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Science Interest Not What it Seems in Baldwin-Whitehall?

Baldwin High School received praise for hosting a local science fair, but only one Baldwin-Whitehall student participated.

Baldwin High School received much praise for hosting a Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science (PJAS) fair on Saturday, so much so that PJAS officials are considering hosting an event there every year, Baldwin-Whitehall School District Superintendent Dr. Randal A. Lutz said at a B-W School Board meeting on Wednesday night.

Lutz estimated that the annual fair, which is open to students in grades 7-12 from Allegheny and Westmoreland counties, brought around 1,000 competing students to Baldwin High this year from around 85 school districts.

But while approximately 60 Baldwin-Whitehall students volunteered to help to host the event, only one B-W student was among the 1,000 who actually participated. And that news alone put a damper on what was otherwise a great day for science in the district.

"If we don't have participants in the fair itself, it's a waste," said district parent Amy Schmotzer during public comments time at Wednesday's meeting. "We don't want our kids just to be the ambassadors."

Schmotzer is the mother of the lone B-W participant—junior Victoria Schmotzer, a student representative to the school board.

"I know that kids are very busy," board President Nancy Sciulli DiNardo said, "and they are overwhelmed and overworked and everything else that goes with it, but I think we need to do more to get our kids (involved).

"Perhaps seeing this (event) at the high school will motivate them ... but I think we need to do more."

Both Sciulli DiNardo and fellow board member Nancy Lee Crowder said that a lack of science-related activities at J.E. Harrison Middle School is a possible reason for a lack of interest in science at the high-school level.

"There's always been that disconnect between Harrison and the high school," Sciulli DiNardo said. "In elementary, I know that kids were really excited with science, but then, something happens where there's a disconnect.

"I don't want our students to just be volunteers to help other kids excel. I want our kids to be the ones (to excel)."

Added Crowder, "It's so disappointing to me, as a parent who volunteered for the PTA in elementary school, to see those science fairs that we had annually in those PTAs ... drop off, for some reason, up at Harrison.

"There's no science fairs or science events up in Harrison. And now, just to hear that just one person (participated on Saturday), that's just so disappointing to me."

Victoria Schmotzer pointed out that middle-schoolers, too, were eligible to participate on Saturday.

Amy Schmotzer said that entering projects in science fairs is an opportunity for students to earn scholarships.

"They're not hard projects," she said. "And (they) aren't expensive. It's a $4 board at Pat Catan's and some construction paper."

Read through other Baldwin-Whitehall School Board items here.

