SJHA is a Project Lead the Way Certified School
St. Joseph Hill Academy prioritizes innovation in education while also upholding the time-honored traditions of our 100-year-old school. Beginning several years ago, Hill took the steps as an entire academy to invest in and strengthen our Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) courses from Pre-K through 12th grade.
STEM education is essential in order for our students to meet the challenges of today’s society, an objective which is also emphasized in Hill’s Mission Statement. With a proper STEM education, students gain the knowledge and skills it takes to solve problems, make sense of information, and learn how to gather and evaluate evidence to make decisions. STEM education prepares students to be successful in their future careers in all fields because it helps them to develop a variety of skill sets, the importance of thinking critically, and prepares them to be innovative.
For the last several years, Elementary School Principal Mr. Lawrence Hansen and High School Principal Mrs. Maria Molluzzo have tapped Project Lead the Way, an American nonprofit organization that develops STEM curricula for use by elementary, middle, and high schools and trains teachers and administrators to implement it. “The more I read and researched, the more I was sure that this was the direction I wanted to take with our Science program,” said Mr. Hansen.
Thanks to the vision of SJHA’s leadership, Hill is the only school on Staten Island that is Project Lead the Way Certified. Mr. Jan Paul Pablo, Junior High Science Teacher, was one of the first of several Hill teachers certified in PLTW. Since January 2020, Mr. Pablo has trained more than half of the Hill Elementary Staff to receive their certification. At the core of PLTW science curriculum are project-based experiences for students. Hill’s PLTW elementary school modules include Automation and Robotics, Medical Detectives, Magic of Electrons & Launch, and more. In the High School, there are Digital Electronics and Introduction to Engineering & Design PLTW courses.
“Hill’s PLTW science classes are honed to the skills of what students want to do. They are hands-on, student-driven, and teacher facilitated. It’s a partnership in the classroom with the students. The students are really developing knowledge themselves instead of simply learning it from a book,” says Mr. Pablo. PLTW’s philosophy is that “middle school is a time of exploration,” and their curriculum helps “empower students to lead their own discovery.”
Mr. Pablo teaches 7th graders a Medical Detectives module where students collect and analyze medical data to diagnose disease and solve medical mysteries through hands-on projects and labs. They will measure and interpret vital signs, examine nervous system structure and function, investigate disease outbreaks, and explore how a breakdown within the human body can lead to dysfunction. “It is opening up a range of career paths and possibilities to our students,” according to Mr. Pablo.
The High School’s PLTW courses also engage students in interdisciplinary activities that build knowledge and skills while also “empowering students to develop problem solving, critical and creative thinking, communication, collaboration, and perseverance.”
Mrs. Sandra Nevins teaches multiple sections of PLTW Digital Electronics and Introduction to Engineering & Design courses in Hill’s High School. In Digital Electronics, the students take on the role of electrical engineers and explore the circuit design processes by bringing electronics to life by modifying and/or creating an actual product. According to Mrs. Nevins, “it is truly a transformative process to see these young women look at you in September and you know they are thinking ‘no way I can do this’... then in June they are looking at you saying ‘I got this!’ These courses empower them to believe in themselves, show them career choices that they might not have thought of, and that they have viable skill sets to play an active role in the STEM world.”