CHESTERTON | Don't strain your back or pull a muscle. Use a simple machine like a pulley, screw or lever to make work easier.
That's the lesson St. Patrick School seventh-graders are learning in science.
Seventh-grade science teacher Lisa Hughes had students working on a project where they compared the difference between using a pulley to a ramp and which one was easier.
"They first set up the apparatus, then they did some measuring," Hughes said.
"They are measuring the force needed to lift 200 grams. I want them to have a clear understanding of how simple machines work and how they can be used to make work easier."
The youngsters will have to write a report and "think a little deeper" than just presenting the information. One of the students noted that a pulley system is used to pull down a window blind. The cord passes through a fixed pulley mounted to the top of a window frame to raise the window blind.
Seventh-graders Danny Herr and Josiah Miller were paired together for the project.
"Our prediction was that the pulley would have a better mechanical advantage," Herr said. "It did work better. We will write about the mechanical advantage of each and why our hypothesis was correct."
Hughes said the students also have a new outdoor science classroom. A previous greenhouse blew down, and another was put up over the summer by a grandparent.
"We've planted shamrocks and we're waiting to see if they grow," she said.
"The students water the plants during science class. We have a butterfly garden — with Monarch butterflies — that eighth-graders planted last school year. When it's nice outside, we give them a chance to have class outside using the environment to help them learn."
St. Patrick, a National Blue Ribbon and Indiana Four Star school, has 240 students in kindergarten through eighth grades with another 60 in the preschool program. Of the total number of students, only four receive vouchers.
School vouchers, called Choice Scholarships, allow a student to use state dollars to attend a private school. The program, in its third year, has thousands of students enrolled across the state.
In Pam Rearick's third-grade classroom, youngsters were writing personal narratives.
"They are learning how to proofread their own work and correct it. We assess reading skills and fluency, and occasionally there are students who need extra help," she said.
"Up to this point, they haven't done a lot of writing but are now working on putting together a paragraph. We also work on multiplication and telling time on the clock."
Kindergarten teacher Connie Goysich worked on addition and subtraction with her youngsters.
St. Patrick Principal Richard Rupcich is in his seventh year at the school and his second in his position. He formerly taught middle school language arts.
The Catholic school has numerous clubs and extracurricular activities, including a chess club, Spanish club, stock market club, volleyball, wrestling, cross country and soccer. The school's Science Olympiad team placed 13th in the state last year.
Rupcich said the school will work with St. Paul in Valparaiso on a new diocesan-wide effort to respond to poverty in the local community. "Poverty at the Crossroads" is the church's response to poverty in Indiana.
"Our students will donate needed school supplies for students at St. Casimir School in East Chicago," Rupcich said.
He said the students at St. Patrick also participate in volunteer activities throughout the school and church community, assisting with hot meals provided to the public on Fridays and donating to Westchester Food Pantry.