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Sunday, February 19, 2017

100 Days Smarter- Celebrating in a Big Way at the Woodland Hills Academy

By Brittany Libell

At the Woodland Hills Academy, the 100th Day of School has become a school wide celebration of the number 100 and an opportunity for 7th and 8th grade students to give back to students in grades K-6.  On the February 2, 2017 students and staff participated in 100 minutes of STEAM based challenges.  The Academy’s original kindergarten and 1st grade classes are now 7th an 8th graders, this day gave them an opportunity to visit the classrooms of many or their former teachers and see things from the other side.  Teachers had a chance to see the young adults that are now leaders within the building.

Teams of 4 junior high students traveled to each homeroom, each with a challenge to present.  Most of the tasks lasted for 20 minutes, but each grade participated in one larger 40-minute challenge.  The big hit this year was the class bowling challenge; classes gathered in the gym and worked as a team to try to knock down 100 bowling pins in under 4 minutes by kicking soccer balls from set points in the gymnasium.  3rd through 6th grade students became amusement park planners, they were given 100 index cards and a roll of tape, they were then challenged to create a roller coaster that would carry a ping pong ball 100 inches over 1 hill.
Students work together to knock down 100 pins in the Academy gym

Walking through the halls on this day, you see “big kids” helping the groups of “little kids” as they work towards their goals.  The hum is from students hard at work, struggling to meet the challenges before them.  Cheers could be heard celebrating the success of groups as they completed some of the more difficult activities. 

Kindergarten – 2nd grade challenges:
• Build a house that could stand for 100 seconds, using only play dough and popsicle sticks
• Use 100 sponges to build the tallest structure possible
• Race to build a 100 piece puzzle upside down, using 100s chart clues
• Create a structure from 100 connecting cubes with a base that fits on an index card

Academy 4th graders work to build a Pasta Pinnacle
3rd and 4th grade challenges:
• Create a pixel drawing on a 100s grid
• Use two strips of paper and a straw to construct a hoop-flyer that can fly 100 inches
• Build a pasta pinnacle 100 centimeters tall, using spaghetti, marshmallows and 18 inches of tape.

5th and 6th grade challenges:
• Use 100 gum drops and 100 toothpicks to construct the tallest dome
• Build a catapult from popsicle sticks and rubber bands in order to launch a piece of candy 100 centimeters
• Race to build a tissue box structure that is 100 cm x 100 cm x 100 cm

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Woodland Hills Intermediate Students to Boogie for a Cause

by Marty Sharp

Woodland Hills Intermediate is excited to announce its first annual Technothon Dance-a-Thon! WHI Staff and Students will dance continuously from 8:15 – 2:35 on Thursday, February 16th. Students and Staff will dance in 1- 2 hour shifts, depending upon the number of participants.

Students are invited to partcipate to dance and raise funds. Those students who would like dance away part of the day are encouraged to raise a minimum of $10.00 worth of cash pledges. Those students who are able to generate $20.00 worth of donations will receive a cool Technothon 17 t-shirt the day of the event. 

Students have already raised enough pledges to meet the Technothon's first goal of acquiring earbuds for each student at the Intermediate! In fact, they were able to raise enough to outfit the building for two years. This will enable students to use individualized technology more effectively, allowing them to enrich their classroom experience and receive extra assistance when it is needed.

Additional funds that are raised will benefit the Intermediate Uniform Fund, to make sure that our growing students can look their best in class.

Special congratulations to Andrew Bright, McKenna Matthews and Divine Holland, students who are our leaders in fundraising.

Even now, with a week to go until the event, your generosity and effort are greatly appreciated. We welcome contributions to help our kids!  If you have any questions you may contact Mr. Sharp at 412-351-0698 ext 4200 or

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Edgewood Primary Certified by Common Sense Education

by Ashley Luczak

During the second nine weeks of school at Edgewood Primary Instructional Technology integration Specialist Sue Lewis and Library Media Specialist Ashley Luczak teamed up to offer students an opportunity to learn aspects of computer science during their regularly scheduled library class. 

