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Focus On: Academics

Contributed by Mr. Zambrano, Dean of Academics
Junior Seminar Presentation
On December 10, 2018, Mr. Patrick Verile from Berkeley College, NJ presented a session to the junior class during seminar that was entitled, “In Pursuit of Personal Branding: Communicating the Professional You”. This session was designed to assist the juniors as they begin the necessary preparations in the area of pre-college planning. The presenter helped the students to decide how they would describe themselves, how they can prepare for an interview, what to ask during a college visit, and what credentials and qualities are looked for during the evaluation process. Students were given the opportunity to ask questions and given suggestions to help when completing a search. As the presenter emphasized to our students, Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, reminds us, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” As we often are told, you only get one chance to make a first impression.
Sophomore Seminar Presentation
The culminating topic in seminar for sophomores this quarter is Digital Citizenship. While exploring this unit, the students learned to communicate with respect, respect the privacy of others, respect copyrights, and understanding the consequences of oversharing online. We live in a digital age so it is best we learn what to do and what not to do. Also, during seminar this quarter, Mr. Patrick Verile, a representative from Berkeley College NJ, presented a session on “Journey to the Top”. We all want to present our best and make the most of our talents. The students were introduced to strategies that will help to assess and realign our goals understanding that in failure we can learn a great deal about ourselves. “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
Forensics: Nobody Likes Flies, Right?
The students studying forensic entomology at Mary Help of Christians Academy would affirm their value. The juniors and seniors in Forensic Science have just completed a unit investigating the volunteer activities of these picnic pests. As it turns out, these insects donate their time at crime scenes to assist detectives in determining critical information towards the solution of crimes.

At the beginning of the unit, several of the young women in class struggled to look at these cute little arthropods. Closed eyes did not prevent them from hearing forensic entomologists laud the reproductive consistency of these tiny invertebrates and their offspring. As it turns out, some of the smallest members of God’s creation have a life cycle that is so predictable and consistent, that crime scientists can work backwards (using temperature, weather, and humidity) to determine the postmortem interval thus enabling the determination of the time of death of a victim.

To ease students into their investigation of insect life cycles and their value, girls conducted a virtual investigation of larvae, adult, and mature flies at a crime scene. PBS produced a virtual exploration that enabled students to identify the post mortem interval based on their knowledge of the bugs’ location and life cycle. Other activities conducted in class included completion of a scavenger hunt, creation of a comic book, scrutiny of one living specimens, and note taking from an interview with a forensic entomologist on an episode of Science Friday.

