Unlocking Potential

Updates From The Classroom - Winter 2018

English Department

6th Grade English Class – Ms. Maggie Dwyer

This week, the 6th graders participated in a four-corner discussion and debate where they presented their views on many different topics that are explored in their new text, Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis. Topics that were discussed included: poverty, racism/prejudice, identity, and stereotypes. The 6th graders will continue to discuss these topics as they progress through their novel.

Students gather in one of the corners in the classroom as they prepare for the discussion.

8th Grade English – Ms. Tara Smith

Look out, world! Students in Engaging Communities (8th grade English) recently learned persuasive tactics and the art of making an argument. They deconstructed a variety of advertisements and essays as well as worked together to create persuasive arguments regarding school dress code. In the coming weeks, they will analyze persuasive appeals used throughout Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. They will also put their own persuasive skills to the test by writing a letter to a real- life individual. Students took time to consider issues of local, state, or national importance and chose topics that inspired them, such as pending legislation, government policy, college affordability, and even the safety of ingredients in a popular energy drink brand. Beyond writing practice, the assignment encourages students to speak up, engage, and create change in the world.

9th Grade English – Mr. Mark Longstreth

Mr. Longstreth’s ninth grade class is reading Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. In this novel, the concept of a planned town arises. Here the class works together to figure out what features help create a thriving community.

Mark Longsteth helps guide a discussion on what qualities help produce a healthy community.

10th Grade World Literature – Capt. Shannon Meehan

In Capt. Meehan's World Literature course, students are preparing to read and act out Shakespeare's Othello. After exploring the complexities of issues raised in the play -- including inherent tensions in career pursuits, interracial relationships, and appearance vs. reality -- students led a discussion sharing real life instances of such issues playing out. With so many of the students representing different parts of the country (Philadelphia, New York, and Tennessee) as well as varying parts of the world (U.S., Germany, Russia, and China) the dialogue was rich with contrasting and unique points of view. The students have also created a digital background depicting the play's scenery. The computer-animated images will be projected onto a large screen during the play's reading, depicting the scene for each act of the play. These students are anxious to act out and analyze one of Shakespeare's greatest works!

Between classes on a snowy day at Perkiomen School, students help a youngster match up the images and descriptions of the characters in Shakespeare masterpiece play, Othello. From left to right: Elijah, Eldar, John, and Brady (the youngster).

11th Grade AP Language and Composition – Ms. Maggie Henderson

Students have started their timely unit on journalism learning about the history of newspapers and settling in to focus on columnist. This week students began dissecting articles written by former New York Times columnist David Carr, who help transition the newspaper giant into the digital age. As the unit progresses each student will choose one columnist to follow and analyze and will eventually reach out to this personality sharing their insights…exciting times!

AP Language and Composition students compete in the playful, but challenging “Vocab Battle” where they recite definitions, craft various sentence types, and share the parts of speech on common AP terminology. In the photo, Sam Chiesa is the judge during the daily session of Vocab Battle. Madita Schrott, Rex Xu, Liam Brassington, Emalee Walsh, Ella Albanese and Brianna Lyman wait for who will be next. )

12th Grade Senior English - Mr. Michael Romasco

Seniors in Mr. Romasco’s “The Graphic Novel” English class have been studying the concept of visual storytelling and how it applies to world of books in today’s society. After completing a unit based on Shaun Tan’s acclaimed wordless graphic novel, The Arrival, the focus has shifted to analyzing the world of children’s picture books. The unit began with an examination of 3-time Caldecott Medal winner David Wiesner’s view and approach to visual storytelling. Recently, the students have been delving deeper into his first Caldecott Medal winning book, Tuesday. One recent challenge activity was to create a detailed “reading script” the student would follow when reading this wordless story to a young child.

Senior Naty Urbina offers his interpretation of the flying pigs illustration found at the end of the Caldecott Medal winning children’s book, Tuesday, by David Wiesner.

12th Grade Senior English (Drama Elective) – Mrs. Diana Gleeson

In Drama, students are participating in read-throughs of 10 minute plays. The selected plays focus on relationships with minimal costumes and props. Students have learned how to “block” a scene and maximize body language, in addition to verbal language. Students also worked on character development by creating character profiles.

We have done a variety of different drama warm-ups like charades, including a challenge where students were grouped together and were given approximately 1 minute to come up with a pose for a “family photo”. Attached is Guanchen Luo, Jared Mason, Tilli Fantacci and Chandler Brooks. Coming soon…we will be doing Monologues!

Jared is the young son (see the mischievous expression)

Guanchen is the grandfather (see physical space)

Chandler & Tilli are the parents

AP Literature – Ms. Louisy Thompson

Students are engaging in the confusing and complex history of Wuthering Heights. The class has been mapping out the genealogy of the characters and unraveling the intertwined names in relation to the frame narrative they are following. Students have started to contemplate the relationship between the natural setting of the novel and how the wild setting of the story reflects the emotions and mental capacities of the characters. The class has also looked at traits in Romantic and Gothic genres and have started to explore the birth of Romanticism and how Wuthering Heights exemplifies a Gothic tone.

