Students share internship experiences with school board

By on March 13, 2019

Going backward from traditional teaching methods may help students go forward into a technology-rich future.

At the monthly meeting of the Ephrata Area School District Board of Directors on Feb. 25, Dr. Scott Galen, principal of Ephrata High School, introduced a number of high school students who shared their internship experiences as well as their insights into a new “Project Lead The Way” science course, “Human Body Systems.”

High school science teacher, Michael DelPiano, explained the concept of the new learning system to the board members and administration, saying that, in many ways, the “Lead The Way” course is backward from what he would be doing in a traditional class.

DelPiano, a 20-plus year teacher in Ephrata’s science department, said the traditionally format would be lecture students who take notes and then have tests. While that’s one way to learn, it can also be a source of boredom coupled with test anxiety. It’s also ‘hit-or-miss’ as to what the students actually absorb.

“This is project-based learning,” DelPiano said. “Activities and projects come first; learning and discovery of concepts is on them.”

Learning through doing has its’ advantages, he said.

DelPiano explains what the course is about, then “turns them loose” on projects.

He acts as a facilitator and is available for those who need help.

As an educational method, “Project Lead The Way” has been around for a few years, DelPiano said, but didn’t include biological science courses until recently. As soon as those courses were added to the roster, DelPiano took the training needed to present the course to his students.

“I’m glad the district took the initiative to bring it in,” DelPiano said. Senior Sydney Reiff said she is planning a career in nursing and found the “Human Body Systems” course information invaluable.

Grade 7-9 winners of the IU13 STEM Challenge are Parker Loose, Montgomery Sensenig, Tegan Grim, Gavin Haupt and Lance Wilson. STEM Solutions at Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13 announced the names of school teams and students as the winners of the 2018-19 IU13 STEM Student Competition. The contest, for students in grades 4-9 from schools that are members of the IU13 STEM Consortium, aims to increase STEM-related educational opportunitites for students within the region. In addition, the IU13 STEM Consortiu intends to raise awareness of the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics through this consortium activity. The 2018-19 STEM Challenge involved identifying and creating a STEM for students’ community. The solution could be something that affects their neighborhood, housing development, municipality, township, or etc. For example, it could address an issue with infrastructure. The design brief stressed the solution should not be as simple as adding an additional lane for traffic or faster internet. The top entries were selected in the grade level divisions – 4th – 6th and 7th – 9th. Each winning student receives a gift card valued at $100 for 1st place, $50 for 2nd place and $25 for 3rd place. All participants receive a certificate of recognition.

“I had opportunities to learn more in the medical field, and it was really helpful,” Reiff said. “These are things a college freshman will be doing and I get to do them as a high school senior.”

Reiff learned about reading case histories, facets of various diseases, researching signs and symptoms, and insight into what factors go into a physician’s choice of prescription medications.
Student Jocelyn Umana, who also plans a career in the medical field, brought a tray of faux bones with her to explain to the board how much information can be obtained from the skeletal system.

Inspection of bones can reveal the age, gender, race, and height of a person, Umana said. Student Carol Gerges explained gel electrophoresis to the board, a scientific method used in forensic anthropology. The electrophoresis can determine the identification of skeletal remains. In brief, DNA samples can be taken from the bone, then placed in the gel as an electric current is introduced.

‘”It creates a genetic blueprint,” Gerges said.

Other students spoke about biometrics; the characteristics unique to each person, such as fingerprints, and the reason why retinal scans can be done for identification purposes.
Student Emma Grande brought a two-feet-high model of a skeleton that the students were filling with interior body parts as they learned about them.

Only half finished now, at the end of the class, the skeleton will be covered in colored clay, and the students will know where to find everything from kidneys to adenoids. An added benefit of the non-lecture-based learning, Galen said, is the eagerness to learn exhibited by the students and the excitement in the classroom.

“It’s fascinating that we’re doing all this here at Ephrata,” said Board President Timothy Stayer.

Assistant Superintendent Richard Hornberger praised DelPiano for “thinking outside the box” and for using part of his summer vacation for his training. High school interns Connor Komancheck, Hannah Galen, and Brook Weaver also told the board about their experiences. Komancheck is employed at Refreshing Mountain camp and will receive school credit for the internship.

“The internship taught me how my supervisors see things, how they view employees, and what they want in an employee,” Komancheck said. Komancheck will be attending the Pennsylvania School of Technology to major in landscape and architecture design and would like to own his own business someday, he said. Hannah Galen goes to the Intermediate School after her school day is over to help a fifth grade teacher, working as a teacher’s assistant.

“I want to major in elementary education and this program has confirmed that I want to go into elementary education,” Galen said. “I enjoy working one-on-one with the kids.”
Brook Weaver volunteers at the Ephrata Hospital in the emergency room, helping out wherever she can.

“If the nurses need something, I can get it for them,” Weaver said. “I’m getting experience and I can learn how nurses handle situations.”
Weaver said she will be hired by the hospital for the summer.

“The internship program gives a variety of opportunities to the students,” Principal Galen said.

Superintendent Brian Troop told the board about his participation in the recent “Shadow a Student Challenge,” which included taking a math test.
District and building officials shadowed students in secondary school on Feb. 19 and in elementary schools on the 20th, going to classes with the kids and trying to experience the day as the students did.

This is the fourth consecutive year that the administration has taken part in this national program.

“Administrators are trying to immerse themselves in student life for a day with the goal to better understand the students we serve,” Troop said. “As a school district, we’re essentially designing a product (education) for a client. We need to be able to look through their eyes to design a better product for our clients.”

Troop also told the board about a group of fourth grade students at Fulton Elementary School who recently completed a Community Design Challenge. One group of students noticed the lack of a handicap accessible swing at the Colonial Park in Akron, which is situated along the Ephrata Rail Trail. With their teacher’s help, the kids spoke with the Akron Borough Manager and council members, who are now looking into the possibility of installing the special type of swing.

A group of five Ephrata students in grades seven through nine, recently won first place in the 2018-19 IU13 STEM Student Competition. They are Parker Loose, Montgomery Sensenig, Tegan Grim, Gavin Haupt, and Lance Wilson.

The contest included students in grades four through nine from schools that are members of the IU13STEM Consortium. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
Each winning student received a gift card of $100 for first place. Board President Stayer honored two high school athletes with resolutions at the board meeting.

Tyler Shue, who placed first in the 800-meter run at the Pennsylvania Track and Field Coaches Association Track Carnival at Lehigh University with a time of 1:55.93, which was the third best time in the state, and placed sixth in the mile run at the Virginia Showcase at Liberty University with a school record time of 4:20.86, which was the fastest time in the state at that time. Shue also won the 800-meter run at the 2019 Pennsylvania Indoor Track and Field Championship Meet at Penn State University, with a time of 1:54.28.

Andrew Foster placed 14th in the two-mile run at the Virginia Showcase at Liberty University with a school record time of 9:31.92, which was the fastest time in the state at that time.
Foster also placed 12th in the 3000-meter run with a time of 9:28.38 at the 2019 Pennsylvania Indoor Track and Field Championship Meet at Penn State University.

“It’s always a joy to recognize our students, whether in academics or sports,” Stayer said.

Marylouise Sholly is a correspondent for The Ephrata Review.  

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