Students are not likely to invite flies to their next picnic, however, they do have a respect for this creature’s benefits to crime scene science. Future topics the Mary Help forensics class is looking forward to include forensic anthropology, geology, the study of pollen transfer in forensics, ballistics, footwear impressions, and a final project in which they create a crime scene for their peers to solve.
Thanksgiving Prayer Service
On Wednesday, November 21, 2019, Sr. Myriam Meus, FMA and her Grade 10 Theology class conducted a Thanksgiving Prayer service for our student body. Symbols were presented reminding us of that for which we should be thankful. Our symbols of Thankfulness reminded to be grateful for the gift of family, for food and shelter, for the freedom of expression, for our cultures and memories, for the gift of Faith, for our school community, and for togetherness. Through selected readings, prayers, and music, everyone took a moment to recall the true meaning of Thanksgiving and to thank God from whom all blessing flow.
National Day of Mourning for President George H. W. Bush
On Wednesday, December 5, 2018, the student body, faculty, and staff participated in a morning assembly where we took a moment to honor the memory of President George H. W. Bush. On this Day of Mourning, Mr. Dunn, History Teacher and Department Chairman, eloquently highlighted President Bush’s accomplishments, contributions, service, and spirit of community service. While providing anecdotes that entertained and informed us, Mr. Dunn clearly defined how President Bush moved others to serve those in need. President Bush used the phrase and later established the ‘1000 Points of Light’ non-profit foundation to support volunteerism. Mr. Dunn also read the note that President Bush left on the desk in the Oval Office for President Clinton during the transition of office. We are all called to share our talents and serve others to help make our communities better places.
NJIT Engineering Career Day
On Friday, December 7, 2018, several students and Mrs. Snyder, Science/Engineering Teacher and Department Chairman, attended the Newark College of Engineering – Engineering Career Day 2018. This program is designed to give high school juniors and seniors an opportunity to explore options in six diverse engineering fields. Biomedical Engineering, Chemical, Biological and Pharmaceutical Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, and Engineering Technology. While touring the campus, students interacted with engineering students and faculty. Workshops were presented that provided an insight to both students as well as teachers as to what opportunities are available to those who pursue a career in the engineering field. This event is organized to bring about an awareness that there is a storage of engineers in the US, and we need to educate our students on this career path.
Texting While Driving Obstacle Course
The Honors Physics class at Mary Help animatedly contributed reasons drivers of all ages continue to text, and check emails while driving. Their midterm project began as they came up with a plethora of ideas. Admittedly, none were significant enough to justify cellular communication.
The juniors and seniors, with the help of Mrs. Bello, searched for scholarly articles about distracted driving, reaction time, hazards of texting while driving, the physics of driving, and other relevant topics generated by the girls. Their task was to organize their note-taking around key topics. Once gathered, students collaborated to write compositions summarizing their background research. Armed with knowledge about the dangers of distracted driving, they redirected their energies toward designing an activity that would affirm their analysis.
The goal was to find an activity to affirm that texting while driving really did slow drivers’ reactions, cause them to veer off the road, miss key information, or harm others. We knew we couldn’t use real cars.
Continued class discussion generated the spark of an idea! Scooters. The class talked excitedly, while Britney drew on the board, Together, the girls generated ideas for an obstacle course. Each student was asked to think of obstacles that would simulate the kind that drivers face on the road. They developed hazards similar to those a driving “texter” might not notice immediately due to failure to focus on the road. Each team generated obstacles for their third of the gym, and then petitioned from Ms. Pagan and Ms. Ostrander for use of gym equipment.
The experimental design for our controlled study timed the class moving on scooters through the course first without the distraction of cell phones, and then while the class was actively texting the scooter driver. Times for each students’ performance were gathered and analyzed using methods taught in Mr. Zambrano’s statistics class including mean and standard deviation. Almost every member of the class navigated the course and then debriefed the activity. Students applied the concepts of kinematics using the “Big Four” equations learned in class. Speed, velocity, acceleration, distance and displacement had a tangible meaning after applying these concepts to their gym scooter travel. For aspiring drivers of cars and scooters, the evidence is in. Don’t text and drive! It does result in slowing your reactions and splitting your focus.
There was an unplanned added benefit to Mrs. Pagan’s freshman physical education class. Freshmen warmed up by navigating the course in preparation for their activities. Many girls affirmed the great work out for their quads!
Culinary Arts: Gingerbread Church
This year at Mary Help of Christians Academy, the Culinary Arts students supported by their teacher Mr. Frank LaMendola and other faculty and staff members built an intricate gingerbread church. Measuring five feet in length by five feet in height, this elaborate sweet confection included beautifully crafted stained-glass windows made by melting Jolly Ranchers. Interior lighting helped to illuminate this structure. Construction began by creating a cardboard model followed by making and baking several pounds of gingerbread, assembling, and then decorating the church. The completed project was on display in the cafeteria for all to enjoy.
2019-2020 Course Fair
As our students prepare to make course selections for the 2019 – 2020 school year, department chairmen, teachers, and students were on hand on January 16, 2019 and January 24, 2019 to answer any questions that students and parents/guardians may have had as decisions are made as to what academic program to follow that is aligned with college and career goals. Guidance Counselors will also provide students with details regarding what graduation requirements have been met or still need completion. During seminar classes, several department chairmen made presentations and answered any questions to ensure that appropriate programs of studies were selected.