Category Archives: Science

My Project Week Trip to Andros Island

By Abbey Haynes ’20

Editor’s Note: A key part of Morgan Park Academy’s global curriculum is a week of school-wide global explorations each March, which this year included an Upper School trip to study the ecology and culture of Andros Island in the Bahamas.

When you think of the Bahamas, you usually picture gorgeous beaches, palm trees, tourists, and endless sun. Our Project Week trip to Andros Island was all of that and so much more — except for the tourists!

While the capital of Nassau is known for its populated areas, Andros, the largest of the islands, is acclaimed for its friendly residents and an abundance of nature available for scientific research and exploration.

[See more photos and videos from this trip or check out stories and photos from other Global Week trips.]

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Meet Our Teachers: Scott Sowinski

Scott Sowinski teaches physics and forensic science in our Upper School and leads the development of our science curriculum. He also teaches drama, directs drama productions, and moderates the Arts Council.

Before joining the Morgan Park Academy faculty in 2016, Mr. Sowinski worked in educational consulting and school administration, and also did integrative programming with the Chicago Public Schools in technology and hybrid learning models. He was the head of curriculum and instruction on the North Side before coming home to the South Side. He also ran a private homeschooling program in New York City for more than a decade.

Mr. Sowinski is a voracious lifelong learner, working now on a Ph.D. in education policy after earning an undergraduate degree in multiple sciences and secondary education, a conservatory degree in opera, and two Master’s degrees: one in curriculum and instruction and another in education policy and organizational leadership and administration.


What is the most important lesson you want students to learn in your class?

Ultimately, my goal is to shape people, not content. What they learn will matter very little if it does not serve to better them. I want students to recognize the importance of failure, find acceptance in error, and assert the courage to rise up and become more than when they started. I want them to think deeper and relay every effort to serve our global community in whatever path they choose. There is no “most important” lesson. Rather, I strive to teach them that every opportunity ignites the potential for greater change.

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Meet Our Teachers: Jeanne Pagliaro

Jeanne Pagliaro teaches seventh-grade physical science and eighth-grade life science.

Ms. Pagliaro began her career in middle school, but she also taught high school courses for many years in both public and private schools. She joined Morgan Park Academy this fall after being the STEM division chair and AP biology and biomedical sciences teacher at Queen of Peace High School, where she collaborated with other high schools, universities, professional organizations and alumnae, working with them to inspire more students to pursue engineering fields after high school.

She holds a B.S. in secondary education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Master of Education degree from the University of St. Francis.


How would you describe your ideal student?

This student has a sense of humor and is also willing to take risks; is not afraid to be wrong. I believe we learn a great deal from our mistakes, and I do my best to provide a classroom that encourages risk-taking and self-discovery along with laughter and joy. As a student, I was terrified to be wrong, and so I do not want my own students to have the same experience.

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Meet Our Teachers: Lynsey Bochenek-Robertson

We are pleased to welcome Lynsey Bochenek-Robertson ’06 back to Morgan Park Academy this fall to teach Upper School science. This year, she is teaching chemistry and genetics, plus coaching tennis and soccer.

Ms. Bochenek attended Murray State University on a full tennis scholarship, earning an undergraduate degree in pre-med biology and chemistry and a graduate degree in biochemistry while conducting research in renal physiology. After teaching human anatomy and human physiology as a grad student, she entered the profession by teaching chemistry at Butler College Prep.


What do you enjoy most about teaching?

I teach because I believe it is my calling. I am always aiming to help each student unravel his or her uniqueness. I also want to install a love of learning in students, so they will always have a desire to grow and develop into the best version of themselves.

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Meet Our Teachers: Jessica Stephens

Please help us welcome Jessica Stephens, who joins the Morgan Park Academy faculty as a sixth-grade math and science teacher and sixth-grade advisor.

Mrs. Stephens has taught at both the middle school and high school level, teaching algebra, chemistry, biology, and seventh- and eighth-grade science.

She holds a B.A. from Princeton University, where she majored in psychology as a pre-medicine student.


What is the most important life lesson you want students to learn in your class?

I appreciate George Bernard Shaw’s quote that what is most important is seeing “the child in pursuit of knowledge, and not knowledge in pursuit of the child.” I desire most that students learn the value of knowledge and the importance of pursuing truth. This life lesson will transform students into individual persons who set the intent to educate the self rather than passively awaiting another to dispense knowledge — only to be tempted to either instill such knowledge or carelessly discard it upon its false evaluation of its worth. Therefore, my hope is that in understanding the worth of knowledge and the pursuit of truth, one’s perspective will be the impetus in doing the former rather than the latter.

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Why I like being a teacher in an ISACS school.

Over the past two months, I have had the opportunity to experience three professional development opportunities: I presented at the Illinois Science Teachers Association (ISTA) in October, I went on an Independent Schools Association of the Central States (ISACS) accreditation team visit in late October, and I presented at the ISACS Annual Conference in early November. These three experiences reinforced the rewards of being a teacher at an ISACS school.

