Education briefs

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 4, 2014

Stuffed animals embark on adventure

Jennifer Dunn’s first-grade class at Sacred Heart Catholic School is really traveling with their reading, writing and geography lessons.

After reading and discussing “Oh, the places you’ll go!” by Dr. Seuss, her students packed up their favorite stuffed animals and sent them on a journey around the world.

A few are going by plane, some by train and others by car, but they are sending them out all over the world.

As the stuffed animals travel to new places, recipients are to send a postcard or email and pictures back to the school to let the students know that their furry and fluffy friends are safe and sound.

In class, students will graph the places of travel. All stuffed animals will make their way back to Sacred Heart by April 15.


Let’s ‘can’ hunger

Sacred Heart Catholic School’s Student Government Association led a successful canned food drive during the month of November.

They surpassed their goal of 2,200 cans, collecting 2,325 – a total of 2,277 pounds of food for those in need.


Statewide model bridge building competition

The North Carolina Department of Transportation invites all North Carolina middle and high schools to participate in its 16th annual Model Bridge Building Competition.

The contest is designed to give students a hands-on opportunity to apply their science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, skills to a real-world scenario.

Last year, Franklin Academy High School in Wake Forest and Polk County Middle School in Mills Springs won the competition.

“The goal of the competition is to hone student’s math and science skills”, said Gail Herring, program coordinator with NCDOT. “Hopefully it will encourage them to choose the transportation industry as a career.”

It is designed to create a greater awareness of STEM education and its relationship to transportation careers provided by the Department of Transportation by providing an opportunity to use problem-solving strategies and critical thinking, enhance communication skills, and apply research and presentation skills.

The event features teams of students designing and building a model bridge. The bridges are tested by Department of Transportation engineers, with the engineers and representatives of engineering companies serving as the judges.

Teams will first compete at the regional level in Winterville, Raleigh, Asheboro and Morganton on March 20, and the finals will take place in Raleigh on April 17.

Schools can register online at, or call 919-707-4442.

The deadline for registration is Wednesday, Dec. 31.


Sounds of Silence collaborative concert at Catawba College

From R&B and hip-hop to pop tunes, many artists have championed the rights of the oppressed through their music, representing the countless voices of silenced populations.

On Friday at 8:30 p.m. in Hedrick Little Theatre on Catawba College’s campus, three of the contemporary popular music ensembles and the Sounds of Silence honors class will band together for a collaborative concert dedicated to the music that has historically served as a voice for oppressed populations and has served as an engine of social change.

The collaborative part of the show will feature several of the Catawba Vernaculars ensembles, including full sets from Urb’N Soul and Pop Vernaculars and special appearances from the Gospel Vernaculars.

Much of the concert will evolve around the social themes of racial or ethnic equality and gender equality.

Selected songs will range from classics such as Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” and Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” to contemporary hits such as “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child and John Legend’s “Wake Up Everybody” as well as a special gospel song, “Hold On.” Additionally, multimedia presentations containing vivid photos and even historical video clips created by students in the Sounds of Silence honors class will accompany the music performed at the concert.

Admission is free and open to the public. The Sounds of Silence class will also be collecting new or gently used fleece blankets, stuffed animals and toys to donate to Prevent Child Abuse Rowan.


South Rowan agriculture teacher selected for educator award

 David Overcash, agricultural educator at South Rowan High School in China Grove, is one of only six individuals nationwide who received the Agriscience Teacher of the Year Award at the 2014 National Association of Agricultural Educators annual convention in Nashville, Tennessee, Nov. 18-22.

The National Agriscience Teacher of the Year award recognizes teachers who have inspired and enlightened their students through engaging and interactive lessons in the science of agriculture.

Overcash has been teaching agriculture at South Rowan High School since 1997 and over that time has turned the program’s focus to  helping students see the scientific principles that are a part of agriculture. The agriculture program is located on a 13-acre land lab that includes a variety of facilities, including a nature trail and pond as well as an agronomy plot and livestock barn.

