Key Coverage

Science Learning Academy Takes Its Learning Approach to the Masses

In a corner of a classroom at Science Leadership Academy Middle School is a bookcase with green shelves and a plaque on top, where several students wrote their names in marker.

Having worked on its design, they claimed the bookcase as their own. Visible around the school are other bookcases, some festooned with polka dots, stripes, handprints, and words, all built by creative 5th graders.

These personalized bookcases are the result of both a gift and a problem.  Besides the normal headaches of starting a new school — not having a copy machine until 24 hours before students entered the building, unpacking boxes, getting the phones properly set up — the academy was lacking books.

The gift: Hilary Hamilton, a math and science teacher, had received a $500 grant from the Philadelphia Writing Project to buy books. However, she wasn’t sure which books to buy, where to store them, and how to make sure the money went toward books that the kids would want to read.

SLAMS, as it is known, is one of three Science Leadership Academy schools in Philadelphia. It’s also part of the school district’s Innovation Network, and is working to overhaul what education looks like in the city. In deciding how to spend the grant money, Hamilton and her students took up this challenge right away.