Innovations in the Classroom August 2015

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We, at Northern Connection magazine, applaud the many educators and instructors in our area that work tirelessly to bring and implement leading-edge technologies and methodologies into their classrooms, centers and studios for the benefit the children and families of our community. We began highlighting these various innovations last year and they are still available on our website at and will continue highlighting new innovations in the months to come.

Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School is known for being innovative in every capacity including their extra-curricular activities. This past year, the robotics team, the Tro-bots, competed in their first competition and brought home the Rookie Inspiration award.  This coming year, they plan to attend the Carnegie Science Center Fab Lab, the Pittsburgh Maker Faire, and at least one regional competition. The team is developing a robotics workshop to encourage younger students. CWNCHS is also sponsoring several programs through Grow a Generation including STEM Careers Tour, stopping each day at two companies and visiting a college campus to meet with professors and graduate students. Find Your Passion camp where students create a personal mission statement, the results of their personality tests, an in depth view of 3 different colleges, the particular path laid out for a specific bachelor of science program in each of the colleges, and the beginning of correspondence with professors from those departments requesting mentors. In addition students had the opportunity to be Engineer Your Passion where in addition to engineering concepts, they created 3D printed Space Containers for a NASA Challenge and they collaborated with the Cranberry Township Volunteer Fire Department to create an online video game. To learn more, visit

Carlow University – Carlow University has been hard at work creating the new University Commons, a “green” building and completely innovative educational space. University Commons integrates an array of faculty and student services that support student and faculty learning and collaboration. Amenities include three computer labs, a café, a state-of-the-art home for the Center for Digital Learning and Innovation, study spaces, and informal, shared workspaces for students. The University Commons will play a vital role in educating students, combining elements of teaching, learning, research, health and wellness, collaboration, and technological support. Specifically, University Commons will be a transformation in the learning environment for students. It will promote optimal student learning and the digital learning environment to deliver the 21st century learning for students to succeed in today’s world. It will also feature innovative collaborative centers for student learning and academic support. In addition, University Commons has been designed to be environmentally sustainable and has achieved LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) status through improvements to the quality of the site, reductions in water and energy consumption, use of materials that reduced the impact on the environment while providing a healthy and safe work environment for faculty and students. To learn more, visit

Campus School of Carlow University – The Campus School of Carlow University, an independent, coeducational, Catholic day school educating infants through grade eight, offers innovation throughout the school. The Campus School of Carlow University champions a holistic approach to learning that develops the creativity, character, and unique gifts of each child. Their strong academic program includes art, world languages, library, music, physical education, swimming and religion, and also includes traditional and Montessori preschool programs. The Arts and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) woven throughout the curriculum, resulting in award-winning robotics and forensics clubs. Robotics are also woven into the classroom where children create robots using LEGO’s®. In addition to the mechanics, the children also learn to program their Lego robots through a state-of-the-art software program installed on their laptops to control the robotic sequence of movements and the students can even program it to make sounds when it accomplishes certain tasks. The robotics course is taught in a new model classroom. The new classroom is outfitted with all the technology necessary to encourage learning, teamwork and collaboration. It is furnished with unique, child-friendly seating and special desks with dry erase tops, creating an interactive and creative workspace. To learn more, visit or call 412-578-6158 to schedule a tour.

Cynthia’s School of Dance – Founded, owned and operated by director, Dr. Cynthia Zurchin EdD, a former elementary teacher and principal. Dr. Zurchin and her staff of dance educators are dedicated to teaching motor skills, coordination, and self-confidence, particularly with the young in their beginning classes for Tiny Tots ages 2-3 and a second level of Advanced Tiny Tots for ages 3-4. Both classes embody the innovative 3-R’s (Recognition, Repetition and Rewards) to build a solid foundation for a lifetime of success; with dance providing an avenue to build confidence and self-esteem at a young age. Through Recognition, all children are accepted and provided with a positive learning environment. Through Repetition, children learn more than dance steps, they learn to listen, pay attention, stand in line and wait their turn, preparing them for success in Kindergarten. Through Rewards, such as praise, stamps, stickers and applause, the children learn the benefits of successful achievements. Cynthia’s School of Dance also offers Interactive Adult and Toddler creative movement classes to help develop a positive, bonding relationship through exercise and creative activities. The adult can be a parent, grandparent, older sibling, caregiver or other caring adult. Conveniently and centrally located at 4721 McKnight Road in the Northland Shopping Center. To learn more, visit or call 412-367-3330.

