More Innovations in the Classroom

Feb14 NC web banner-6By Marianne Reid Anderson

In our January issue, we began highlighting the fascinating and innovative ways that the schools in our area are educating students.  Here, we continue to give examples of the ways new methodologies, inspirational programs and the use of technology are being incorporated into the classroom. 

Agile Instruction and Management Solutions– offers innovative instructional design so that anyone can learn or improve their learning skills. From teaching children with severe learning disabilities how to write their name, to increasing skills in students who refuse to do their homework, to the high school students who wants to improve their SAT scores and everyone in-between, these ground-breaking, in-home learning solutions enable every child across all skill levels to be both accurate and fluent WHILE focusing through distractions.

Holy Sepulcher School

Holy Sepulcher School

Holy Sepulcher School – Computer skills start in kindergarten and by the second grade, in addition to tablets and Smart Boards, the students are composing paragraphs with the Neo 2® personal writing tool from which they can send their writing to the teacher or even beam it from one machine to another so students can read and edit each other’s writing. Holy Sepulcher also implements Lego® robotics into the classroom where the students can design, build and control robots to solve software simulations of real-life problems and missions such as sending directives to a robot to remove a tree branch from electrical wires. The popularity of the use of the robotics in the classroom has led to a Robotics Club of three teams – two all-boy teams and one all-girl team – and all three teams made it to the national championships at CMU.

Oakland Catholic High School – in cooperation with a program developed through Carnegie Mellon University on bioinformatics, the students have access to a plethora of International databases to study the DNA and genetic sequencing of any organism. In one experiment, the young women of Oakland Catholic were able to remove the genetic sequence of a firefly that is responsible for making it glow and splice it to the genetic code of bacteria to make it glow. In addition to their close relationship with CMU and access to the CMU labs, they also have a close relationship with University of Pittsburgh where they have access to the Chemistry and Physics labs for experiments and research.

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart High School – has installed the latest generation of interactive projectors, specifically, the Epson Brightlink® Pro, which, when projecting, turns ANY wall into an Interactive Smart Board. Then, with special pens, the students can write on the projected area, do math problems and even annotate presentations all of which can be saved and uploaded to the respective teacher’s online blog for reference by both students and parents. Additionally, classrooms at OLSHA also have video streaming devices known as IPTVs to stream educational videos, including announcements done by the students. Teachers at OLSHA have also incorporated many educational apps into the coursework, for example, even Latin class uses a fun and innovative app called Speed Latin™ which is a game for all the students play to review their Latin lesson.

St. Alphonsus School – the students are learning both how to use computer software and apps and to create their own applications. Starting in kindergarten with apps that reinforce mouse skills, entering text and so forth, then continues through and by 4th grade, they are learning programming concepts through a visual programming language via the Bill Gates endorsed “The Hour To Code” and students can create their own Angry Birds® game. Then, by 7th and 8Th grade, students are being introduced to the fundamentals of programming logic such as If…Then  and Looping and are writing English-based algorithms.

St. James School – has participated in a NASA program with the International Space Station where students from around the world could submit questions and then, watch a LIVE feed from space where the astronauts answered the questions and demonstrated the types of experiments they do. St. James students have also create a mock trial where the 8th grade students write the script and then there is a field trip to the court house to enact the trial where the 7th graders serve as the jury and the D.A. presides as judge. Math teachers also use a web site known as Mathletics® where the students reinforce their math skills and can compete internationally for high score which has been achieved by a St. James student.

St. Sebastian School

St. Sebastian School – integrates inquiry-based learning throughout the school and in their completely renovated lab. Inquiry-based learning uses the scientific method for problem solving, so the students experience learning and truly understand the material instead of just knowing the correct answer. Many projects are cross-discipline. For example, the students have debated fracking which required research on both sides of the issue, not just whether the internet says it is good or bad. Once prepared, the debate was judged by a local politician. Also, many experiments at St. Sebastian use household items so that the students can replicate the experiment at home. For example, in one experiment the students are taught to create and use a solution of soap, salt and rubbing alcohol to extract DNA from a strawberry.

Dr. Paul Follansbee, right, James F. Will Professor of Engineering Science and director of the bachelor of science degree in engineering science at Saint Vincent College, demonstrates a force table in the Fr. Roland Heid, O.S.B. General physics Laboratory for Dr. Stephen Jodis, left, dean of the Herbert W. Boyer School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Computing, and Dr. John Smetanka, center, vice president for academic affairs and academic dean. The new program begins this fall.

St. Vincent College – is receiving national recognition for its innovative Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice that was developed in cooperation between the college’s Herbert W. Boyer School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Computing and the Excela Health School of Anesthesia. Master-prepared Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) from around the country are earning their doctorate without leaving their jobs through this hybrid educational program. Students participate in a one-week classroom intensive on campus and the remainder of the semester is completed through distance learning and telecommunication technologies. St. Vincent also has a new 4-year Engineering Science major that serves to complement their successful 3-2 Engineering programs with Penn State, University of Pittsburgh and Catholic University of America. Designed for student who wants to remain at SVC for their 4th year, the Engineering Science major offers a broad field of engineering including engineering design, physics, computer engineering and environmental science.

If you want to learn more about the amazing and innovative way schools in our area are implementing state-of-the-art technologies and teaching methods, visit our web site at to see the January article and be sure to read our March issue that will contain even More Innovations in the Classroom.

Look for more Classroom Innovations in our March issue! Is your school implementing innovative learning? Be sure and let us know by emailing or calling 724-940-2444