April 26, 2023

School Matters 4-26

New Schoolyard Habitat Recognized at Princeton Montessori

Princeton Montessori School’s (PMonts) Schoolyard Habitat has been officially certified by the National Wildlife Federation, America’s largest wildlife conservation and education organization.

PMonts, with its Garden for Wildlife program, has joined more than 5,000 schools nationwide that have created thriving habitats in their schoolyards, providing essential elements for wildlife: natural food sources, clean water, cover, and places to raise young.

“We are pleased that our beautiful campus is now a Certified Wildlife Habitat,” said Head of School Michelle Morrison, as quoted in an April 18 PMonts press release. “Spending time in nature is a core tenet of the Montessori philosophy, as Dr. Montessori believed that exposure to nature promotes physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development in children.”

The habitat also provides an outdoor education site for students to engage in cross-curricular learning, and certification makes their Certified Wildlife Habitat part of the Million Pollinator Garden challenge, a national effort to restore critical habitat for pollinators.

The PMonts campus includes several flower gardens, a new wildflower garden, and an expanded vegetable garden. The school’s 20 acres of woodland include species like oak, sweet gum, black tulip, American elm, common persimmon, and may other native plants.

PMonts students spend a lot of time outdoors, the press release notes, particularly during their weekly ecology class in grades 1-8.

“My aim for the ecology students is to not just be comfortable in nature, but to truly appreciate it and grow up wanting to protect it,” said PMonts ecology teacher Gery Juleff. “Rain or shine, we try to go outside and use our outdoor classroom in the heart of our woods. The students love it there.”

PRISMS and PCS Compete in National Science Bowl in D.C. This Weekend

Champions in the New Jersey Regional Science Bowl (held at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory in February), the Princeton International School of Mathematics and Science (PRISMS) high school division team and the Princeton Charter School (PCS) middle school division team are traveling to Washington D.C. this week to compete in the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Science Bowl from April 27 to May 1.

Representing PRISMS will be Justin Feder, Josh Shi, Yichen Xiao, Heyung Ni, and Yiji Wang. Gavin Macatangay, Amelie Huang, Aaron Wang, and Rohan Srivastava will be competing for PCS, which has represented New Jersey in the national middle school competition five times in the past six years.

The weekend events, with all expenses paid by the Department of Energy, include “a fast-paced verbal forum to solve technical problems and answer questions in all branches of science and math,” according to the DOE website. Also on tap will be hands-on science activities, sightseeing, and cutting-edge science seminars.

Mercer Science and Engineering Fair Winners and More

In addition to the Princeton High School and Princeton Middle School award winners featured in last week’s Town Topics, there were first-place winners from PCS and from the Chapin School in last month’s Mercer Science and Engineering Fair.

For superior achievement in the junior division Olivia Ahn of PCS for her project on The Impact of Different Fabrics and the Resistance to Mosquitoes: Which Types of Fabrics Let Mosquitoes Go Through? and Zachary Phelan of Chapin School for his project on The Gauss Rifle were awarded prizes in the general science category.

“This project involved figuring out which fabrics would prevent mosquito bites,” said Ahn in an email. “I used a 290 micrometer needle to mimic a mosquito’s proboscis.” She went on to attach her needle to a spring scale to measure its force each time, as she experimented with many different fabrics, examined those fabrics under a microscope, and made a video of the whole project.

“I was impressed by Olivia’s creativity and self-motivation throughout the process,” said PCS science teacher Laura Celik. “She independently created a clever procedure, completed the experiments, and wrote up the project. I am so proud of her, and happy she was able to experience original scientific research at a young age.”

PCS also announced on Monday that eighth graders Amelie Huang, Harry Dweck, and Emily Gao have won first place in New Jersey in the You Be the Chemist Challenge. They are one of the five top teams in the country and will be traveling to Houston, Texas in June to compete in the national championship.

During the National Challenge each team will be on stage before a panel of judges answering questions about the research they performed in making a 5-7-minute video on sustainability, forces, and interactions.

Not to be outdone by the science scholars, PCS mathematicians brought home prizes earlier this month in the New Jersey Mathematics League Contest. Ayonah Kahlon placed first in the region and in the state in the sixth grade division. Jiayi Zhou took first place in the region in the seventh grade competition, and Kyle Carr finished second in the region in the eighth grade division.