Computer Programming is one of the fastest growing job fields. There is an estimated job shortage in the growing industry showing that there are more jobs than graduates in this field.  Introducing elementary students to these concepts can put a child on a pathway of digital literacy and open up a variety of future career options.  Computer science education has shown to increase student performance in math and science by offering a different way of thinking about a problem.  Early elementary age students are in the psycho-social developmental stage where they begin to make logical connections, making it possible for young students to learn a computer language before learning to read.

Common Sense Certified School: Digital Citizenship

Edgewood Primary

Common Sense Certified Educator: Digital Citizenship

Ashley Luczak

Ms. Lewis and Mrs. Luczak understood that in order to give students the power and knowledge of becoming digital literate they must also ensure student safety online.  Teaching safe Internet practices is also a growing trend in schools.  School officials and parents have noticed an increased need for students to become more aware of their digital footprints and online choices.  Mrs. Luczak and Ms. Lewis decided to focus on the Digital Citizenship curriculum offered by Common Sense- an independent nonprofit organization with a mission to help children and parents navigate a digital world.   The lessons provided by this organization are based on the Common Core Standards and focus on a variety of topics including- privacy, cyberbullying, safe searching, and evaluating and validating websites. Every student in grades K-3 at Edgewood Primary were given a nine-week course in Digital Citizenship.  Parents were given informational sheets and tips for each topic to further the discussion and safety practices at home.  Through all the hard work Edgewood Primary has been given the designation of a Common Sense Certified School in Digital Citizenship.  Mrs. Ashley Luczak has been awarded certification as a Common Sense Certified Educator in Digital Citizenship for her daily teaching of the concepts to the students of Edgewood.  This is one of the highest honors given by this organization whose goal is to help children safely navigate a constantly changing digital world. These accomplishments will be printed in the Common Sense Media Newsletter and will be added to their website-

This marks the second year in a row that Mrs. Luczak has earned the distinction for herself and Edgewood School.  During the 2015-2016 school year she focused on Unit 1 of the Common Sense Media Digital Citizenship Curriculum.  The Library Media Specialists across Woodland Hills School District used a combined effort to earn the Common Sense Media Digital Citizenship Certification for the entire district.  Mrs. Luczak hopes to continue the tradition by helping the other schools in the district meet their Common Sense Media goal for Unit 2 of the program and earn the district wide honor.  There are currently only a handful of schools in Pennsylvania that have this certification and even less have earned the distinction at the district level.  Mrs. Luczak and Ms. Lewis have plans to continue with the program every year.  Next year the focus will be on Unit 3 of the Digital Citizenship Curriculum.  In the meantime Ms. Lewis and Mrs. Luczak will spend the third nine weeks teaching computer coding to students in grades K-3.   Using a variety of resources available for, Scratch Jr. and Kodable.  Computer Science is a growing field and the students of Edgewood will be able to put their new computer safety skills to use while learning computer programming and staying of the forefront of this emergent educational trend.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Do You Want to Build a Snowman?

by Claudine Bagwell, Emily Kunkle & Bethany Morse

Kindergarten at the Woodland Hills Academy did exactly that in Science.  Since the weather provided us with enough material, on Friday January 6th, we learned about the 3 stages of water, the season of winter and measurement.  

Our lesson included all of the Kindergarten classes at the Academy.  We started by using our Scholastic News magazine to discuss the different signs of winter.  Students discussed things such as snow, ice, and cold temperatures as they read the articles in Scholastic News.

Our whole group discussion then led to a more in-depth conversation about snow. Students learned that each snowflake is unique and has six arms. We looked at images of different snowflakes and students compared and contrasted the snowflakes they saw.  

Then we got to the really fun part of our lesson! We built a snowman in the classroom!  He had pencil arms, a banana nose, a red scarf and two button eyes. The students loved having real snow in the classroom.  And we quickly used a nonstandard form of measurement, in this case unifix cubes, to measure how tall our snowman was.  But then the students immediately started to noticed the tray around our snowman was getting wet. The students told us the snowman was melting. This led straight into a discussion about the stages of water.  

