Georgia Stern, a member of the class of 1967 at St. Mary School, received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the National Catholic Education Association on Jan 29.
The NCEA award is intended to honor graduates of Catholic schools who have made a contribution to American life or the Catholic Church. After Stern returned to teach junior high school science in 1998, she was instrumental in the designing and creation of the school’s state-of-the art science lab, which opened in 2006. Stern said designing the lab was a “family effort” with help from her husband, daughter and son, who is an electrical engineer.
Stern’s participation in the Project-Based Science Institute through the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a program available to middle school science teachers, enabled her to apply for grant money that helped equip the science lab.
The lab, complete with tables and sinks, is “a dream” after years of pushing a science cart between the seventh- and eighth-grade classrooms, Stern said.
Each year, students in Stern’s science classes use flip cameras and gather water samples from nearby Uvas Creek to answer by scientific analysis the question, “Does the St. Mary community affect change in the Monterey Bay?”
Projects like this show students that “science is a part of our every-day life, our everyday choices. It’s not just a subject in a book,” Stern said.
The hands-on curriculum prepares students for high school sciences, said St. Mary School Principal Christa Hanson.
“We have been blessed to have her back at St. Mary’s as a junior high science teacher since 1998,” Hanson said. “Her passion and enthusiasm for science transforms even the most indifferent student into a scientist.”
Stern is also a coordinator of the Student Learning Portfolio Project for St. Mary School eighth graders. The Student Learning Portfolio is a two-year self-directed collection of each student’s schoolwork. Students select pieces of work, assess themselves as learners, and finally discuss and share about their learning in a formal interview at the end of their eighth-grade year.