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Cook-Wissahickon makes students journey a memorable one

November 22, 2016 GMT

Offering an experience that connects students to the community, challenge them in academics, have them evolve as a person through various programs and prepare them for their future is what students find most appealing about Cook-Wissahickon School.

“We have really good teachers at this school,” said eighth-grader Tay Herbert. “They really care about us and they challenge us — both academically and personally. If we need help with something they are right there willing to help. As a student, it’s always good to have a teacher that really cares about you and wants to help take you to the next level.”

The Pre-K to eighth grade school with nearly 455 students has been known to turn its students into leaders that will prepare them for high school, college and a future career. Located at 201 E. Salaignac St., Cook-Wissahickon’s mission is to develop a positive learning community in which students achieve academic and personal success.

“We want our students to have the opportunity to go to the high school of their choice and be successful there,” said second-year principal Michael Lowe. “We’ve been trying to introduce programs and materials to give students the opportunity to find themselves. The new computer teacher is teaching the middle school students coding. We’re working on a robotics program. We just recently started meeting with Tech Girls out of Roxborough High, so that our girls can do coding.

“We started affinity groups, where middle school students twice a week participate in an activity that they are interested in,” he added. “This includes afternoon bucket drumming, hip-hop and line dancing, ceramics studio, journalism, drama and flag football. As far as academics, we’re a part of the district blended learning initiative, so the teachers are able to work with kids in a small group, but then the kids can also practice skills independently.

“We were one of the schools picked to be a WHYY media lab. Students will be able to take what they are learning in the classroom and begin to create documentaries or small video pieces. We don’t want to just emphasize the academics, but also the awareness in the community and the world. Whether it’s through a cancer fundraiser, food drive or a research project, our students need to be engaged in what’s going on around them. We want our students to create their own path of success.”

Middle school students are being exposed to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) through a partnership with iPraxis, which is integrated into the curriculum through projects, seminars and trips. Through this partnership, students learn from volunteers who have a background in science including adults who are retired and students who are seeking their master’s or Ph.D. degree.

A group of scienteers (science volunteers) visits the school every Thursday to mentor students with their science class for a 12-week period to help assist them with their science fair project. Students apply the scientific method as they select and investigate important questions. Through the interaction with the scienteers, students learn goal-setting, teamwork, research design, personal organization, presentation skills and how to build positive relationships.

“My scienteer, Malik Daniells, is helping me with my experiment,” said eighth-grader Justin Reynolds. “My topic will be on which can freeze faster — soda or juice? We were just watching a video on an experiment where if you freeze soda for a certain amount of time and shake it or release some pressure the result will be it will instantly freeze. We wanted to see which would freeze faster, soda or juice. I kind of think soda will freeze faster because it’s already carbonized.”

To help students prepare for high school, college and beyond, Cook-Wissahickon’s dean of students Sean Gray and counselor Marsha Weiford work with students on their application process.

“Ms. Weiford tells us different stories of how different people have made their dreams come true,” said sixth-grader Aniyah Holman. “She’s been also talking to us about selecting a high school. She said the high school you want to go to should be based on academics and your interests. Some of the schools that I’m interested in are Central and SLA. I already know my career path, too. I either want to be a chef or an Olympian for gymnastics.”

One-point perspective, shading, blending and working with clay are just some of the things students will be working on in Christina Kimmel’s art class.

“My art teacher teaches you different areas of art and then you get to do it yourself,” said seventh-grader Sarah Weill-Jones. “My favorite project so far is one-point perspective. I think it’s really cool because you get to put other art into it like shading and blending. I definitely can see myself having a career in art. I like literacy, the performing arts and painting. Having a career in any of those three areas will be OK with me.”

Seventh-grader Angela Cherry is another student that likes being in Kimmel’s art class.

“Art is another way to express your feelings,” Cherry said. “We did a project last year where we had to write about the person who made some kind of art. My project was about Harley Quinn. She is one of my favorite super-villains. This year, I want to do something about the gay flag and try to show people that you can be anybody that you want to be in life. I also want to learn how to do pottery. Everybody says it’s fun, but I want to try it for myself.”