Mahar wins grant for high school course

  • The Ralph C. Mahar Regional School. PAUL FRANZ

Recorder Staff
Wednesday, May 16, 2018

ORANGE — By establishing physical fitness clubs and recycling programs in town, seniors at Ralph C. Mahar Regional High School have been getting out of the classroom to learn.

Now, they’re being rewarded for their efforts.

Mahar has been granted $15,000 to “further (its) efforts in reworking the foundational principles through which we deliver content within the school,” according to a statement from Superintendent Tari N. Thomas.

The grant, awarded by Mass IDEAS, a program of the New Generation Learning Challenge initiative of the nonprofit EDUCAUSE, is partly aimed at creating innovative, student-led educational projects.

According to Thomas, part of the money will pay for and expand the Senior Honors Project, a new course “that encourages students to conceive of, plan, and implement programs to improve the world outside the walls of the classroom.”

Examples of such projects this year were a senior-led running club at the Orange elementary schools, intended to instill active lifestyles in younger students, and Waste Warriors, a recycling program which halved the amount of waste — by weight — in Mahar’s cafeteria.

Hugo Frost, a Mahar senior and the founder of Waste Warriors, appreciated that the school allowed him the opportunity to learn about recycling, but also apply that knowledge outside the classroom, something not typically possible in a traditional high school course.

Waste Warriors, in fact, expanded to Four Rivers Charter Public School, Great Falls Middle School, Greenfield High School and Mohawk Trail Regional High School, where students engaged in an eco-friendly competition with each other to see who could reduce the most waste.

“The idea is they’re supposed to innovate new ways to reduce the waste in their cafeterias,” Frost said.

Classes like Senior Honor Project are part of a larger movement within the school district to “redesign the student transcript in order to break from the simple list of courses and grades and more effectively communicate to universities and colleges the genuine achievements of our students,” Thomas said.

In addition to supporting Seniors Honor Project, the grant will help fund Mahar-X, a June 8 exposition showcasing “innovative endeavors” — like the honors projects — of both students and teachers at Mahar.

Mahar is one of three schools — along with the Cohasset Center for Student Coastal Research and the Resiliency Preparatory Academy of Fall River — to be awarded in the latest round of Mass IDEAS grants.

Mahar applied through Mass IDEAS’ Student Design Institute, which awards schools that have developed nontraditional, yet effective, education models — like Seniors Honors Project.

“These funds come as an exciting support of the changes that are already underway at Mahar to rethink the basic tenets, beliefs and standard practices of traditional education,” Thomas said.

Reach David McLellan at dmclellan@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 268.