Hambright Elementary School teacher Katie Lutz has been certified as a National Geographic Educator, thanks, in part, to a project that she and her fifth-graders completed to better understand the natural world around their school.

Called “The World in My Backyard,” the project uses virtual reality technology to tell the story of the wetlands, farmland and wooded areas surrounding Hambright in the Penn Manor School District, according to a school news release.

With the assistance of Pennsylvania master naturalist Carol Welch, students identified medicinal plants, berries, cattails, mockingbirds, yellow warblers and other species in what Lutz calls the “small, immediate wilderness” around the school.

Students kept journals of their discoveries and made detailed, colorful renderings of the birds, trees and flowers they encountered, along with opossum bones, fox tracks, grapevines and other evidence of life quietly coexisting just outside their walls, the release continued.

Lancaster County environmental educator Ann Strauss led field studies to help students understand the biodiversity of the wetlands and neighboring playing fields, and Manor Middle School eighth-graders helped the students conduct soil tests on samples brought back to the classroom.

Manor Township Public Works Director Mark Harris visited the classroom to explain how a nearby composting farm turns leaves into nutrient-rich compost and to explain “best practices” in soil management.

Penn Manor High School students helped the fifth-graders document what they had discovered through photography, videography and video editing, and the district’s technology staff assisted Lutz and her students in creating the virtual tour using Google Tour Creator software.

The finished product, a collaborative effort, can be seen at poly.google.com/view/2t_SZGcFij6.

“The World in My Backyard” was the capstone project that led to Lutz’s certification as a National Geographic educator. She also participated in workshops on the National Geographic Learning Framework, which focuses on the human journey, the changing planet, wildlife, curiosity, responsibility, observation, problem-solving, collaboration and communication. Lutz had to implement these elements into her teaching.

Completing the certification “reinvigorated my energy and focus around supporting student inquiry and exploration through hands-on learning,” Lutz said in the release.

The “World in My Backyard” project gave her students “a renewed sense of interest and wonder in the natural world,” she said.

“I hope my students take away a renewed appreciation of our natural environment, an identity as scientists and explorers, and a commitment to environmental stewardship to protect the species and areas that we studied.”

Jones named principal at Penn Manor High School

The Penn Manor school board has approved the hiring of Baron H. Jones as principal of Penn Manor High School, effective July 1.

Currently principal of Huesken Middle School in the Conestoga Valley School District, Jones will succeed Phil Gale, who will become assistant superintendent for secondary education July 1.

Prior to joining Huesken Middle School staff as principal in 2015, Jones was an assistant principal at Spring Grove Area High School from 2008 to 2015. He taught secondary social studies for the School District of Lancaster from 2001 to 2008.

Jones, 39, received his master’s degree in educational leadership/principalship from Widener University Graduate School of Education in 2008 and his teacher certification, with an emphasis on technology integration, from Millersville University in 2005.

He also earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Jacksonville State University in Alabama in 2001. Jones is a Leadership for Diverse Schools presenter and served as diversity coordinator for grades seven through 12 at Spring Grove Area School District.

“The district is excited to welcome Mr. Jones as its new high school principal,” Penn Manor superintendent Mike Leichliter said. “He has a passion for working with faculty and staff to ensure that all students find success in an academically rigorous environment.”

Lancaster tech coordinator is Apple distinguished educator

A School District of Lancaster teacher is joining an elite group of educators worldwide recognized by Apple for the use of technology in the classroom, according to a news release.

Jessica Garrigan, coordinator of instructional technology, is a member of the Apple District Educators Class of 2019. She is one of 2,800 educators across 45 countries recognized by Apple since it created the program in 1994.

In the district, she said in the release, “We are working to ensure all of our learners have equitable access to transformational learning with technology.’’

Becoming an ADE “allows me to share our story of creative, innovative learning with a global community.”

Garrigan helps teachers and students leverage a wide range of technology tools to enhance teaching and learning.

She plays a key role in the district’s 1-to-1 initiative, which currently includes devices for all students in grades six to eight and will extend to elementary and ninth grades in the 2019-20 school year, the release noted.

Manheim Township teacher selected for Henry Ford Workshops

The Henry Ford has announced that William Ziegler has been selected to attend a professional development workshop for educators on the topic of America’s Industrial Revolution, an experience made possible through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The workshops will be held June 23-28 and July 14-19, offering teachers in kindergarten through 12th grade the opportunity to work with leading scholars and museum curators and learn about the impact of industrialization in America.

Ziegler has been an educator within Manheim Township School District for 12 years.

He teaches ancient history and general psychology at the high school.