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Aspinwall science teacher wins award for engaging students in hands-on learning

Tawnya Panizzi
| Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018, 12:03 p.m.
Christine Salvi, a teacher at Christ the Divine Teacher Catholic Academy in Aspinwall, won the first-ever Teacher Award in Polymer Education from the Intersociety Polymer Education Council.
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Christine Salvi, a teacher at Christ the Divine Teacher Catholic Academy in Aspinwall, won the first-ever Teacher Award in Polymer Education from the Intersociety Polymer Education Council.

Science teacher Christine Salvi was making slime in her Aspinwall classroom long before it was cool.

Her students at Christ the Divine Teacher Catholic Academy make the gooey substance every spring to celebrate the birthday of Dr. Seuss. They also read his classic book, “Bartholomew and the Ooblek.”

“The lesson centers on teaching the kids that different phases of matter behave in different ways,” Salvi said.

It's not her only in-class experiment with rubber, plastic and glass. Salvi's Halloween-themed “Melting Witches” activity has students in awe watching the chemical reaction between pointy Styrofoam hats that are attacked by acetone.

“They love watching them dissolve while exclaiming, ‘I'm melting!'” she said.

For her commitment to hands-on science in the classroom, Salvi won the first teaching award from the Intersociety Polymer Education Council.

With that, she becomes an ambassador through which she will present workshops to fellow teachers and will also receive $750.

“This is an honor,” Salvi said. “The award is very generous and will help me discover innovative ways to engage my students.”

Or, more precisely, continue what she already excels at, Principal Mark Grgurich said.

“Mrs. Salvi makes science fun and relevant to the students,” he said. “She has a remarkable ability to capture the students' attention and keep them actively engaged in the class.”

Last year, Salvi's sixth-graders participated in a project where she challenged them to solve the problem of managing waste in the next century. They decided to make plastics biodegradable in the project-based learning program called “Future Cities.”

“They had the idea that in the future, natural materials like flour and soy would be used in the manufacturing process to allow the plastic to biodegrade faster,” Salvi said.

In her eighth-grade class, Salvi's students investigated how a protein in milk reacts with acid to form a polymer, or glue.

Grgurich said Salvi was instrumental in developing the fab lab environment at the academy with a 3D printer, vinyl cutter and laser engraver, all to further student exploration.

“She is constantly seeking out fresh ideas for the classroom to maintain a top-notch science program,” he said.

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for the Tribune-Review. Reach her at 412-782-2121, ext. 2, tpanizzi@tribweb.com or via Twitter@tawnyatrib.

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