LEGOs the foundation for a new classroom collaboration
Every day, Marj Remlinger is part of the two-person team that keeps Governor Mifflin’s Print Shop humming. While she helps crank out more than nine million annual copies to serve district students and staff, that’s her day job. On the side, she is a self-taught photographer with an eye for detail and a growing fan following. Recently, Marj posted a series of photos featuring LEGO people in a variety of unique scenes that brought the miniature world to life. The images immediately set off a flare of inspiration for Governor Mifflin colleague and elementary art teacher Jonna Holgate, who shared the images with her classes.
“The students were so excited to see her awesome Lego Man photography, along with her beautiful nature work,” said Jonna.
So, Jonna invited the LEGO photographer to visit her classroom as students were learning about photography and visual storytelling. Marj accepted the offer, and with her camera and bag of favorite LEGO people in tow, she visited with five Mifflin Park art classes over the course of a week. She shared her photos and the stories behind them and then helped as students photographed their own LEGO scenes for their assignment.
“The students were inquisitive, enthusiastic, and very creative. I reminded the students that I too am learning photography, so we worked and leaned together while trying new angles and shots with their iPads,” said Marj. “I know I had as much fun as they did creating their LEGO still lifes. I cannot wait to see their finished artwork.”
One Hour of Code, endless inspiration
For today’s students, computers have been a part of daily life for their entire lives. But that did not hamper the enthusiasm for a day dedicated to the study of computer science through the Hour of Code. Mifflin Park piloted the international program last year. This year, Brecknock and Cumru joined in. Every student in grades K-4 participated in the event. The concept of coding was introduced through a star-studded video that also featured some of the tech industry’s most high profile leaders. The act of coding was carried out in a video game-like program that gave students the opportunity to problem-solve by programming the actions of a character.
While the coding curriculum was consistent, each school had their own take on the event, which included collaborations across grade levels. At Brecknock, fourth grade students took on a teaching role helping younger students navigate the program and assisting teachers in resetting work stations as students cycled through the activities. At Mifflin Park, students worked in pairs to navigate through the challenging levels of the program. And at Cumru, Governor Mifflin High School senior Drew Thuss returned to his elementary alma mater to show students a custom computer he built. Drew, who plans to major in cyber security in college, gave students a hands-on demonstration of the computer and let them try out some of the programs.
Coding is catching on across campus. Cumru students visited the Pre-K classroom to help the four-year-olds try the Hour of Code. Mifflin Park is continuing to run its after-school computer science clubs. And the Middle School launched an after-school coding program this month.
Also this month, the High School welcomed guest speaker Capt. Paul Tortora, former U.S. Naval Intelligence Officer and current Director of the Center for Cyber Security Studies at the U.S. Naval Academy. Capt. Tortora was visiting the area as part of the World Affairs Council of Greater Reading’s Luncheon Lecture series. During his presentation to students, Capt. Tortora said that while the field of cyber security is rapidly growing, most new midshipmen at the Naval Academy have no previous experience with basic coding. Coding is now part of the required curriculum for all students at the academy.
High School & Brecknock connect through “whisper phones”
No apps. No unlimited texting. In fact, these phones don’t even have a key pad for dialing, but they were still able to provide a number of benefits to students at the High School and Brecknock Elementary. The whisper phones, as they are called, were created by students in Mrs. Jan Jack and Mrs. Trisha Master’s Family and Consumer Science Everyday Living classes. Students assembled PVC piping materials into the shape of an (old school) phone receiver and then delivered them to kindergarten students at Brecknock.
While low-tech in nature, the whisper phones are a highly functional literacy tool. New readers can use them to read aloud, speaking quietly into the “phone” which amplifies their voice and channels the sound of their voice to their ear. A classroom full of students can read quietly to themselves without chaos. When students hear their own voice reading they can focus on blending sounds and creating the proper enunciation.
“One of the goals of the course is to help students realize the importance of investing in their community through a variety of activities, including Community Service,” explained Mrs. Jack. “Mrs. Master and I feel strongly that part of the curriculum should be to provide students an opportunity to connect learning to human needs and give the students a sense of social responsibility and community.”
The high school students assembled enough whisper phones for each kindergarten student at Brecknock and then visited the classrooms to help students learn how to use the devices.
A neighborly visit and shared learning opportunity
When you’re a little kid, there’s nothing cooler than big kids. So when the students at Immanuel Preschool came to visit their next door neighbors at the high school, it was a pretty exciting day. Mrs. Allen’s art classes hosted the three-year-old class with high school art students helping little hands shape clay into everything from animals to super heroes.
The high school class included several students considering education and art education after graduation, so the visit also served as an opportunity for those students to explore their potential future career.
More integrated technology throughout the district has led to more opportunities for partnerships. Mrs. Assetto’s fifth grade class at GMIS, recently teamed up with a classroom in Virginia, but they did not know that at first. The class took part in the Global Read Aloud, which brings students together with other students around the world who are reading a shared book, in this case Roald Dahl’s The BFG. Mrs. Assetto’s students used Google Hangouts to connect with their “mystery classroom.” The students then shared clues about their locations so each class could guess where the other was located.
Behind the ballot: the making of the Mock Election
This year’s election season may have been mired in mud, but at the High School, the story behind the Mock Election was one of strategic teamwork and focused energy. In the weeks leading up to Election Day, Mr. Chris Hole’s AP Government students led the logistical effort to plan, set up, and carry out an election simulation for the approximately 1,300 students at the high school. Students created a digital ballot and were able to track their results real-time through online data and exit polling. Other students served as poll workers, while a few also portrayed some of the key candidates. The presidential results at the high school mimicked the actual race with Donald Trump winning the popular vote among students.
Middle School Announces Students of the Quarter
The Middle School honored stand-out students. Teachers chose this quarter’s most distinguished students for academics and citizenship in both 7th and 8th grade.