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Editorial: Mahar’s innovation promises to spark interest in learning

  • Ralph C. Mahar Regional High School

  • Ralph C. Mahar Regional School. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz


Monday, November 26, 2018

Being journalists ourselves, a recent update of a new journalism course at Mahar Regional School caught our attention this fall.

Last year, Mahar teachers Ian Bashaw and Matt Parsons started a journalism course at the high school, and this year it returns, in a new and improved space.

Along with the new desks, students have access to televisions mounted on the walls, laptops, audio equipment and everything else they need to successfully produce the news. A row of clocks stretch across the wall that detail different times in other cities, creating the feel of a classic metropolitan newsroom.

According to Parsons, the class aims to encourage students to report on issues that interest them most — whether they are local or national.

This focus on engaging topics that are close to heart and home, things that students really care about, is something that good journalism and good education have in common. And it turns out that this journalism class is just one facet of a new emphasis at Mahar to foster each student’s passion and allowing them more independent study. Independent study and focus on things you care about are a sure-fire way to turbocharge learning — especially in the high school as teens begin to more deeply explore the world around them, a world they soon will enter as young adults.

Another course that seeks to engage and educate, Senior Honors Project, was also started last year, by teachers John Speek and Lauren Cerillo, and it, too, is back, and a good idea.

Senior Honors students create solutions to problems they see in their own communities. In a manner, the work is not unlike investigative journalism. After completing independent, initial research, last year students worked out ways to tackle them. One group created a running club for Orange elementary school students at Dexter Park to get more kids active, while another group ran a competition between local schools to see who could reduce the most waste in their cafeterias. The course is designed to bring problem solving straight to the hands of its students.

This year’s students are considering subjects ranging from the extinction of bees to anxiety among teenagers.

Principal Scott Hemlin said the courses are part of a push to bring more innovative educational practices to its classrooms. The goal, he said, is to rethink the traditional educational model to give students the skills they need to be successful in the real world once they leave Mahar.

Innovative courses like journalism and Senior Honors Projects are part of Mahar plans to create two parallel tracks for students: the traditional educational model and a more personalized one.

This is a great guiding principle for organizing teaching. It can be more work for everyone, especially teachers and students, but if the teachers can invest the energy needed, they can ignite a burst of enthusiasm and accomplishment in their students, and teach yet another broader lesson: the reward of satisfaction that comes from really digging into a subject and mastering it.


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