The Philadelphia Math + Science Coalition has held its first-ever student video contest. Eighty-one inventive videos produced by more than300 middle and high school students from Philadelphia public and charter schools were invited to submit 30- to 60-second videos answering the question, “Why is math and/or science important to you?”
The mission of the Philadelphia Math + Science Coalition is to engage youth and increase their interest in learning mathematics and science. The Coalition wants students in Philadelphia schools to excel in these areas.
After a public online vote and final judging by a panel of Apple representatives, two winning student-created videos were celebrated at James Dobson Elementary School and Boys Latin of Philadelphia Charter School. Ceremonies were held at separately.
Emceed by the Philadelphia Phillies’ Scott Palmer, the events featured appearances by the Phillie Phanatic, the Science Cheerleaders and the contest judges from Apple.
The “Radical Math” video from eighth-grade students Rebecca Gallagher, A’Jahnae Adams, Imani Collier, Timothy Mitchell and Trevor Loughrey of Dobson was selected as the winner in the middle school division. Their teacher, Allison McConnell, sponsored them.
As a seventh- and eighth-grade math and science teacher at Dobson, McConnell said she frequently hears her students asking the purpose of math and science in their daily lives, and was thrilled when she came across this contest.
“It’s one of the biggest questions I get. I thought this would be a great opportunity for the kids to explore why [math and science] was important to them,” McConnell said.
She credits the video entirely to the efforts of the students. Next year, McConnell said she would encourage more students to submit videos.
“I think that a piece of it is because they created it, it allowed them to have more pride. Rather than me say, ‘How about you do this?’ I really left it up to them, and it was entirely student-guided,” she said.
In the high school division, “A Letter Made Possible with Science” video from tenth-grader Alec Stith of Boys Latin won. His sponsor teacher Trey Smith supported him.
Student winners received $100 in iTunes gift certificates, $250 worth of classroom materials and a class trip to a professional recording studio donated by recording artist Jill Scott.
The Philadelphia Education Fund is a nonprofit organization that provides funding for various educational programs and initiatives. In 2005, the Fund assembled the Philadelphia Math + Science Coalition to address the quality of math and science instruction in schools in lieu of a national demand. The Coalition has partnerships with representatives from corporations, universities, nonprofit organizations and the School District of Philadelphia.
It’s been a special year for Maurice Watson, Boys’ Latin’s outstanding senior guard. It all started when he announced his decision to go to Boston University last summer on a basketball scholarship.
Since then, Watson, a 5-foot-9 standout, has gone over the 2,000-point mark in his career. He currently has 2,157 points. He’s getting close to Wilt Chamberlain’s career high school scoring mark of 2,206 points. Chamberlain is second on the all-time list behind former Strawberry Mansion star Maureece Rice, who finished his career with 2,681 points.
Watson put on quite show earlier this week as Boys’ Latin edged Engineering and Science, 62-59, in an exciting Public League playoff game. Watson had a game-high 30 points. He also handed out six assists.
Boys’ Latin will play Philadelphia Electrical & Technology Charter on Saturday, February 18 at Ben Franklin High School as a part of a playoff doubleheader at 3 p.m. Watson is heading down the stretch of his scholastic career. He doesn’t want the season to end. This is what he was thinking after the victory over E&S. He thought of his teammates, too.
“I didn’t want this to be my last game,” Watson said. “I’m a senior. I was thinking of my players. I know I didn’t want this to be my last game and neither did they. We’re going to get back in the gym and get ready for Saturday.
“Carlos (Taylor) has been my best friend since eighth grade. Yahmir (Greenlee) is kind of like a little brother. I’ve taken him under my wing. He just amazes me every time. I never have any doubts playing with them.”
Taylor is a 6-foot-4 forward. He plays very well around the basket. He can step out and hit the midrange jumpshot. Greenlee is a 5-foot-7 guard. He’s not much smaller than Watson. But Greenlee showed where he’s pretty explosive. He scored 21 points in the victory over E&S.