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FF19 February 08, 2013 at 01:05 PM
It does not suprise me that only one student participated in the Science Fair from BW. Board Members Crowley and DiNardo are correct about the drop off in interest or lack of programs at the Middle School Level Another point to be considered is that quite a few of the science teachers at the high school are a joke. They need weeded out and sent off to another career (if there is one for them in the real world). A good metric will be the Keystone Biology exams. You can easily correlate failing scores to specific teachers who had those students in their classes. Clean House Dr. Randy!
Sandra February 08, 2013 at 01:14 PM
I didn't know there was a science fair.
cc February 08, 2013 at 01:49 PM
They also need to get rid of a few of the math teachers at the high school as they are a joke too.
FF19 February 08, 2013 at 02:27 PM
Spot on cc.
Theresa February 08, 2013 at 04:07 PM
I agree! In biology at the high school, there is really only one good teacher. The other two need to move on. These poor kids end up teaching themselves. It's such a waste of tax money to pay someone who is failing to teach.
Charles Reinecker February 08, 2013 at 04:20 PM
where are the parents? they should also be involved in the development of their children. teachers can not do it alone
FF19 February 08, 2013 at 05:19 PM
Charles- I have a degree in Biology and Fortunately I was able to advocate for my son. It is a well known fact that my son's former Biology teacher was fired but was brought back through arbitration. He is incompitent and did not teach his students anything. I agree with you that a child's educational development should be a effective partnership through the parents, teacher and child. Baldwin HS has many great teachers and those teachers are ecstatic if a parent(s) takes an interest in their childs education. Those teachers will bend over backwards for you. However, there seems to be a few rotten apples that teach biology and math to be dealt with.
Kris February 08, 2013 at 08:10 PM
Did the high school inform the middle school that they were hosting a science fair? There actually was a science fair in the middle school for the gifted students, just a week or so prior to the one held at the high school. It could have been very nice timing, if there was more information shared.
Brian Rampolla February 08, 2013 at 09:04 PM
This is déjà-vu all over again. I remember the same issue about lack of participation in science fairs when my daughter started at Harrison 6 years ago, which comes up again just about every year. And every year we hear the same statements from the board bemoaning the situation, but not a single board president has ever taken any leadership action to make changes. Will Nancy DiNardo be any different? Increased student participation in science related fairs and competitions will require a complete culture change in which these activities are encouraged and supported by teachers, who in turn have the support and encouragement of the administration, and ultimately the board. If Nancy DiNardo really wants to see a change she needs to initiate it by stepping up in a big way to marshal all available resources, including contacting other districts, encouraging (not just talking about) parent and community support, utilizing STEM support programs from local universities and companies, etc. If she as board president does nothing, nothing will change.
Jon February 08, 2013 at 11:58 PM
I know the teacher who runs the Sci club and she did everything she could to get the students involved. Many committed but only one followed through. Although a couple just couldn't finish their research in time. Parents need to be more involved and encourage their sons and daughters to participate. Especially those with science backgrounds.
nofire pitts February 09, 2013 at 02:49 AM
... "Whereas, February 12, 2013, is the anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin in 1809 and would be an appropriate date to designate as Darwin Day: Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the House of Representatives — (1) supports the designation of Darwin Day; and (2) recognizes Charles Darwin as a worthy symbol on which to celebrate the achievements of reason, science, and the advancement of human knowledge. ... http://ncse.com/news/2013/01/darwin-day-resolution-congress-0014688
cc February 09, 2013 at 12:17 PM
Charles no matter how many complaints you make the District does nothing to change teachers. They are protected by tenure and so hard to remove the bad teachers. The District has their hands tied. They need to get rid of tenure so they can fire the bad teachers.
cc February 09, 2013 at 12:19 PM
All children are notified of the Science Fair in classes. But do the students take this information home to the parents, some do and some don't. My children when they were at the middle school use to participate in them.
cc February 09, 2013 at 12:21 PM
So Charles Darwin birthday is on Feb 12, 2013, How is this information going to get students to participate in the Science Fair????
cc February 09, 2013 at 12:28 PM
Brian I doubt if Nancy DiNardo will do anything as there hasn't been any leadership on the School Board since the early 2000's. The school district thrived in the 70's, 80's 90's and around 2003 is when our district started to go down hill. Maybe the School Board should invest another $20,000 making a video saying how great the School board is and what they aren't doing for our students. From talking to one of the board members, some of them want to make major cuts into our curriculum next year. Last year they cut Technology, what department will get the cuts next year we will just have to wait and see. The school board needs to plant flowers, clean hillsides, and make the stadium look pretty after all.
NE12Ukid February 09, 2013 at 01:12 PM
OMG! she fell for it!!!
nofire pitts February 09, 2013 at 11:53 PM
;-)
cc February 10, 2013 at 02:04 AM
ne12ukid we already know that you are also nofire pitts. don't have any friends come play with you. By the way idiot, i never click on your stupid links as you always put up stupid things that don't belong in the article anyways. you must live a pathetic lonely life torturing your neighbors.
NE12Ukid February 10, 2013 at 04:07 AM
cc is delusional again. At least it is evident that more and more Patch readers are seeing this lately.
cc February 10, 2013 at 03:21 PM
Yes ne12ukid, people see how much of a joke you are hiding behind your hundreds of names. you gave up on the ml name when to many people told you off as the idiot you are.
Jamie Miller February 13, 2013 at 03:21 AM
I agree with the assessment of the High School Biology teachers. My son's course is a complete self learning module. This is not ideal for first time biology students. There is no teaching going on, only a course facilitator.
nofire pitts February 13, 2013 at 10:40 PM
Do not discount the political intimidation factor in the science classroom. cc can't imagine why it might be important to acknowledge the contributions of Charles Darwin. If "there is no teaching going on, only a course facilitator" it wouldn't surprise me if the teacher were afraid of controversy in this political climate. Look at this nut who actually sits on the US House of Representatives SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY committee: http://news.yahoo.com/congressman-calls-evolution-lie-pit-hell-175514039.html "God's word is true," Broun said, according to a video posted on the church's website. "I've come to understand that. All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell. And it's lies to try to keep me and all the folks who are taught that from understanding that they need a savior." Locally you have Republican wingnuts Rickieboy Santorum & his screwy wife. Ask Karen why she thinks you should not be able to think for yourself just since she got religion with Rickieboy - after living for six years with Dr. Tom Allen! http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/obituaries/obituary-thomas-e-allen-doctor-of-choice-was-leader-of-social-artistic-causes-672278/ Do some research into the Texas state school board and the insane power that these nuts wield over science education even nationwide for textbooks used! http://www.therevisionariesmovie.com/about.html

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