NASA Scientists Land at OLMC School

Kudos to our intrepid OLMC teachers, who recently engaged local NASA scientists to visit Kindergarten and middle school classes for hands-on scientific studies! The school’s proximity to the Langley Research Center, combined with our learning partnership with NASA educators, continues to reap wonderful academic opportunities for our students.

On Jan. 26, our 24 kindergartners took a “trip into space” with NASA Scientist Dr. Tom Drozda, also known as “Dad” to 6th grader Bella Drozda and 4th grader Henry Drozda. In his work at NASA, Dr. Drozda studies ways to design hyper-sonic engines used on vehicles to access space.

Despite his busy schedule, Dr. Drozda always makes the time to visit OLMC to talk about the importance of NASA’s projects. The kindergartners’ recent unit on space provided the perfect opportunity for teacher Annie Kocinski to invite to talk with our students.

To the thrill of everyone, Dr. Drozda talked about NASA’s current exploration missions and enlisted the students’ participation in a balloon rocket demonstration and moon crater experiment. He also brought an artifact kit containing components of an astronaut’s spacesuit used for the moon landing missions. For their participation and attentiveness, each student received a thank you bag containing more information about NASA including a space-themed activity book. These reinforce key concepts that the kindergartners had learned about space exploration.

“One of the best parts of visiting classrooms,” says Dr. Drozda, “is the excitement I see in the eyes of this next generation of young scientists. I’m also amazed at their insightful questions and their level of knowledge at this young age.”

Just three weeks later, four members of the NASA/Langley Research Center Science Education Team visited our middle school, as 20 OLMC students presented their team research projects about aerosols to this esteemed team of scientists.

Under the mentorship of OLMC and NASA educator Angela Rizzi, along with Dr. Margaret Pippin, lead scientist for the GLOBE Air Quality Student Research Campaign, the students collected, analyzed and interpreted data on Aerosol Optical Thickness (AOT).  Two teams investigated whether the amount of aerosols increases throughout the day; another team researched the influence that wind direction may have on levels of AOT; a fourth team compared AOT data collected by two other schools (in Dearborn, MI and Mendham, NJ) to their own AOT data to prove their hypothesis that AOT levels are higher in urban areas when compared to suburban or rural areas; and finally, another team presented their findings after collecting data at OLMC’s carpool area, where they expected to see increased AOT levels.

Our middle school students not only presented their research results and posters but also answered questions from the panel about source origins and validity, as well as the importance of technological collaboration when working as a team. Our budding scientists are now preparing to submit their research reports to the GLOBE 2018 International Virtual Science Symposium.

Thanks to creative thinking and collaboration on behalf of our teachers, OLMC students continue growing in their understanding of our world and the ways they can contribute and make a difference.

Etiquette Luncheon for 8th Grade

The Winter Olympics begin, our 8th grade students found a new way to participate: a classroom etiquette competition!

As part of the 8th grade fall curriculum, Sr. Mara Rose coordinates a special unit on etiquette. Students watch videos, listen to lectures and practice to improve their manners. In light of the Olympic events, Sister created a fun Olympics-themed competition for the students to practice proper etiquette, including how to shake hands, engage in face-to-face conversation and enhance their listening skills. They competed with each other to improve these communication skills, with all eyes on the grand prize: winner would earn the privilege of redesigning the 8th grade lunchtime seating chart!

The Dominican Sisters believe these skills to be critical for our students’ future success. “As the digital age continues to change our social setting, conversation skills are losing ground,” commented Sr. Mara Rose. “But such an important part of being human is knowing how to communicate with others without the medium of a digital device. Whether the interaction takes place in a work environment, educational institution or with family and friends, everyone needs effective communication skills to understand others and be understood by them.”

The etiquette unit also includes lessons in dining etiquette: which fork to use, how to use a napkin, the order of events at a dinner party and similar skills. “And of course,” said Sister, “it’s always fun to watch the young men try to help the young ladies with their chairs!”

The highlight of the class is the final unit: mastering a formal dinner. Sister and Mrs. McWhorter created the menu and with help from parents, prepared a homemade meal of creamy tomato soup, yeast rolls, chicken kiev, fancy macaroni and cheese, and roasted vegetable medley. The lunch also included a simple balsamic vinaigrette salad, plus homemade cream puffs and hot chocolate with homemade marshmallow cream. In addition, there was a homemade fruit tea drink. Faculty and staff attended the dinner with the students, scattered in seats as “heads of table” to help facilitate discussion and ensure the students practice their new skills. Sister received both glowing praise and amusing tales from the adults for her students’ skills and luncheon experiences, as a great time was had by all attendees.

Eighth grader Theresa Catimbang reflected on her experience. “”I learned to be more respectful, proper and more comfortable with adults. We don’t often have time for deeper conversations with our friends, so it was enjoyable to have this experience at our luncheon.”

School Science Fair

What do Jell-O, crabs, cookie sheets and driverless cars have in common? Our OLMC school students know the answer: these were just some of the topics they presented at the school’s annual science fair on Nov. 14.

Now in its seventh year, this academic event is represented by students from all grade levels. The Pre-K through fourth grade students complete increasingly complex class projects, learning to make observations, ask questions and create hypotheses. Our eighth grade students take their entries beyond our school, creating data analysis projects for the GLOBE International Virtual Science Symposium in the spring of 2018.

(more…)