Throwback: Elementary School News

Winter 1998 cover; Cover underwritten by Centimark Corporation; Cover photographed by Darnell Mitchell

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Butterfly Garden by Randy Oswald

Winter 1998; page 36

If you have been to Streams Elementary school lately, you have probably noticed a few changes from the end of last year. On the right side as you come in is a new addition to the gardens that decorate the side and rear of the building. This garden, however, goes way beyond its aesthetic value. The garden was designed specifically as a butterfly garden. All the flowers planted in the garden have been chosen not only for their beauty, but also for their attractiveness to butterflies. The butterflies use the flowers' nectar as food. The butterfly theme also ties into the second grade's unit on metamorphosis. The students learn about the butterfly's life cycle, which includes raising butterflies from a caterpillar through their transformation into butterflies. The garden will then serve as food and shelter for the butterflies once they are released by the students. The students may also observe the butterflies in the wild as they feed in the garden. This new area has been dubbed "The Learning Area."

This garden has been my Eagle Scout project since May of this year. I am a senior at Upper St. Clair High School and also a very avid Boy Scout. I am a member of Troop 366 chartered by Westminster Church. Eagle Scout is the highest rank in Boy Scouts, of which only two percent of all scouts ever obtain. The Eagle project is a one hundred man-hour service project that is the last major requirement for the rank of Eagle.

When I began looking for a project, I had no idea what I was going to do. Soon I heard that Streams school, my elementary school, was looking for some help. They wanted a new garden planted in the front of the school to go with the ones already around the school. I was also asked to incorporate butterflies, so this year when the second graders released their butterflies, they would have a place to go. After months of planning and working, the project is almost done, but by no means have I worked alone. Help has come from individuals from the schools and from my scout troop, my friends, family, and neighbors - everyone no less motivated than I. This project has truly been a group effort, and I wish to thank all the people who have helped me take on this project. Presently there are seventeen perennials, from butterfly bushes to daylilies in the garden. There are two butterfly houses where the caterpillars can safely make their change into buttertlies. There is also a stone park bench where teachers can read to their students, or anyone can just sit and observe. Yet to be added is an information post detailing what plants are in the garden and what butterflies might be seen. Also, a patch of milkweed is to be planted in the back. Although milkweed is not the prettiest plant, it is the primary food source for the monarch butterfly.

If you have not yet had a chance to see the new garden, please, come and visit.

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Odyssey of the Mind in Upper St. Clair

Winter 1998; page 37

In a recent article in the In Pittsburgh newspaper on Odyssey of the Mind, author Stephen Segal asks readers if they remember the scene in the movie Apollo 13 where NASA engineers try to figure out how to use square air filters from the command module on the round air purifiers in the lunar excursion module. The astronauts were holed up in the lunar module for three days while they conserved electricity in the command module. NASA dumped a bunch of junk including a space suit, rubber tubing, clip boards and other paraphernalia on a table and told the engineers to make some kind of an adapter for the filters using nothing but this stuff. Wow…that sounds like an O.M. problem, and, as Mr. Segal pointed out, lots of students across the country and throughout the world were probably thinking just that when they watched that scene. The Odyssey of the Mind Association was founded in 1978 by Dr. Sam Miklus. Its purpose was to foster creative thinking and problem solving skills among participating children from kindergarten through college. These skills are important in an ever-changing world. O.M.'s mission includes the encouragement and development of cooperation, self-respect and the appreciation and understanding of others.

Working under the guidance of coaches, teams of five to seven students develop solutions to problems in a variety of areas. For example, this year one problem asks the team to present a performance that demonstrates the value of wise budgeting and saving to prepare for the future. The performance should be humorous, include an explanation of the source of income and use a team-related vehicle and some sort of legal tender. Performances are limited to eight minutes and total cost of props may not exceed $50.

Teams are given the opportunity to test creative problem solving skills against the skills of other teams at the regional,national and international levels. Teams are judged in three areas: the effectiveness of the solution to the long term problem (which they have been working on for several months); the style of the solution and its overall effect; and the solution to a spontaneous problem given to the teams on competition day. During the year, as the teams prepare their solutions, coaches are allowed only to facilitate their team members' efforts. The O.M. program is meant to be a "hands-on" program for the kids and "hands-off" for adults.

Clockwise from left - Lucas Wilson, Robert Shogry, Megan Trachok, Josh Rosen, Eric Cheng, Jeff Nash and Brittany Findley

Last year, Sally DiSabatino, a new resident who recently moved to USC from Cincinnati, lead the Baker Elementary School effort to establish O.M. as an after school, parent-run extracurricular activity. Sponsored by Baker Elementary PTA, three teams were started in October 1997. Two teams were Primary Teams (non-competitive) made up of first and second grade students. One team was a Division 1 team made up of third and fourth grade students. Coached by Ed Nash and Ed Wilson, the team won first place in the Western Region and in April went to the State Championship in Altoona. They captured second place in their division: a real accomplishment for a first time competitor.

This year through the efforts of Mrs. DiSabatino, USC parents have volunteered to coach eleven teams, ensuring that the district will be well represented at the March competitions. "This is one program that for every minute you put into it, you get back two return. If you are interested in giving your kids something really worthwhile to do then you should really check out O.M. and don't think you have to be creative to be a coach. It's the kids that have to be Creative...coaches are not allowed to help with ideas." Just last year, 16 new countries joined the organization. Upper St. Clair is keeping pace with a progressive group of creative thinkers.

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