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Students pose with ribbons

Northgate participated in the Southwestern Pennsylvania Forensics League tournament on Nov. 12. Nine students competed for Northgate against eight other schools. Every Northgate student got at least one ribbon in first, second, or third place.

Participating students included: Kaitlyn Bates, Harper Geibel, Zaiden George, Jordan Kabanda, Liam Janouskovec, Kingston Smith, Natalie Hunt, Collette Dehart and Joshua Bandi.

Students learn about hearing device

Northgate Middle School students explored careers in STEM, education and government on Nov. 9 during the school’s first Experiential Career Fair.

Professionals from businesses and organizations throughout Allegheny County met with students to discuss their respective career fields and lead activities.

Principal R.J. Long said the career fields represented at the fair were part of "career clusters" outlined in the school's ongoing career counseling work.

"These are the career clusters that are outlined in Smart Futures, which is the software we use for students to engage in their career exploration activities," he said. "At this point in the year, they’ve identified at least three careers they are interested in."

Students attended three sessions in careers relating to their interests and two other career clusters, which Long said helps expose students to different paths they may not have considered

"They might learn that they don't enjoy it at all," he said. "It's part of the process. When they get to ninth grade, we want them to narrow the focus of what their pathway is going to be. Of what they want to do."

Parents participating in program

The first cohort of the Parents as Allies group at Avalon Elementary graduated from the three-week training course on Nov. 7.

The 18 parents and guardians now are able to serve as coaches in the school’s Makerspace.

“As an educator, I cannot think of a greater common language with parents that connects the practices of academic education and the ‘real world’ than making,” Dr. Joseph Peacock, principal at Avalon Elementary, said. “It is a creative and risk-free environment to accumulate success and learning at every turn.”

The Makerspace on the second floor of the school building includes innovative technology students can use to complete a variety of activities. That tech includes a 3D printer, laser engraver and a drill press, as well as some more classic appliances like a sewing machine.

But many of the activities in the room rely on the basics – like a pencil and paper. Peacock said it is up to the certified coaches to help develop and lead activities to encourage creativity among the groups of students.

“It’s all about creating scenarios and having the kids execute them,” he said. “These lessons will support the new curriculum students have in the traditional classroom setting.”

All students in the school will have one lesson in the Makerspace per month as part of their FOCUS period. The small group lessons will help improve student agency, Peacock said.

“The research shows if students have ownership of what doing, they perform better while doing those tasks,” he said. “That’s why the primary focus of these lessons is to promote student engagement.”

Avalon’s Makerspace has been years in the making. The school’s commitment to maker learning is rooted in the work of the Design & Build team’s participation, twelve years ago, in maker fair at the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum.

But it wasn’t until Northgate participated in a four-day “Maker Bootcamp” workshop for educators at the Children’s Museum in the summer of 2016 that the commitment to create our Makerspace grew. By the summer of 2017 the school community came together to build our Makerspace. The project brought the talents and donations of our collective community (parents, businesses, boy scouts, teachers and students) to design and build the space in a matter of months.

Once built, momentum continued and resources grew through the 2019-2020 school year. It was in that school year the programming was interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. This past summer we realized that our families were energized to be part of our school more than ever. Realizing their value, we designed three workshops to empower parents to become coaches trained in the Principles of Making and the engineering process to support and enhance learning opportunities for our students.

Books on display

The Northgate School District recently hosted its Title I Reading Program Turkey Dinner for elementary school students in the program and their families.

While enjoying dinner provided by the district's food service staff, parents learned more about the program from R.J. Long, the district's Title I Coordinator, and our reading specialists. Afterward, students played bingo to win their selection of books to take home.

The Title I Reading Program is a federally funded program that provides personalized lessons in reading, listening, speaking, writing and thinking to students meeting its entrance criteria.

David Bednar speaking

Pittsburgh Pirates All-Star pitcher David Bednar, the Pirate Parrot and the team’s in-game host, Joe Klimchak, visited Bellevue Elementary on Oct. 17 to kickoff the Chill Mobile project. Presented by Allegheny Health Network, the Chill Mobile RV was at the school throughout the week to promote emotional wellness through lessons and engaging activities.

Bellevue Elementary was selected to host the RV due to its success with the Chill Project. The RV will return to the school for two more weeks later this school year.