Science Department

Middle School Science

As part of the middle school science curriculum the students are taught to think critically and to solve problems in a variety of ways. They are encouraged to make mistakes and learn from these. The lab the students are currently working on is one in which the students are asked to separate a mixture of salt, sand, and iron. They are given a few supplies and the mass of salt and iron which was put in the mixture. The purpose of the lab is to develop communication skills, thought process, and problem solving. They must come up with a method to solve this problem and recover as much salt and iron as possible. The students will learn to calculate percent error as part of this process.

AP Biology

This week the students have been using kits developed by MIT Edgerton Center to learn about the process of Protein Synthesis. The kits provide the students a hands on way to see the process occurring. This kinesthetic method provides a tangible way of learning an abstract concept.

At the end of the lesson, the students were able to connect the idea of what we eat and how our proteins are transformed into protein in other parts of our body. In addition, students were able to model how straightening or curling hair can alter protein structure. At the end of the lesson Maddie Robinson stated, "I love Science."


This week the students were learning about torque and levers. The lab setting is designed to allow the student to see concepts in action. By learning to balance the load on the bar they can then apply this concept using the math.

English As A Second Language Department

Advanced Literature & Composition

Equipped with a new classroom library, students in Ms. Maley's Advanced ESL class are able to enjoy weekly reading during the class's Book Café. Whereas much of reading related to school is geared at learning information using difficult text, Book Café allows students to choose books at a level that is comfortable and interesting to themselves. This extensive reading approach enables students to take important steps in building essential vocabulary and grammar fluency.

Middle School ScienceMiddle School ESL - Superhero Design and Caption Writing

Students were introduced to an emoji APP called "Bitmoji" and they used it to design their personal superheroes. They also learned how to write captions that better illustrate their superheroes. Students had a fun time playing with Bitmoji and creating their own imaginary heroes, such as "Shelocklliams" by William Tai, "Surprise Woman" by Michael Cai, a female detective by Christain Zheng, a legend figure by Andy Wu, "HipHop Man" by Joyce Liu, "Knight Mamapi" by Steven Zhang, etc.

English Language class - Holiday Song Lyrics Project

When the holidays were almost here, students were encouraged to conduct a research online about different kinds of English holiday songs that in particular reflect Thanksgiving and Christmas themes. They needed to look into the title, author, and message to see if the song was worthwhile to present to the class, as well as if they personally liked the melody. Students copied the lyrics of the songs that they selected and drew illustrations on the posters. They had a great time researching the history of English holiday songs, presenting their choices with good explanations, and experiencing the holiday spirits in advance.

English Language class - Lunar New Year Menu Recipe Project

Since the Lunar New Year is about to come, we had a discussion about how different countries celebrate the new year around this time. To help out with the Perkiomen Lunar New Year dinner tradition, students were asked to pick one cuisine that they really wanted to have for the dinner and they had to make sure their cuisines were culturally appropriate and budget wise. Besides, students researched online about the recipes for their cuisines and modified them based on their home recipes. They had a fantastic time figuring out how to translate ingredients' names and cooking methods from their native languages to English. Some of them also reached out to their parents and grandparents for supports.

English Language class - Film lessons

We have film lessons from time to time and students love it. I begin the class by asking them a question that is somewhat related to the topic or theme of the film. Then, students study the target vocabulary and expressions and have a group discussion to help them better understand the theme. Finally, we watch the short film and discuss our predictions of the story, the message of the film, and other higher-level thinking questions, such as "What makes us different from each other?" and "Why should we treasure every single minute of our life?".

English Language class - Job Hunting Interview

The topic of unit 1 in our textbook is "offbeat jobs", so students prepared and practiced targeted vocabulary and phrases in this speaking activity. Half of the class was interviewers while the other half was interviewees. Our little employers came up with creative company ideas, such as "Frank's Lawyer Group", "Sherry's Jewelry Shop", "James' Car Company", and "Tracy's Clothes Design Store". Our little job hunters tried really hard to convince that they were the best candidate ever for the job. Luckily, everyone got hired at the end of the class!

Literature and Composition class - Book Reading Project

We have been doing book reading projects since the last school term. We took a couple of field trips to the Carnegie Library and middle school library to learn more about our school library facilities. We also had our school librarian to give presentations about how to find the right book and we invited her to be the guest during final presentations. Students spend time in class and outside of the class reading their books and preparing a final presentation in one of the following formats: a book talk, book trailer, or a book review. As part of the preparation process, students write tracing journals about what they read and reflect on.

The Learning Center

A Helping Hand

In The Learning Center (TLC), one of our talented students is working with his instructor, Mrs. Paige Longstreth, to design a hand brace in Tinkercad, a 3D CAD design tool. Once complete, the hand brace will be used by Mrs. Longstreth as she has a spinal cord injury and would like a comfortable and functional brace to employ in the evenings. In collaboration with Mrs. Longstreth and her occupational therapist, our TLC student has demonstrated creativity, patience, and persistence as his design has evolved through several iterations.