A Hands on High School Experience for Eighth Graders


Kelly Garcia , Writer

The Hands on High School experience is a unique program that has been offered by Saint John Vianney High School for the past three years. This program invites certain Catholic elementary schools to visit SJV for a day.  Eighth graders from these Catholic elementary/middle schools are able to get a glimpse into what high school is really like. Mrs. Gilmartin and Ms. Shalkowski, who work in Admissions at SJV, came up with the idea for this program a few years ago. “The purpose of the program is to give prospective students a hands-on experience of what we have to offer here,” said Mrs. Gilmartin.

The elementary school students come for half of a school day and they are able to experience what it is like to go to various classes that our school offers. For example, the eighth graders were able to “zap” their way through Physics, run through Physical Education, create a craft in art class, dance around the World Language class, then watch robots dance in Robotics!

Mr. McLoughlin, a Physics teacher here at SJV, showed the students many interesting demonstrations and explained the physics of how they all work. At one point, Mr. McLoughlin turned out the lights and pointed a laser beam towards the wall. He then pulled out a can of air freshener and sprayed it on the laser beam, revealing it’s path of light. They also tested out the law of the pendulum by placing a ball at their nose and letting it swing and come back to them without it hitting their face. The students also got the chance to view a few other devices in the physics classroom, such as Newton’s Cradle and concave and convex mirrors.

In the Robotics class, the students were shown a video of a robot that SJV students made in a previous class. Two senior boys who take Robotics, Justin Johnson and John Phan, were the ones in charge of the Robotics demonstrations. The robot in the video that was shown was very impressive, and it was even programmed to be able to dance to modern music, much to the delight of the eighth graders.

During the World Language class, Mrs. Belia spoke of her immigration story and showed a classic Italian dance. The eighth graders enjoyed dancing the “tarantella” dance together. Belia spoke about the different cultures in Italy and America, and she spoke of how she had to adjust to both cultures in her own life.

The eighth graders were also able to try out equipment from SJV’s fitness center during their Physical Education block. “The fitness center here at SJV is a complete, modern day exercise facility featuring all the equipment a student or athlete would need in order to get he/she in the best possible shape possible for either health benefits or athletic performance,” Mr. Hernandez, the Strength and Conditioning Coach, said. Hernandez allowed the students to primarily use cardiovascular machines, and the students spent approximately 2-3 minutes on each piece. The eighth-graders used the versa climber, treadmill, elliptical, bicycle, and concept II rower.

Lastly, the students were able to see the newly renovated art room and create their own sock puppets. Mrs. Seufert, an art teacher at SJV, wanted to do an interactive activity with the eighth graders that “allowed them to get super creative and design their own little characters.” Since she only had twenty minutes with each group of eighth graders, Seufert wanted to do a fun and fast project that would hold their attention.

Senior artists, Isabella Donnelly, Sarah Haberman, and Jamie Vitale volunteered to come into school on their day off and assist the students in making these fun crafts. Vitale stated that she has never volunteered her time helping students make art, and it was a great experience. She enjoyed finding out which students out of the groups were interested in art and telling them about the art program at SJV. The sock puppets turned out beautiful and the kids had a great time!

So far, the Hands on High School experience has been a huge success over the years and has brought many new students to the SJV community. Hopefully, SJV will welcome some of these familiar eighth grade faces in the fall for their freshman year.