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Freshmen + fourth-graders tackle the perils of math

| Thursday, April 24, 2014, 8:55 p.m.
Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review
Grace Leonard, a freshman at Greensburg Salem High School, and Melina Vandenberg, a fourth-grader at Metzgar Elementary School, were part of the study club that tackled the intricacies of mathematics.

Last summer, Pamela Leonard asked her daughter what she planned to do for her service project required by the Greensburg Salem School District.

“I told her she had to pick a way to be involved in the community,” said Leonard, a fourth-grade teacher at Metzgar Elementary School in Salem Township.

Grace Leonard, 15, thought about it and came up with the idea of freshmen teaching math to fourth-graders at Metzgar.

“She has a penchant for math, so it took over from there,” her mother said.

Grace Leonard and other freshmen, all girls, took turns teaching 15 fourth-graders. They met after school every other week from November through March as part of the Metzgar Math Club.

District officials promote a program that encourages service, scholarship, leadership and character in its student body.

“That's the district mission and what we try to aim for as an entire school district, a goal for each student,” Grace said.

She and her friends taught lessons from the book, “Perfectly Perilous Math,” then held labs with the students.

“We'd let them solve it, or helped them along the way,” Grace said.

“We had an open enrollment,” her mother said of how the fourth-graders were selected. “It was sort of first-come, first-served.”

In one lesson, students watched a key that dangled from a string and witnessed how a change in the string's length affected the number of times the key would swing back and forth.

Another time, students counted the sequences of scales on pineapples.

Leonard and freshman Emma Cribbs attended most of the classes.

“I thought it was very beneficial to the younger kids,” Emma said. “It helped them to learn and better understand the materials.”

The freshmen got the chance to serve as good role models for the younger students, Pam Leonard said.

Grace said her classmates enjoyed the time they spent with the fourth-graders.

“They liked working with the younger children,” she said. “They enjoyed how the younger kids reacted working with us.”

Cribbs, who wants to be a teacher one day, explained the classes gave her a chance to see what it would be like standing in front of students.

Fourth-grader Melina Vandenberg said she and her fellow students loved the after-school classes.

“I think it was fun and educational,” she said. “With all the help we got, everyone enjoyed it and came together as a group to think of the answers.”

At the same time, the freshmen learned how to work as a team, Pam Leonard said.

She expects to hold the after-school program next year, this time with boys taking part as mentors. “It was a good pilot year,” the teacher said.

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or