High School Science and Student Leadership Thrive at Highland Hall Waldorf School

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In the shadow of national concern over U.S. schools failing to compete in science, Highland Hall Waldorf School deepens its commitment to science education, while high school seniors Marcos Ferreccio and Mark Silverman lead student-driven fundraising initiative for a new science lab.

Mark Silverman,Vice President of Highland Hall Student Council

Mark Silverman,Vice President of Highland Hall Student Council

Lynn Kern adds, "We've raised all the funds to renovate the lab, and are very proud of the student leadership taken by Marcos Ferreccio, Mark Silverman and the high school Student Council.

Improving high school science education has emerged as a national priority in the United States. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made that clear when he stated, "The results released today show that our nation's students aren't learning at a rate that will maintain America's role as an international leader in the sciences."

The Waldorf science curriculum answers that call by arousing interest and curiosity in the world, developing imagination and creativity, and then putting those talents to work in an experiential science classroom environment. In contrast to curriculums focusing on data accumulation and test scores to show learning results, Highland Hall Waldorf School has a hands-on approach to science with an emphasis on student initiative and follow through on projects for which they are passionate.

This meets the challenge President Obama put forth in his 2009 address to the National Academy of Sciences, where he asked them to "...think about new and creative ways to engage young people in science and engineering...that encourage young people to create and build and invent, to be makers of things, not just consumers of things."

Lynn Kern, Highland Hall's administrative director says, "99% of our seniors move on to higher education at colleges and universities. A recent study of Waldorf graduates revealed that 42% of Waldorf high school graduates pursue college degrees in math and science! That's a pretty impressive statistic in educational circles, and one of which we at Highland Hall are very proud."

This year the school designated the 2012/13 academic year as the "Year of Science," with plans to challenge its science department to expect even more from and for its students. To that end, the faculty of Highland Hall launched a year-long study of its science curriculum.

"From chemistry in the kitchen to astronomy, geology, geography and botany, our science program is designed to expand student thinking and enrich their lives. Our science courses cultivate a healthy curiosity about the natural world and a rich imagination, ensuring that our science program serves our alumnae well beyond the classroom," adds Connie Stokes, pedagogical chair.

In the midst of this push on the science front a flood in the science lab posed a serious challenge to the school's plans when the costs to fully renovate the lab rose to $150,000. The development office at Highland Hall responded with a fundraising campaign championed by a generous parent body. Leaving nothing to chance, student council co-presidents, Marcos Ferreccio and Mark Silverman, took the initiative to launch a student-driven fundraiser of their own.

This summer Ferreccio completed his studies in astronomy and writing with honors at the highly competitive Phillips Academy Summer Session in Andover, MA, for which he received a scholarship. Silverman also spent the summer studying, and refining his college choices which include Ivy League universities. When these Highland Hall seniors received the news about the flood in the lab and the cost of renovation, they partnered up to lead a campaign entitled, "10-20-10."

"I plan to study engineering and physics when I graduate Highland Hall, and took time after the Phillips Academy to tour some of the colleges in Massachusetts. So when I learned about the flood and the cost of renovation, I knew I had to help get the money to fix it. Mark and I came up with a plan to take the appeal to the community. The strategy was to have students ask ten people not in their immediate family to contribute twenty dollars within a ten-day time-frame," explains Ferreccio.

Silverman's interests span business management, high-order math and science. "In the future, I'd like to pursue a path that enables people to use resources wisely and not waste them...to turn assets into things that last," says Silverman.

Silverman became a spokesman for the project, presenting it to the high school faculty and his fellow students. Silverman says, "If you want something done, you have to go out and make a difference. We figured, if we're using the lab, we should help raise the funds. And you know what?" he adds, "We did it! I'm thrilled that the amount of energy and effort that Marcos and I, with the support of the Student Council, made to raise money for the science lab came to fruition by the end of first month of school. That's less than a month!"

Recently Charles Vest, Former President of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, argued, "America faces many challenges…but the enemy I fear most is complacency. We are about to be hit by the full force of global competition... We must now establish a sense of urgency."

Lynn Kern adds, "We're happy to say that our students at Highland Hall are anything but complacent! We've raised all the funds to renovate the lab, and are very proud of the student leadership taken by Marcos Ferreccio, Mark Silverman and the high school Student Council in helping us reach that goal!"

About Highland Hall
Highland Hall Waldorf School is located in Northridge, California. Founded in 1955, it is the oldest Waldorf school in the western United States and offers an independent alternative to public and other private schools, providing the Waldorf Curriculum from Early Childhood through High School graduation. Its mission is to guide students in the unique Waldorf curriculum, striving to endow each student with discernment in thought and action, a joy of learning, and a sense of wonder and reverence for life.

Highland Hall's students graduate with a solid academic foundation, the ability to think creatively, a sympathetic interest in the world, self-confidence, and an abiding moral purpose. They move on to renowned colleges and universities of their choosing and continue onto accomplished careers in their chosen professions.

Further information may be obtained at http://www.highlandhall.org.

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Rebecca Varon Remstein

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