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Across town at St. Hilary School, a girl named Dorothy, a Cowardly Lion and other “Wizard of Oz” characters become subjects of drawings and class discussions in a third grade classroom.
At Sacred Heart of Jesus School in Wadsworth, Angry Birds and Jedi Masters make their way through challenges and journeys thanks to the programming skills of second graders.
It’s class time in The 330.
Meet five local students and find out what they have to say about their coolest classes.
Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy
Smashed pumpkins on a schoolyard might look like trouble, but at Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy, they’re remnants of an engineering project. Junior Alyssa Young and her classmates launched pumpkins from trebuchets they designed in CVCA’s Engineering School of Distinction.
Young entered into the program to learn about engineering before she starts college. “I wanted to determine whether or not engineering is a field I would want to go into and [also] learn more about engineering in general,” Young says.
The course, which CVCA juniors and seniors take in addition to their required curriculum, helps students explore various engineering specialties through design projects, guest presentations and field trips. “Our main objective is to help students find an area of engineering they can be passionate about,” says instructor Doug Fairchild, who worked as an electrical engineer before he began his teaching career.
Students get a jump-start on making decisions about a college major and also learn practical skills such as SolidWorks computer-aided design programming and teamwork.
“The most important field experience we receive is learning how to interact with each other and understand each other’s ideas so that we can come up with a design that works better than it would have if we had made it [individually],” Young says.
St. Hilary School
It’s movie time at St. Hilary School in Fairlawn. It’s also time for enrichment arts class, where kindergarteners through third graders learn about classic artists, authors, musicians and religious figures.
Third-grade student Silvia Peterson and her classmates translate their favorite scenes from classic films such as “The Wizard of Oz” into drawings in a class that provides comprehensive and often overlooked exposure to the arts.
“We learn so many things. We learn about religion, art and literature that have lessons for us,” she says.
Creativity, understanding and individuality brim in a class Sister Carol Joy Cincerelli has taught at St. Hilary School for the past 21 years.
“The students learn differently, but need to incorporate feelings and other knowledge in a subject area,” says Sister Cincerelli of the process students undergo as they learn about writers, illustrators, composers, saints and others and their works.
The students start in kindergarten, with lessons linked to fairy tales, and progress to works like those of Roald Dahl, Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens, Van Gogh and Mozart.
“Sister makes learning interesting and fun,” says Peterson. “It’s like art class, but it’s also not because we learn about authors and other famous people.”
Although college is a long way off for Peterson, don’t be surprised if she pays a visit back to her old classroom 10 years from now.
“Students come back from high school and college to tell me how they miss having enrichment and what they love about the program,” Sister Cincerelli says. “They come every year. They all say they have never loved learning so much as they learned to in this class.”
Immaculate Heart of Mary School
Even though more than 1,000 years have passed since Latin was spoken as a native language, it’s anything but dead for Immaculate Heart of Mary School (IHM) eighth grader Brigitta Hall.
An avid reader with a fondness for Greek and Roman mythology, Hall admits that she has been “looking forward for years to the opportunity to study Latin.”
Thomas McCaffrey, IHM Latin teacher, says his students enjoy learning how English words are derived from Latin and discovering how classical myths make an appearence in modern books and movies.
“In my experience, the culture of the ancient Romans is intrinsically interesting, but students love to see connections,” says McCaffrey, who began teaching Latin to IHM sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders last fall.
Hall says she appreciates how McCaffrey teaches students “not only the language, but the culture that shaped our civilization.”
Hall’s interest in Latin fits a surprising trend nationwide. Latin programs are growing among schools and the number of students taking the AP Latin exam has doubled in the last 10 years, according to IHM.
With a teacher who is “anxious for students to recognize the influence of Latin in their lives,” Hall proclaims, “Carpe diem.”
Middle School Humanities
The Lippman School
Language arts and social studies meet in The Lippman School’s middle school humanities class. Here, history studies merge with reading, writing and arithmetic. Students learn about “sometimes gruesome, but sometimes amazing details and aspects of history,” says eighth grader Dimitry Melnikov.
Young learners become entrenched in studies rich in experiential education. For instance, they’re partnering with the Northern Cheyenne Native American tribe in southeastern Montana to exchange lessons in history, culture and traditions.
Northern Cheyenne students, tribal leaders and artists visit Lippman each fall to lead a variety of cultural programs. And, every other spring, Lippman seventh and eighth graders visit the reservation. “It includes an ongoing digital storytelling project and learning about history in an authentic, immersive way,” says Matt Russ, who teaches the class.
For another project, middle school students in the humanities class are working with Lippman School’s elementary pupils to develop content for an App about the Portage Path. The goal is to educate members of the public—as they walk along the path—about the ancient native trail that connected the Cuyahoga and Tuscarawas rivers.
“We want students to have a wider, fuller understanding of local, state and American history…in order to better understand the world in which they live,” Russ says. “One cannot fully understand our history without understanding the cultures that shaped it.”
Melnikov says that studying about the Holocaust in class has had a powerful impact on him. “I’m able to learn about the many harsh things that should never be repeated again,” he says.
As for the course overall, Melnikov gives it a thumbs-up. “It’s a really good class. I like it,” he says.
Pilot Class for Coding
Sacred Heart of Jesus School, Wadsworth
Lincoln Reeling has to figure out how to navigate R2-D2 to get to a Rebel pilot before game time runs out. It’s not playtime for this second grader. Instead, he’s learning how to write computer programs in school and using popular video game characters to test them out.
Sacred Heart of Jesus School second grade teacher Sue Bott and school librarian Janet Palte introduced a pilot class for coding last August to teach computer programming fundamentals to 7- and 8-year-olds like Reeling.
“They’re able to write a basic three-line program, run it and see if it works. They do this in a game format, which makes it fun for them,” Bott says.
As the students learn how to program a computer, words like algorithms, looping, analysis and binary float around as freely in the classroom as any typical vocabulary word.
“It’s a great way to teach computer terminology in a way they can understand it,” Bott says.
Paired in driver-and-navigator teams, the pupils use popular characters to solve problems. If they place programming blocks in the right order, voila, Angry Bird “Red” makes it to the end.
If they hit a roadblock, it’s OK, says Bott. These challenges help students to rethink a process in order to solve the problem. “They’re continuously being encouraged to think outside of the box,” she says.
Using curriculum from Code.org, Bott and Palte say characters from popular games make learning programming appealing to students.
Just ask Reeling.
“You can be a Star Wars, Frozen or Minecraft character,” says Reeling, who enjoys sharing class lessons with his favorite robot, BB-8.