Packet Sea Foam: High school science department continues proud heritage

August 1, 2011 

Thanks to Kathryn Weatherhead, chairwoman of the science department at Hilton Head Island High School, for sharing a glimpse at the heritage of that department.

She writes:

During the Heritage golf tournament, there was much in the news about the lack of a sponsor and many articles about the history and community support the event has generated over the years. Although I am not an active tournament volunteer anymore, I couldn't help but reflect about other longstanding traditions on Hilton Head Island. I wanted to share a little "heritage" about Hilton Head Island High School that I have been fortunate to be a part of for the past 31 years.

It has a long tradition of preparing students not just for graduation requirements but also for providing advanced courses of study and research opportunities to enable students to compete in the finest science programs in universities around the world.

Our staff is highly qualified, with 90 percent having master's degrees or beyond. We have teachers with gifted and talented endorsements, two National Board-certified teachers, four teachers certified by International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement and several who have come into teaching from health professions or as field and laboratory scientists. Several teachers have published notable and award-winning journal articles, textbooks and other materials.

We have been fortunate to have many local and visiting science professionals who come in and share their passions for chemistry, medicine and technology.

We continue to excel with student science fair projects, having supported students at the International Science and Engineering Fair. We have had the overall grand prize winner and many category winners over the years. Honor students often win many other competitions, and many students are involved in science internships in local medical facilities or research venues. Countless numbers of graduates have gone on to earn scholarships and pursue science-related careers -- engineers, scientists, nurses, technicians and many physicians, including some living in the area today.

Science students from our school have been stewards of the environment for many years, as well. You can find evidence of this at Fish Haul Creek and Mitchelville Beach parks, where the science department has been the Adopt-a-Beach cleanup partner since 1987.

Check out the butterfly garden at Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge and the one in our school courtyard created by our STEP (Student Training Empowerment Program) and environmental science clubs.

Come learn scientific names of labeled flora around our campus, which was the result of a student Eagle Scout project.

Another example of the uniqueness of our school campus and department is the Outdoor Wetlands Lab, a 13.8-acre wetland with observation decking built in large part by efforts of the teachers and students here (and at Hilton Head Island Middle School).

Our teachers dedicate themselves to tutoring students of all ability levels after school and on weekends. You may see us at Starbucks or Barnes & Noble working to prepare students for any of our three AP science courses, or five IB courses, which can garner the student college credits.

We have a history of enviable End of Course Exam scores, as well as outstanding achievement in AP and IB courses.

Our science teachers use state of the art equipment for everything from Vernier and Pasco probes to EMF meters, GPS units and GIS software, to digital microscopes and flip videos, molecular genetics equipment and much more.

I have another three pages of academic and community accolades, but I think I have "hawked" my department sufficiently to make my point. There are many things that make me proud to be a Seahawk, but the "heritage" of my department and its achievements continues to be an inspirational story for our community.

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