Overcash has built strong partnerships with North Carolina State University Research Campus and the Piedmont Research station in order to incorporate scientific experiments into his curriculum.

He specifically has worked with a strawberry breeder from North Carolina State University, Jeremy Pattison, on two recent scientific experiment projects with his students.

The first was a strawberry plot that tested two different fertilizers on six varieties of strawberries to find which was the most effective. Students were able to see this project from start to finish because of the short growing season of strawberries, and track nutrient levels by taking tissue samples from the plants.

In the second experiment, made possible through a $10,000 grant from Monsanto, Overcash and Pattison partnered up with three other high schools in Rowan County to conduct experiments on tomato production. Students looked at the effects of fertilizer amounts, pruning, transplant size and pot size to find what would result in the best tomato fruit. This gave students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience and put newly learned skills to use from agriculture, science and math classes.

Each of the six National Agriscience Teacher of the Year Award winners was recognized at the National Association of Agricultural Educators convention and received a $1,500 grant to purchase agriscience supplies and equipment.

National Agriscience Teacher of the Year Award winners were also recognized at a general session at the National FFA Convention in October.


East Rowan cadet receives nation’s highest JROTC award

East Rowan High School Cadet Maj. William Sigmon received the Legion of Valor, Bronze Cross for Achievement in a ceremony at East Rowan High School on Oct. 15.

This award is the most distinguished decoration a JROTC cadet can receive. Sigmon was one of 34 Army JROTC Cadets in the Nation to be selected for this honor.

The Legion of Valor is the oldest congressionally chartered veterans’ organization in the United States, and is made up of veterans from all services who have received either the Medal of Honor or their respective service’s highest award for gallantry.

The award recognizes leadership, scholarship and community service. Presenting the award was East Rowan High School’s JROTC Senior Army Instructor, retired Lt. Col. Greg Skelly. Special guests included members of Sigmon’s family and friends, Will and Anita Sigmon, William Stanley and Sigmon’s grandmother, Sandy Corley.

Like its sponsoring organization, selection criteria for the Legion of Valor, Bronze Cross for Achievement are very high, and recipients become part of a very exclusive fraternity. Sigmon will be featured along with other recipients in the Legion of Valor journal “General Orders” which will be maintained as a permanent record in the Library of Congress.

Sigmon is a senior at East Rowan High School, and is in the top 5 percent of his graduating class. He has distinguished himself by attaining the rank of cadet major and battalion executive officer within the Mustang Battalion. He has been selected to serve as the Mustang battalion commander and will be promoted to cadet lieutenant colonel.

Sigmon is also the captain of the East Rowan JROTC Raider Team. Upon graduation, William plans on attending college at either North Carolina State University or University of North Carolina at Charlotte and majoring in political science and pursuing a career with the Central Intelligence Agency.


Partners In Learning to host annual Santa visit for children with special needs

Children with special needs will enjoy a sensory-friendly time with Santa during the Cookies and Cocoa With Santa event hosted by the Partners In Learning Child Development and Family Resource Center.

“For some children with special needs, a visit with Santa can be more of an anxious time than a joyful one,” said Executive Director Norma Honeycutt. “This event provides a quiet, calm environment for these children to enjoy a visit with Santa.”

Children will visit with Santa, make holiday crafts and enjoy cookies and hot cocoa.

“Each year we look forward to this event. It is sensory friendly for our son with autism and enjoyable for our whole family,” said Trish Sihler, who brings her sons each year.  “We love Partners in Learning, and Cookies with Santa is one of our traditions.”

“Santa Claus can be a very scary fellow for many children, but at this event, the children had an entire evening to warm up to Santa,” said Katherine Generaux, community inclusion director. “Once the Santa-child rapport had been established, there were some great photo opportunities. By the end of the evening, every child had spent some time on Santa’s lap, shared fruit, cookies and cocoa with family members and took home crafts they had created.”