Walking through the hallways of the C.W. Henry School and taking a look around the classrooms, visitors begin to notice a theme — hard-working students and a dedicated community of faculty, staff, administrators and parents — all striving for excellence.

Located at 601 Carpenter St., C.W. Henry is a K-8 school in West Mount Airy whose staff is committed to the belief that all children can reach their maximum potential when challenged with rigorous instruction.

“This school year, we’re really focused on improving our academic performance specifically in math,” said second-year principal Katharine Davis. “We’re very interested in kids have very robust learning experiences, so we’ll continue with lots of field trips. We use the city as a classroom.

“Our kids are involved with a lot of extra-curricular programming, sports, and clubs. We also have a robust music program. As far as our middle schoolers, we’re focused on exposing them to rigorous grade level content. We want them to have the technology, questioning, and curiosity skills that they need to succeed in high school. It’s also important to us that kids grapple with real life information.

“We want our kids to love learning,” she added. “We want them to always ask questions and feel empowered. We want them to know the importance of community, giving back, and working hard. Most importantly, we want them to achieve their dreams.”

In Peg Harley’s seventh grade science class, students are using the LEGO Mindstorms, a hardware and software platform which is produced by Lego for the development of programmable robots based on Lego building blocks.

Each version of the system includes an intelligent brick computer that controls the system, a set of modular sensors and motors, and Lego parts from the Technic line to create the mechanical systems.

“This is the students first experience using this software,” Harley said. “The kids have the opportunity to build a LEGO brick. They’re able to program it and make it do a bunch of different things. We start out by doing really basic things like make it move straight and in a curve line.

“Once they get that programming experience, they can do whatever they want with their group after that,” she added. “We’ll also be doing an Amplify science pilot that the District is sponsoring and learning about Earth Science. I think all of this will be provide good opportunities and experiences for our students.

The Writers program provides a unique and innovative opportunity for students to learn critical writing skills through the use of journal writing as a vehicle for self-expression.

Started in Philadelphia by LaSalle University education professor Robert Vogel, the program is also a motivational strategy that encourages students to share personal stories with each other, listen to other voices and develop effective personal relationships with peers to provide more tolerance and appreciation of others.

During the Tribune’s Learning Key visit, students in Samantha Morris’ third-grade class were utilizing the program by journaling about some of the challenges they in their lives.

“The program is an innovative and creative approach to writing,” Morris said. “The students are able to see themselves as writers through journaling. We have a brainstorming activity where the students look internally and think about some of the challenges they face in their family.

“Whether it’s friends, school, or health a lot of the topics that they’re writing about are related to their own life. Through this experience, pair sharing, and editing with their peers they’re also creating a special bond with each other. They’re not just learning about themselves as a writer, but also a person. It’s a really great program.

“As their teacher, I not only want them to leave my classroom reading on grade level, but I also want them to leave my classroom knowing who they are, how to relate to one another, and take all the skills they learned in my classroom and apply it to their lives,” she added.

Some of the topics that the third students were journaling about during class include the death of a loved one and giving away a pet away.

Third-grader Jada Williams is writing about her pet cat who she recently had to give away.

“I used to have a cat that I really loved; he was someone my best friend” Jada said. “We had to give him away because my mom was allergic to him. I miss him a lot though.

“I really like this class because we’re able to write about things that are important to us,” she added. “It’s also a great feeling when you share what you wrote with your classmates because you find out that some of them also went through similar things. It’s a lot of fun.”

chill@phillytrib.com (215) 893-5716

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