In addition to the student activities, our faculty are receiving professional development that echoes the skills taught to students. Classrooms in the district will be equipped with a “Chill Corner” that will continue to promote emotional wellness through the year. These corners are in addition to the current Chill Rooms in each building.

Evancho speaking

The Northgate School District partnered with Project Zero of the Harvard Graduate School of Education to present a one-day conference at Museum Lab on Oct. 10.
More than 110 educators attended the “Learning and Thinking That Make a Difference Conference,” which featured multiple workshops focused on promoting powerful learning practices for students.

A primary point of the conference was to help teachers monitor and evaluate students’ thinking processes.

“Learning is a consequence of thinking,” Dr. Jeff Evancho, Director of Partnerships and Equity at Northgate, told those in attendance, referencing a famous saying he said was particularly meaningful to him.

Project Zero has been a leader in educational research for more than five decades. Its mission is to “understand and nurture human potentials – such as learning, thinking, ethics, intelligence and creativity – in all human beings.”

Northgate has been incorporating Project Zero fundamentals into its curriculum in recent years to better understand and monitor how students in the district learn.

“Why do we use Post-it Notes and other techniques and methodologies to make thinking visible? Because if we want to know our kids are learning, we need to also know, first and foremost, that they are thinking,” Evancho said. “When their thinking is visible, we can actively engage with them. The direction the kids want to go with their thinking is what is most important.”

Mark Church, a lead researcher with Project Zero and co-author of the book, “Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners,” led a keynote discussion to start the day.

Afterward, educators split into groups to attend a series of different workshops led by other leading professionals in the field of education.

“How exciting it is we get to spend a day learning these powerful concepts and strategies from cutting-edge researchers,” Superintendent Dr. Caroline Johns said. “This is an opportunity to better our understanding to best support our students in meaningful ways.”

Johns told a story about how she incorporated Project Zero fundamentals while teaching Sunday School lessons to middle school students at a local church. Those concepts included having students write down key concepts, thoughts and questions on group boards to cultivate an engaging atmosphere, promote discussion and maintain key talking points.
“The church members had the opportunity to see directly what our kids are thinking about, what’s challenging them, what they’re learning about and what they are questioning,” she said. “They couldn’t believe middle school students were doing this kind of work.”

Those same practices have been incorporated into classrooms in all grade levels at Northgate. Johns said teachers have embraced the techniques.

“I appreciate the willingness of teachers to continuously improve their teaching,” she said. “We are seeing the benefits in our classrooms.”

Other presenters during the day included Michelle King, Tina Blythe, Tara Surloff, Andrea Sachdeva, Erika Lusky, Charles Nesson, Shannon Merenstein and Dahlia Rao.

District approves new Strategic Plan

The Northgate School District’s Board of Directors recently approved a new Strategic Plan to help guide our efforts in the upcoming years.

The document is the culmination of months of hard work and cooperation between district administrators, the board, faculty and staff, parents, students and other community members. The input and insight from various parts of our community made this plan possible.

Through its development, we established eight core values for the district, each with actionable goals aimed to enhance our school and community.

Please take a moment to review the plan by clicking the link below.

Northgate School District Strategic Plan

Pathways logo

The Northgate School District will be hosting a flu clinic for all staff members, students and the community.

The clinic will be at the MS/HS from 8:30 a.m. to noon on Oct. 10. All students, 18 and under will need a consent form, which is available here

Vaccinations for the flu, pneumonia, shingles and more are available. You will need your insurance card. 

Registration is required. You may sign up by clicking this link.

Flu Clinic
Student at Makerspace event

Avalon Elementary School’s Parents as Allies in Making program was featured at the Hands-on Science Showdown on the Rachel Carson Bridge on Wednesday.

Presented by Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and the Carnegie Science Center, the community event was associated with the 2022 Annual Conference of the Association of Science and Technology Centers. Avalon's educators had the opportunity to speak about the innovative program to attendees from around the country. Meanwhile, students in attendance enjoyed a day of various science demonstrations and activities.

The Parents as Allies in Making program teaches parents about the value of “maker learning” and how Avalon inspires creativity in its classrooms. The program includes three courses that parents can complete to become a coach in the school’s Makerspace.

Pictures of the Hands-on Science Showdown