 Holy Family Academy – Holy Family Academy, part of Holy Family Institute, is an innovative, independent Catholic high school for families of any means with students in grades 9th through 12th. This innovative school focuses on an integrated learning methodology that blends academics across disciplines, problem solving through community change and service and an innovative WORK STUDY program where students enter the work force, one day a week, to obtain real-life work experience. WORK STUDY projects start in the 9th so upon graduation students will have FOUR YEARS of job experience on their resumes and applications. Since Holy Family Academy offers career paths that includes, Vocational, College Preparatory, and Corporate work environments, students also learn job skills and business etiquette along with their academics.  WORK STUDY projects have included clerical work at local law firms, UPMC application and computer projects, and carpentry apprenticeships among many others. The integrated methodology includes service where the academic and work skills are applied to problem solving for the community so the students begin as Community Change Agents and become Global Change Agents, serving the community and the world. Holy Family Academy is conveniently located at 8235 Ohio River Boulevard in Emsworth. To learn more, visit or call (412) 307-0230 to schedule a tour.

 Little Appleseed Learning Center – A caring and nurturing environment for children six weeks to five years old, Little Appleseed realizes that physical activity in the young leads to a lifetime of health and wellness, as well as, being more focused during circle time and classroom time, learning to read, write, count and so much more. Therefore, Little Appleseed has developed an innovative array of both physical and educational activities, both indoor and outdoor. In the indoor gym, children learn motor skills and coordination through soccer, basketball, tricycles, bicycles, hula hoops among much more and in the playground, they have a lawn area for games and sports, a jungle gym, a sandbox and a climber and bike trails for the older children. They also have an innovative curriculum with a different theme every week to enable creative play and physical activities, while incorporating language and math skills. Little Appleseed also extends their focus on health and wellness to their security measures with fingerprint scanning for approved access only and a strictly nut-free environment for the safety of children with allergies. Conveniently located at 615 Warrendale Road in Gibsonia, Little Appleseed Learning Center is near Rt-19, Rt-79, Rt-910, and Rt-228. To learn more, visit, call (724) 625-4029 or attend their Open House on August 22nd from 11:00 to 1:00.

Providence Heights Alpha School – Is celebrating 90 years of innovation! For this 2015-16 school year, they are continuing the tradition and dedication to innovation with their STREAM programs: science, technology, religion, engineering, arts, and math. In the science, engineering, and technology sector, Alpha achieved major success at the 2015 PJAS finals with thirteen students placing first or second. Robotics teacher, Maria Yamanaka, also a professor at CMU, will continue her tenure with Alpha in the K-8 curriculum, as well as, working with students in the summer robotics camps and the Alpha competitive team, the Alpha Bots. Even in the arts, Alpha is dedicated to innovation. Students compose their own music on new iMacs, and they also use technology in their studio arts classes. Specifically, Jennifer Brown-Clair, Alpha’s art teacher, incorporates art history as part of her lessons in different mediums and techniques to help students understand the background of each artist and their methods. Their year-long art study culminates in an annual Art at Alpha show, which Brown-Clair organizes each year to showcase the work of Alpha students. For more information about Alpha’s commitment to innovation and distinguished Catholic education, visit or call (412) 366-4455 to schedule a tour.