Kindergarten's snowman
Students observed the difference between the snow, which was solid, and the water, which was liquid.  We discussed that when water freezes it becomes hard, or a solid.  We also discussed that liquids are things that you can drink.  Students listed many different solids and liquids.  Beep! Beep!  Beep!  The timer went off.  It was time to measure our snowman again.  Students made predictions about how tall the snowman would be after ten minutes.  Then we measured and discussed why the snowman was smaller now:  the solid snow was being heated from the heat inside and melted into a liquid.  

Then we continued our lesson to discuss the third stage of water: water vapor, or gas.  We discussed that when water is cooled it freezes but when it is heated it vaporizes or turns into a gas.  We discussed boiling water and seeing our breath outside.  Both are instances when the kids have seen water vapor in action.  

Before our lesson concluded, we measured our snowman 3 more times.  The final time was at the end of the school day.  Then we were able to compare the height of the snowman when our project began to the height of the snowman at the end.  The students saw how much our snowman had melted and subtracted the difference between the measurements.  We concluded our lesson by reading books about snowmen and discussing how much fun it is to build a snowman.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Woodland Hills School Board Evaluates Construction Projects

Welcome to the Woodland Hills School District Blog, a new effort to update our communities on the goings-on of in our schools from students, staff, faculty and all of those who make WHSD the great place that it is. We're excited to share with you all of the good things that are happening in Wolverine Country, and look forward to updating you weekly. Please check back regularly, and join us in building a stronger Woodland Hills!

by Jamie Glasser

It is an exciting time in the Woodland Hills School District! Continuing the implementation of the Plan for Excellence, the District is pursuing significant construction projects that will give our students the facilities that they deserve.

Some of our key buildings, including the Junior/Senior High School and the Intermediate School, are in need of more than a little tender loving care. At the direction of the Board, Superintendent Al Johnson and his team have begun to work with Reynolds Construction and J.C. Pierce Architects to identify priorities for renovation and upgrade in these buildings, which could begin as soon as summer 2018. These projects likely will include updates to heating and cooling systems, plumbing and other infrastructure as well as improvements to the learning environment. 

While we’re considering significant upgrades to the Intermediate and High School buildings, we know that there are needs in all WHSD buildings. Because that’s the case, the design team has also identified important projects which will begin in summer, 2017. These projects, known as asset protection efforts, will upgrade essential systems and greatly enhance the learning and working environments at Edgewood, Wilkins, Rankin, the Administration Building, and the Wolvarena.

We're working hard to be deliberate and fiscally responsible in the process of planning for these renovations. We recognize the importance of maintenance and systems upgrades in our aging buildings, but we’re conscious of the budget realities facing the district. 

So, how will the we balance these priorities? 

The asset protection projects will be funded with the remaining proceeds of the District’s most recent capital bond, which was issued initially in 2005. The more significant projects at the High School and Intermediate facilities will require a new bond issue, but we have directed the Superintendent and his team that any new issue cannot increase the District’s current debt service payment. It's our goal and plan keep WHSD's debt relatively low.

This process is an opportunity to dream big and embrace new ideas and bold approaches for what a modern school and comprehensive curriculum could look like,  all while enhancing our current strengths.   Do we need more space for large group instruction? Can we add classroom spaces that will give students the chance to pursue career pathways that could open doors to the future? How can we make sure that students have access to technology and tools so that our science, technology, engineering, arts and math curricula can be fully implemented? What specialized spaces make sense for our District and the students we serve?

The Design team is working hard to include varied perspectives during this priority process, including community members as well as the board, administrators, educators and students. All of these voices are key to the process and essential as we move forward. Meetings have been held and will continue throughout the planning. We want to hear from you, no matter what stake you hold in our District. 

Share your thoughts and ideas with the Board by emailing And check this space for updates!