There was a dance party on Wednesday at Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13.
At least it sounded as if there was, as bass-heavy hip-hop music being played in one of the IU’s conference rooms spilled into the hallways and neighboring offices.
The music, mixed and edited by Columbia High School students, provided a soundtrack to one of the IU’s signature annual events highlighting the innovative techniques and programs school districts in Lancaster and Lebanon counties have adopted to redefine learning.
“Extraordinary learning is happening every day in our schools,” Brian Barnhart, executive director of the IU13, said about the 22 school districts, plus the Lancaster County Career & Technology Center, that presented at Wednesday’s Reinventing Learning Showcase.
“Tonight was an opportunity to see it firsthand,” he said.
A clear vision
Columbia presented its new program promoting hip-hop culture – the VISION, or Values Inspiring Students in Overcoming Negativity, program.
Founded by former recording artist manager and booking agent T.J. Griffin, the programs seeks to inspire students, particularly those from low-income or broken households, to tap into their creativity and discover their potential.
About 20 Columbia students ages 13 to 18 meet twice a week to learn about hip-hop and entrepreneurship in addition to how to record, mix and master music using studio-quality equipment and computer programs.
The kids also take trips to local attractions such as Laserdome and Sky Zone.
“They’re just amazing kids who need a chance to believe that they can be successful,” Griffin said.
Not your parents’ library
Following a local and national trend, Hempfield School District is reinventing the library and the librarian’s role.
At each of its schools, Hempfield has infused critical thinking, problem-solving and technology into their library spaces.
“It’s noisy. It’s active. It’s engaging,” Cathi Fuhrman, Hempfield’s library department supervisor, said. “We serve coffee at the high school library. And that’s OK.”
Hempfield is adding makerspaces to each school’s library, giving students the opportunity to engage in hands-on, STEM-related activities using anything from LEGOs to programmable robots, she said.
As for librarians, she said, they are the “district’s biggest bargain,” because of their versatility and knowledge regarding reliable resources.
“We’re not just checking out books anymore,” she said.
Virtual field trips
At Eastern Lancaster County, elementary students are taking field trips to the Egyptian pyramids and other awe-inspiring destinations thanks to a $5,000 grant awarded to Drew Arena, a fourth-grade teacher at Blue Ball Elementary School, and Adam Geiman, the elementary tech coach, in 2016.
The grant paid for 10 Google Expeditions virtual reality glasses, each coupled with its own smartphone, that can be used for, among other things, virtual field trips.
Arena recently took his class to the Amazon rainforest after finishing the book “Encantado: Pink Dolphin of the Amazon.”
“It really strengthens their understanding of the texts when they’re making those connections,” Arena said of his students. “They don’t realize the depths of their learning because they’re just so excited about it.”