On October 25, one PHS class took a field trip to the Philadelphia Zoo. This “Africa” class is a social studies semester elective offered to juniors and seniors at PHS.
“It was the first year that we’ve gone,” said Christine Carbone, who teaches Africa. “Every year, the students bring [up wanting to visit the zoo] when we’re doing our first unit of study, and this year I really felt that it would add to the way I had the units designed.”
The first unit of the curriculum is about combating stereotypes and preconceived notions about Africa, and students used the Internet to look at how well African biodiversity was represented by various American zoos.
“It was interesting to go to the Philadelphia Zoo and get to see how they have done in terms of if they are stereotyping Africa, or if they are doing a good job of highlighting the different countries, because [a lot of the time] Africa [isn’t seen] as different countries in different parts,” Carbone said. “The Philadelphia Zoo exhibits actually did a very good job of doing that, of actually highlighting different countries and so forth.”
“There were several showcases where otters were released and there were feeding tubs; plus there were rare mammals exhibitions,” said Sourabh Prakash ’17. “Going on a field trip or an elective is pretty unheard of, so Mrs. Carbone decided to make a first step in that direction … It certainly added to the interest factor of the class.”
It is still unknown whether visiting the zoo as a class will be a continuing tradition; however, Carbone was pleased with the outcome of the trip as well as how it enriched the students’ understanding of the curriculum.
“Right before we went to the zoo, we did a case study on Madagascar, so it was really great for the students who did some of the geography of Madagascar to look at some of the lemurs in the lemur exhibit. And they talked about that in their presentations, which was a great connection,” Carbone said. “Besides, what a bonding experience it was for the class; it was just great to see them all really come together.”
PHS debate team experiences coach transition
Social Studies teacher Caitlin Hughes has now taken the role of head coach of the PHS Speech & Debate team, which was previously led by English teacher John Bathke and special education teacher Renee Szporn.
“In terms of my role this year, I feel the most important thing to do is to learn and observe, having no solid firsthand experience about this team”, said Hughes. “Debate is really more of a collaborative effort between myself and Mr. Bathke and the parents. Everyone involved is very supportive.”
Hughes’ efforts to fill the new role, particularly after the team was without a coach during the 2015–2016 school year, has instilled a sense of optimism amongst the club members.
“We [now] have a new coach who’s going to grow with the team [and develop insights in the events],” said Speech Captain Spencer Stengle ’19. “I think coaching in the future will only go up from where it is.”
“Last year, the team needed help for some of the tournaments, so I chaperoned three, so I was able to kind of get to know the students who were on the team and also to become familiar with the tournament scene,”said Hughes.
Without a formal coach in the past year, organization was chaotic. The students are looking forward to focusing less on logistical details and more on their own content for competitions.
“After Mr. Bathke departed from the team, we had some difficulty in terms of structuring different tournaments,” said Treasurer Jonathan Chao ’17. “We were super lucky to have parents who stepped in as interim coaches and to have Gavin [Alcott ’16] and Tiffany [Yuan ’16], the former captains and presidents, [who] were able to fill the role [well].”
“[Lacking coaches] made it very hard to give team members a sense of consistency and stability,” said President Maddy Troilo ’17. “[It’s] nice to have someone take that head administrative role so that we’re able to be more predictable and stable as a team.”
Now, Bathke intends to train Hughes on all the logistics of the team organization. Bathke will act as an assistant coach to help Hughes transition through for the first year.
“Assisting right now [involves] helping her do a lot of the registration, the collection of money, and [familiarizing her with] the rules and guidelines of the team,” Bathke said.
Hughes’s addition to the team is an optimistic sign for the team’s future.
“I think having [Hughes as head coach] should [return the team] back into what we had had before last year, which was stable,” said Lincoln-Douglas Captain Michael Meyer ’18. “It’s good that she’s [offering] her time to take us to tournaments on [many] weekends throughout the year [because it’s such a big time commitment].”
Teachers as Scholars
Teachers as Scholars is a program offered by Princeton University to teachers at PHS and at surrounding school districts to enrich knowledge of topics pertinent to the curriculums that they teach. This school year, ten teachers from PHS are participating, many of whom are attending the seminars for the first time.
“The seminar I’ll be attending is about STEM education and the new science standards for the state,” said biology teacher Jacqueline Katz. “The program has some pre-session reading that seems to be useful, especially in understanding the new standards and how to incorporate them.”
Seminars are not subject-specific; any teacher is allowed to take any seminar. However, teachers are required by the district to justify how the seminar they want to take relates to what they teach.
“This year I [applied for a course] about cinema because I teach a cinema class,” said Spanish teacher Martha Hayden. “I think the interesting part about [cinema] is how people write the screenplay and turn it into a movie. So that’s what the class is about, and it should be interesting because I’ve never approached teaching cinema from that perspective.”
Greta Muça, an English teacher at PHS, took a course on the Brontë sisters.
“I thought it was a good idea to share with students that how even [at a very young age], you can be passionate about literature and you can write a book. I did get materials, and I did get access to some artifacts that I was not aware existed before, [and] that’s the point—you go in and you’re exposed to new ideas, new connections, new materials,” Muça said. “So, when I came back, I was able to share with the students some events that really impressed me in terms of the Brontë sisters’ childhood years.”
However, there is one downside to Teachers as Scholars: Teachers have to take time off from school to attend the courses at the university.
“That’s probably my least favorite part about it; it makes me a little nervous to be out of the classroom, but I feel like in the long run, it will be useful for my students,” Katz said.
Despite short-term repercussions, the teachers attending TAS seminars strive to make the most out of missing class time in order to improve their quality of teaching as much as possible.
“It’s really important to look at new perspectives and [new] things that I can use in my classroom, so whatever opportunity I can take to do that really enhances my teaching. I think that as a teacher, you always have to be a learner,” Hayden said.