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Published: Wednesday, 10/4/2006

Central Catholic has winning ways with science prize

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

It's an experiment that produces the same result each year.

Take a handful of experienced, dedicated teachers, and drop them into a test tube.

Add in a commitment to educating outside the classroom and sprinkle in an insistence on excellence from students.

Crank up the Bunsen burner for, oh, 12 years, and what you'll get is the Toledo Central Catholic High School Science Department and a Governor's Award for Excellence.

Central Catholic's science department, currently chaired by Marty Smith of Bowling Green, has been recognized for its accomplishments by the state for a dozen consecutive years. Last week it again was designated for excellence by Gov. Bob Taft's office for the 2005-06 school year.

In addition, teachers Kathleen Wilkens of Perrysburg and Ann Hajibrahim of West Toledo were singled out for individual awards of excellence.

A total of 85 Ohio schools and 213 teachers were selected by the Ohio Academy of Science to receive a Governor's Award for last school year. According to the academy's Web site, www.ohiosci.org, the Catholic institution is the only high school in Toledo and its suburbs to be recognized.

But to receive the award 12 years in a row?

Mr. Smith said Central Catholic's teachers, curriculum, and students are what allow the department to win year after year.

"The award has become a goal of ours," said Mr. Smith, who's in his 17th year at Central Catholic. "I think it's expected throughout our department."

Mr. Smith applauded his fellow teachers for extending their lesson plans beyond the classroom and taking their students on numerous field trips.

Both Ms. Wilkens and Ms. Hajibrahim involve their classes in the Student Watershed Watch, a freshwater analysis project many Toledo-area schools have been participating in for years.

Students from Central Catholic will be out collecting water samples at two sites on the Ottawa River, one on the Maumee River, and another at Swan Creek later this month.

Ms. Wilkens' Consumer Chemistry classes are largely responsible for collecting the data, and Ms. Hajibrahim's Senior Honors Research class prepares most of the analysis reports.

Ms. Hajibrahim said Central Catholic is routinely recognized for its water study at the annual Watershed Watch conference.

Other classes take trips to study physics at Cedar Point, attend forensics seminars, and participate in environmental fairs.

Central Catholic also asks all of its honors students to complete individual science projects, which are judged by other students and teachers. Some of those projects are entered in the district science fair at University of Toledo, where the winners advance to the state competition in Columbus.

"We really push our students and ask a lot out of them," Ms. Hajibrahim said. "Even our normal classes are very challenging. We like having our students come back to us and tell us they were prepared for what they're doing in college because of what they learned at Central Catholic."

Connor Muldoon, 17, a senior from Perrysburg who's taking Honors Physics, said his project will deal with the use of a potato gun to study combustion and trajectory.

Connor said he will enjoy working on his project and likes the field trips the science department offers, but said it's the teachers who make the education at Central Catholic what it is.

"The teachers are really good and they know the subject they're teaching well," the youth said.

"They make it tough at times, but they also help us to achieve what we set out to accomplish."



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