At the ISTA conference, I gave a presentation titled “Back to BINGO for Bio Vocab” in which I shared some tools that I use to help students learn complex biology vocabulary. Although I had been to ISTA as a participant for several years, this was my first time presenting and I was reminded of how intimidating it can be. At MPA, we constantly encourage our students to demonstrate their understanding of material in a variety of ways. We encourage our students to speak up in front of the class, design models of scientific inquiry, and propose new solutions to problems. We also have students present on a regular basis and they have developed the tools to collaborate with each other and be comfortable in front of a group of their peers. Presenting at the conference reminded me of how important it is to have opportunities for students to “show what they know.”

drownCurrently, I am in my 16th year of teaching at MPA, during which I have been through two ISACS self-study processes, a process that occurs every seven years for each member school. In late October, I had the opportunity to serve on an accreditation team for the first time and see the other side of this process. The collegiality and collaborative effort that is needed to be a successful accreditation team is tremendous. In the span of three days, the team needs to have a good understanding of the school they are evaluating and work together with other members from several schools in order to complete a detailed report. With this experience, I was again reminded of how well-prepared our students are to encounter situations such as these. Through activities such as Project Week, Service Days, and cross-division events, our students are exposed to many opportunities to work with people in different learning environments and achieve goals with people whom they have just met.

Finally, although I have attended several ISACS conferences over the past years, this was also my first time presenting at this conference. I delivered “Back to BINGO for Bio Vocab” to my ISACS peers. This session was extremely productive because although I was the official presenter, the collaborative effort in the room was fantastic. The proposal of new ideas and the contribution from all teachers present in the room was amazing. I came away from that opportunity feeling validated in strategies I was currently using and also challenged to think of alternative ways to continue building on tools that I currently use. This is another reminder of how at MPA we encourage discussion and sharing, and how we want students to be able to review the work of their peers and provide constructive feedback.  

In each of these three opportunities, I was reminded of the ISACS mission and vision: ISACS leads schools to pursue exemplary independent education. ISACS schools empower students to contribute and thrive in a diverse and changing world.

MPA is a place that embraces these goals and I am pleased with the opportunities that teachers in Independent Schools have to continue their learning.

By Emily Drown

Mrs. Drown is an Upper School science teacher and the Curriculum Leader for our Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Department.

Sharing Stories to Enhance Learning

The most useful ISACS Conference Workshop I have attended in the time I have been at the Academy was titled “Mirrors & Doors: Learning, Sharing & Comparing Our Stories”, presented by two members of the Orchard School in Indianapolis, IN. I use the ideas presented by the facilitators in numerous curriculum activities in my science classes in addition to sharing stories with colleagues and parents. Specifically, the conference challenged us to think: “By sharing our stories we see ourselves in others. How well do we know the people that we work with? How well do we know ourselves? How can we share and hear stories of others in a positive, meaningful, and tangible way?” (ISACS Conference Brochure, 2014). Here are several stories I use in my classes to help students understand and retain concepts like “meaning embodied in objects”, “visualization of a scientific principle”, and “intellectual property”.

Mr. Malcolm 1Crimson King Maple, Ginko, Weeping Mulberry, Osage Orange. These trees were all part of a field trip in which my class taxonomically identified the trees planted on our campus. I incorporated stories of those individuals who beautified our grounds with these trees throughout the walk. At one time, the campus had over 50 different species of trees, many of which were planted by Mrs. Price, the original owner of the three city lots which make up our Outdoor Classroom today. Other stories I shared that day included the time when one cow provided milk for the Price Family and some neighbors off a pasture east of Alumni Hall, the Quad filled with American Elm trees killed by the Dutch Elm Disease, and the memorial Green Ash trees in front of Hansen Hall dying from the Emerald Ash Borer. These trees were planted in honor of Mr. Wolf, an MPA teacher, and Mr. Kennedy, an MPA Board member.  I talked about who these individuals were and why we honored them. In each case, the trees were of more than scientific interest – they embodied meaning and memory.  

A story which I use each year when my 7th grade students study motion is about my motorcycle mother.  Yes, my mother rode a motorcycle. She has ridden figuratively many times in Room 212 here at the Academy to demonstrate acceleration. As she gets on her motorcycle, her velocity is 0 m/sec north. She hits the start pedal, revs the engine, and “wheelies” down the room to a final velocity of  50 m/sec north in 1 sec. We then calculate her acceleration (change in velocity divided by the time it takes to make that change). With this sharing of a story, a lesson on motorcycle safety becomes more vivid and a respect for speed develops. The image – an unforgettable one according to many – makes acceleration easy to recall.

Sustainable Nanotechnology, the role of  proteins in several types of cancers, and the text Biomedical and Health Information Sciences are each areas of science in which past MPA students showed interest and who have gone on to publish. My students have used quotes from these past students’ research in their labs. With the story of a student who sat in the class where they are sitting, who has taken their passion in science research and turned it into a career in science, students understand a little more about their true ownership of their own written words, they have more  respect for the authors of the published works they use in their reports, and they develop a commitment to the passions they are exploring. That students like themselves have published their own stories of research and discovery clarifies the concept of intellectual property for current students.

Still, we have to ensure that the focus of these stories, the emphasis, is the science, that the scientific concepts do not get lost in the narration. I invite you to tell your Academy story.  I invite you to write it down and share it.

By Thomas Malcolm

Mr. Malcolm teaches Middle School science at Morgan Park Academy, a Chicago Private Independent School.