From a design challenge in 2018 to working with a Millersville University artist-in-residence, Akron Elementary students have led the transformation of their school courtyard into an outdoor learning space.

Last year, fourth graders pitched their ideas via sketches and prototypes. Construction began over the summer, and this year, students schoolwide helped to create the courtyard mosaic and sensory path with help from artist Katie Trainer. She also worked with high school students on murals in downtown Ephrata.

A showcase of the courtyard was held last month; the work was also featured at a school board meeting.

“The courtyard has been an incredible plan compiled of many projects all coming together,” Principal Sheri Horner said in a news release. “We are excited for the project to be completed this spring and fulfill our goal of a new, useable learning space for our students.”

Corny Day

Sixth grade students recently visited the Ephrata Area School District farm for the annual Corny Day field trip.

Community volunteers are stationed throughout the farm with interactive activities to engage students, according to a news release.

Among the questions answered by students during the trip were: What are bio-plastics? What is moisture content and how does it affect harvesting?

Students calculated the yield of the crop based upon the data they collected, learned what role the parts of the corn plant play in the development of the plant, and discussed the many places corn is found in everyday life, from food to toothpaste to medicine, the release noted.

“The experience is always fun and educational,’’ Josh Haupt, district science supervisor and middle school teacher, said in the release. “Chances are that these students won’t pass by a cornfield without remembering some of the important and surprising ways this plant serves us.’’

Funding for the event was provided by the Ephrata Area Education Foundation.

Design award

Featured in the October 2019 issue of Learning by Design magazine, Ephrata High School and RLPS Architects received Outstanding Project honors for their newly redesigned media center.

A full renovation of the media center and surrounding areas of the school began as part of an interactive student design challenge in 2017. Students collaborated in small groups to create plans for a renovation and worked alongside district administrators and architects to bring their ideas to life, according to a news release. The project was finished in 2019 and includes more space to facilitate small-group and project-based learning, technology, collaboration and communication.

The magazine’s judging panel looked for unique and new concepts that improved education facility building design.

“This is a wonderful example of how to renovate an old fashion high school library to meet modern pedagogy, student taste, contemporary social community customs in multiple cluster oriented, light infused, bright spaces,’’ the panel noted in the magazine. “The learning stairs, the cafe, labs and acoustically appropriate study spots all add to the success of this project. The renovation brings a lively, flexible space into the interior of the building and accommodates informal learning and meeting with new technology capacities.”

Essay contest finalists

Ephrata High School senior Khalid Brelvi and junior Ezekiel Jones are finalists in the Fountainhead essay contest, which is sponsored by the Ayn Rand Institute, the source for information on the life, writings and work of novelist-philosopher Rand. They submitted an essay through their Advanced Placement language and composition class last school year.

Essays were judged on whether the student was able to argue for, and justify his view. as well as to write in a clear, articulate and logically organized way. Winning essays demonstrated an outstanding grasp of the philosophic meaning of “The Fountainhead,” according to the Rand organization’s website.

All finalists received a $50 cash prize.