in which students use structured approaches, such as the engineering design process, and employ critical thinking to become problem-solvers.
All K-2 students at Forest Grove will implement the Daily 5 framework during literacy instruction, which promotes lifelong habits for reading, writing and working independently.
The STEM program at Burkett will expand to create a video production suite using Padcaster accessories for filming and Touchcast for video and news production at the school.
Additional programs include 3-D design and printing; creative engineering using Keva Blocks; exploring electricity and circuitry using Drawdio, Little Bits and Makey Makey programs; and computer programming using the bitsbox and Makey Makey.
At David E. Williams Middle School, a new high-speed wireless Internet network is being installed.
A Virtual Immersion Lab with displays by zSpace is in the works for the high school. An immersive, virtual reality technology allows students to learn STEM subjects using 3-D, virtual-holographic images that can be moved and manipulated.
“I’m excited about putting this innovative technology into the hands of the students and teachers,” Todd Price, high school principal, said.
The technology was purchased through a STEAM grant from the Allegheny Intermediate Unit’s Center for Creativity, supported by the Grable Foundation, Chevron and Benedum foundations.
The IXL program, a standards-aligned math and language arts practice program for K–12, will be implemented districtwide.
A sensory lab was unveiled by the special education department at Burkett for children with autism spectrum disorder.
The lab is equipped with items such as a musical waterbed, fiber optic curtains, relaxer v-shaped chairs, weighted blankets and fidget boxes. Students with various types of neuropsychiatric disorders also can use the lab as a place to calm down and reduce anxiety.
The verbal-behavioral classroom program in partnership with Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network is being expanded to help support students with autism and intellectual disability. The new classroom will be housed at Burkett with the hopes that it eventually will be a K-12 program in every building in the district.
— Sonja Reis
Our Lady of Grace
The schoolwide STREAM, or science, technology, religion, engineering, art and math, project that was launched last year will continue to be implemented.
This year, as part of the five-year strategic plan for Middle States accreditation, the science and technology curriculums will be enhanced with new programming.
Students will be introduced to LabLearner, a hands-on, inquiry-based science education system that blends in elements of STEM.
Diane Seybert, director of admissions and development, said the school is the first in the area to use this system.
Students in preschool through eighth grade will have access to the LabLearner laboratories, which are slated to be installed in January.
“We’re very excited about bringing LabLearner to the school because it is so unique,” Ms. Seybert said. “It’s a spiraling curriculum, so the students are going to get everything they need by the time they graduate here and a strong foundation.”
After-school robotics and STEM clubs have been added, through which students can participate in the Pittsburgh Regional Science and Engineering Fair.
Ms. Seybert said the school also is looking to partner with the Carnegie Science Center to bring in its mobile Fab Lab, which is a digital fabrication laboratory for innovation and invention.
The library was remodeled and is now home to a media center, where teachers can check out technology carts for use in the classroom. Chrome Books were added this year, and plans are being made to purchase iPads.
The school will switch to a Google platform, beginning with the website and email servers.
The first full day of classes was Aug. 24, with enrollment at approximately 260.
— Shannon Nass
Students at the school in Kennedy returned to classes Aug. 24.
Amy Chimino is the new assistant principal. She was the literacy coach for the past three years and is in her 10th year within the Propel organization.
Lunch service this year is being provided by Community Kitchen Pittsburgh.
The charter school is offering new math and English language arts curriculum.
In October, a playground will be installed for students in grades K-4.
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