Watson will certainly miss Taylor and Greenlee next year when he’s playing for Boston University. These guys are teammates and friends. In addition, Watson will miss his father, Maurice Watson Sr., Boys’ Latin head basketball coach. His dad has been a big part of his success.
“I’ve been playing basketball for 14 years,” Watson said. “All 14 have been with him. I know it’s going to be a sad day when it comes to an end. We’ve been successful together. It’s been our bond and our connection. We’re friends off the court. It’s going to be sad not being able to play for him. ”
Watson knows the season will certainly end at some point. Time will tell whether it’s sooner or later. Right now, Maurice Watson Sr. knows the season is winding down. With the possibility of playing for a Public League championship and a run in the PIAA playoffs, he’s trying to stay focused.
“Every game now is emotional for me because I know I’ll have another year with Yahmir,” his father said. “Carlos has been like a son to me. Then, coaching my own son who I’ve been coaching for 14 years. Every game is emotional. I try to keep my poise. It’s hard. I’m not ready for it to end. We’ve worked so hard. I can’t be more proud of him and the team. As a coach, I’m enjoying the ride.”
It’s a ride that still going strong.
Troubled by the negative comments linking Black youth to teen flash mobs, a few concerned students at Boys’ Latin Charter School of Philadelphia decided to take their message to the stage during a recent weekend performance.
Unlike other productions, this play did not begin with a script. Instead, the students studied several relevant documentaries including The Laramie Project and works by Anna Deavere Smith.
The students did not stop there.
“They brainstormed on individuals to interview and conducted the interviews themselves,” said Gregory DiCandia, advisor and drama instructor. “The students had a very strong opinion about the occurrences from the beginning — all I had to do was to funnel their passions through a theatrical lens.
“We worked on interview technique and ensemble,” he added. “Once the interviews were compiled from 43 sources, our dramaturge and English teacher, Scott Sheldon, collaged the pieces into our current script.”
Anthony Caffie served as assistant stage manager and was responsible for transforming the school cafeteria into a stage for the production.
“We chose one of the most important events going on in Philadelphia that specifically deals with our age group,” he said. “None of us were ever involved in any violent flash mobs, but now we can say that we have participated in an artistic flash mob.”
Like the other students, Miles Burton glanced over all of the discussion surrounding flash mobs last summer.
“I did not care much about flash mobs because they did not affect me,” Miles said. “Eventually, I felt really bad that kids my age, even younger, went out and purposely hurt others for fun.
“Then it really affected me when I heard officials generalize about all black youth and made us all seem like we were savages,” he added.
Making a distinction was important to the students.
“We want people to realize that the violent flash mobs could also have a meaning behind them,” Miles said. “Just because a group of people from a certain race did something negative does not mean that entire race is negative.
“We want to erase the thoughts of negativity,” he added. “These random occurrences of violence — which is what they should be called — have happened throughout history and it should not be seen as an activity that certain races are to blame.”
“PHLash: A Mob Story” examines the youth-fueled flash mobs that rocked Philadelphia last year and the aftermath that followed. It is composed solely of excerpted interviews and performed by the students. It is a stunning portrait of a community in turmoil that does not oversimplify, but embraces the complex tapestry that is Philadelphia today.
“I have seen the commitment and dedication of our Boys’ Latin students,” said Noah Tennant, Boys’ Latin principal. “I’ve seen their late-night rehearsals; I’ve seen them spend their Saturdays on the stage; I’ve seen them meticulously reviewing the interviews and documents and transcripts used to create the play. It’s been an endeavor that’s required our students to invest much time and energy.”
Tennant wants his students to recognize the impact individuals can have on a community as well as the impact a community can have on individuals.
“This is an important play because it stimulates thinking,” he said. “It prompts dialogue between and within communities. Great art should provoke questions and dialogue.”