The list of Apple Distinguished Schools – a circle joined by
invitation only -- includes colleges and universities. Apple
describes the schools as “centers of leadership and educational
Step inside Orchard and tech’s impact is impossible to miss –
all 460 students have access to an Apple iPad tablet, provided
under the White House's
ConnectEd initiative two
years ago. Distinguished Schools are required to have that
Move from classroom to classroom and see students engaged with
their iPads, accessing information that stretches way beyond
what can be found in a single textbook. Teachers act as
facilitators as students research and answer questions with
creativity – for example, by producing video clips to illustrate
the definition of a word. The children develop digital
portfolios that parents can monitor in real time.
Orchard’s hands-on strategy also encourages trial and error.
Principal Kathryn Francis said the combination helps
rivet attention and make lessons stick.
“What learning looks like here is not typical, and our kids
thrive on that,” she said. “They are getting an opportunity to
play with content. Play is fun.”
Orchard’s most recent report card shows room for improvement.
But the school’s performance index, a composite of all test
scores, increased in each of the last two years. Just under 95
percent of third-graders met Ohio’s Third Grade Reading
Guarantee – 11 points higher than the District average – and
earned promotion to fourth grade.
Students already code. Soon, they may begin developing apps and
engaging in “augmented reality,” placing virtual elements, maybe
even themselves, into the real world.
Via Skype, students see and communicate with children in other
states and countries.
Recently, teacher Kathleen “Kitty” Merk’s sixth-graders
talked with students from a girls’ school in Ontario, Canada,
fellow members of a global book club. They discussed stories of
refugees from Nazi Germany, Castro’s Cuba, and Syria.
At first, the students did not know where either group went to
school, including what country – they had to guess. Merk’s
students systematically narrowed the possibilities: Are you in
North America? Canada? Are you south of Alberta? Do you have an
NBA team? Yes? OK, it’s Ontario.
A sixth-grader named Grace and another, Jasmine, said they
prefer this style of learning to lecture format. Using
technology makes research easier, they said.
“You don’t have to stare at paper,” Jasmine said. “It’s visual.”
Merk joined Orchard about the time the Apple grant was
announced, and suddenly, the now 27-year teacher felt like a
rookie again. She grew nervous at the thought of such a drastic
change; she lost sleep, she could not eat.
The adjustment did not take long. She let a bunch of tech-savvy
kids show her how to use the tools and was enlightened.
“The possibilities are endless,” Merk said. “My kids can
communicate all over the world. We can take a concept farther
than ever before.”
• Nov. 20,
Students from MC²STEM High School weathered snow
and cold Tuesday as they moved about Public Square setting up
their holiday gifts to the community.
About 70 juniors and seniors designed, painted and built 27
displays for the city’s annual Winterfest celebration in
engineering class. The igloos, penguins, polar bears and
snowflakes, made in an MC²STEM Fab Lab, stand about 4 to
6 feet high.
Under the guidance of engineering teacher Phil Bucur, the
students cut the pieces with computer numerical control
machinery and by hand. From design to installation, the work
took more than a month to complete.
“I wanted to do something for Cleveland before I go to college,”
said student project manager Stacey Kowalski, a senior who will
study zoology at Central State University. “It was a
The work was performed mostly in class, but senior Antonio
Vázquez, another project manager, said he put in some time
after school and during a break. He said he feels proud knowing
that carloads of people will take in the displays as part of a
Cleveland holiday ritual.
“I’m happy to claim that MC²STEM did all of this,” said Antonio,
who will attend Cuyahoga Community College and study to be a
This year marks the 10th anniversary of MC²STEM,
which is believed to be the only high school in the country with
classrooms embedded at a Fortune 500 company – GE Lighting. The
year-round project-based school conducts ninth-grade classes at
the Great Lakes Science Center, 10th-grade classes at
GE’s Nela Park campus and 11th- and 12th-grade
classes at Cleveland State University.
GE provides lighting for Winterfest. For several years,
the company has enlisted MC²STEM students to contribute holiday
decorations for Public Square or the famous Nela Park display.
“This is by far the biggest engagement,” Andrea Vullo,
GE’s manager of public affairs, said as she watched the
installation Tuesday. “I knew it would be cool.”