 Rothrock’s Kung Fu & Tai Chi Academy for Self Defense – “There’s nothing like the sense of pride, excitement and sense of accomplishment that you feel when you achieve that first black belt,” says Michael Solito, chief instructor of the Wexford academy. At Rothrock’s Kung Fu, they teach the ancient Chinese martial arts of Kung Fu and Tai Chi which includes a focus on teaching focus, concentration, rules, respect and discipline in addition to the skills associated with self-defense. By focusing on the personal development as well as the skills, provides students a head start to life that they will carry with them and help them achieve in every aspect of their life. Kung Fu, meaning “developing a skill through hard work” focuses on the external while Tai Chi is a slow-moving meditative art that helps reduce stress, provides relaxation and is ideal for teens, adults and seniors to improve their overall mind power and physical health. Accepting students from ages three to four through adult. Rothrock’s Kung Fu & Tai Chi Academy for Self Defense is conveniently located at 11965 Perry Hwy, Wexford. To learn more, visit or call (724) 940-0120.

 Saint Sebastian School As principal, Dr. Patricia A. Thomas EdD, enters her second year with Saint Sebastian, she is busy implementing her new innovative initiative “S.T.R.E.A.M, SPARKle, and Soar!” The initiative focuses on their STREAM programs: science, technology, religion, engineering, arts, and math, integrating SPARK® fitness equipment into physical education and recess, and moving a salad bar into the school cafeteria. All aimed at incorporating health and wellness into the innovative curriculum so students can continue to soar. To accomplish this initiative, Dr. Thomas is in the process of applying for, and receiving, several grants. Specifically, The Highmark Foundation has already provided a grant for the SPARK equipment that includes a “fitnessgram” that enables a technological assessment of each participant to track his or her fitness progress and improvement. Saint Sebastian is also due to a receive grant from the “Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools” program and from The First Catholic Slovak Ladies Association (FCSLA) for a new mobile computer lab that will enable the lab to travel from room-to-room for additional use and integration into the classrooms while freeing-up the current computer lab for additional classroom space. To learn more about Saint Sebastian, visit and click on “The School.”

Wexford Acting Studio – The Wexford Acting Studio, located in Franklin Park north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, offers classes designed for ALL skill levels, experiences, and ages from six years old to adult. Whether you’re Broadway-bound or just want to explore, the Wexford Acting student is dedicated to teaching you poise, stage presence and self-confidence on stage while teaching you how to perform, sing and act on stage. The Wexford Acting Studio is offering a very special Musical Theater Camp from Aug. 3rd through 9th.  The classes will take places at the studio Monday through Saturday with a showcase performance at the Kean Theater on Sunday. Half-Day Camp is for students ages 5-8 and Full-Day Camp is for ages 9-18. The camp will prepare students for the showcase performance which will include solos, duets and production numbers with acting scenes and monologues that lead into the musical numbers. The fall musical this year will be Oklahoma! in collaboration with Ingomar United Methodist Church’s Acts of God Drama Ministry, known for their stellar productions! Performance dates are October 30th, October 31st and November 1st Registration is going on now for the 2015-16 program year, register at


Vincentian Academy – provides an innovative atmosphere as a “prerequisite” for college, by preparing young women and men with the knowledge and confidence to achieve success in college and beyond. For twelve consecutive years, 100% of Academy graduates have continued their education at prestigious colleges and universities across the country. As testament to the Academy’s exceptional education, the Class of 2015 earned more than $8 million in college scholarship awards. Additionally, in the past two years, eight Vincentian Academy students were accepted and are now enrolled at the University of Notre Dame.  Vincentian Academy offers these “prerequisites” for success:

  • College preparatory curriculum, advanced placement, honors, or International Baccalaureate courses
  • Competitive athletic teams, extra-curricular activities, and a variety of clubs
  • Picturesque campus, minutes from downtown Pittsburgh and many suburban neighborhoods, Route 8, McKnight Road and Cranberry
  • Advancements in technology that take Vincentian Academy into the 21st century with
    the addition of Chromebooks that extend learning beyond the classrooms
  • Newly renovated Chemistry lab
  • Vibrant music and arts curriculum that allows students to discover and expand their creative talents
  • Low student-faculty ration of 12:1 to ensure personalized attention


To learn more, visit, or call the Admissions Office, 412-364-1616, ext. 123.


Be sure and look for more Innovations in the Classroom in our September issue! If you are implementing an innovative program or enrichment lessons for the coming school year, be sure and let us know by emailing or calling 724-940-2444.