Innovations in the Classroom

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Innovations in the Classroom

We, at Northern Connection magazine, are proud to highlight the many advancements in technologies, methodologies and character-building programs going on in our area’s classrooms. Past Innovations in the Classroom are still available on our website at and we will continue highlighting new innovations and programs in the coming months.

Providence Heights Alpha School – Providence Heights Alpha School’s Palumbo Grant award from the 2014-15 grant initiative, “STREAMing Children into a 21st Century Education,” has jump-started the new STREAM program for the 2015-16 school year. Students in Third, Fourth, and Fifth grade are collaborating on a STREAM project, highlighting their skills. Guided by Alpha teachers Maria Yamanaka (K-8 Robotics), Jeff Chmay (K-8 Music & Band),  Jennifer Brown-Clair (K-8 Art, 6-8 Religion) and Lynn Farina (3rd Grade, 3-5 Religion), Alpha students will recreate the Christmas story using robotics, music, and art. The $20,000 grant has already funded an expanded robotics curriculum and materials for the classroom, including new robotics kits and computers for programming. Students will work together in groups to create backdrops and characters for the short film, program the characters’ movements using robotics, and plan the music and narration to accompany the story. The final products will be presented to the school in a special assembly at the end of the semester. More information on Alpha School’s STREAM-centered curriculum can be found at

Saint Ursula School – On the Feast of St. Ursula, October 21st, the St. Ursula School students prepared a bagged lunch for 150 needy in connection with the Red Door program run by St. Mary of Mercy Church in downtown Pittsburgh. This outreach program has become a school tradition which serves those less fortunate in the community. Living the St. Ursula School motto, “Enter to Grow, Exit to Serve,” all students from the 4 year olds in the overflowing Ready-K classes to the teenagers in the Eighth grade were actively involved.  The youngest decorated the bags with heartfelt messages intended to brighten the recipients’ day.  Under the leadership of Sr. Joanita Fedor, the other students used the donations, which were generously given from the school families, to create the complete lunches.  Each brown bag lunch included two sandwiches, fresh fruit, granola bar, sweet treat & drink.  New this year, Student Council included a note to let those receiving the lunches know they were being prayed for by the school community.  Pastor Fr. Aaron Kriss and the Eighth grade Student Council personally delivered the lunches to the literally-named Red Door at St. Mary of Mercy Church early the next morning.  The students were surprised to see some of the recipients had already started to line up outside Putting a face to the service project really had a positive impact on the children.  They took pride in the efforts of their schoolmates to make a difference in another’s day. To learn more about the innovative activities and outreach programs at Saint Ursula School, call (412) 486-5511 or visit

Shady Side Academy – At Shady Side Academy, service learning is an integral part of students’ educational journey. One notable new program at SSA is a tutoring and mentoring partnership with the Urban Pathways Charter School. The program, which began last spring, pairs SSA Senior School students with UPCS elementary school students for free one-on-one tutoring sessions in math and reading on Saturday mornings at the UPCS campus downtown. A typical three-hour tutoring session includes an hour of math tutoring, a half-hour snack break, an hour of reading tutoring, and a half hour of games to foster mentorship and friendship between the older and younger students. The program was a huge success in its first year, with 31 Shady Side students in grades 9-12 volunteering to tutor 25 UPCS students on seven different Saturdays between February and May. This fall, the tutoring sessions resumed in mid-October. “Over the past few years we’ve been working hard to find ways for our students to get involved in the greater Pittsburgh community, and the tutoring program at Urban Pathways is a perfect match for Shady Side students,” said SSA President Tom Cangiano. “I’m so pleased that our students are serving as teachers, mentors and friends to these young learners.” To learn more, visit

Vincentian Academy – We all know high school science is a prerequisite to college, but at Vincentian Academy, students  experience college-like courses as an integral part of the science curriculum. Academy students are challenged and excel through a wide array of college preparatory, honors, and International Baccalaureate courses in biology, chemistry, and physics. Vincentian Academy’s International Baccalaureate Science program stands out among others, with students having the opportunity to conduct innovative experiments that typically are only offered on the collegiate level. “It’s exciting to see what type of experiments are coming next (in IB Bio 3), because they never cease to amaze us!” said Kiersten Elliott, Senior IB Bio 3 student. Case in point; the IB Biology 3 students recently conducted an ecology experiment in a given habitat that tested the association and distribution between two species (plantain & clover) using quadrat sampling. “We were seeking information on the species and whether or not they were present together due to random chance or if they have a relationship with one another – either in a positive or negative association”, commented Elliott. Mrs. Leslie Robbins, who received her Master’s degree in Molecular Genetics & Microbiology from Stony Brook University in New York, teaches IB Biology at Vincentian Academy. “I like to offer the highest level of experimentations to my students, because eventually they will have to create their own experiments. Hands on learning is the very best approach to get students to achieve beyond expectations”. Innovations in the science classroom–the norm at Vincentian Academy. To learn more, visit

 Be sure and look for more Innovations in the Classroom in our December issue! If you are implementing an innovative program or if your students will be doing any outreach or community service projects for the holiday season, be sure and let us know by emailing or calling (724) 940-2444.