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Columbia Connections: Recent Projects


State and Local Government Students Translate Learning into Action Through the Sally Salamander Project

When Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin wanted to expand the city’s Sally Salamander walking tour, his office asked students in our Upper School State and Local Government Class to study expansion options, develop a list of recommended new sites, and create a marketing plan to promote the walking tour. After students presented their proposal to Mayor Benjamin, he invited them to present to City Council. In 2017-18, students in several Heathwood classes will work on building out the Sally Salamander program.


Upper School Students Intern at McNAIR Center for Aerospace Innovation and Research

Fifteen Heathwood students completed internships with eight partner organizations in 2016-17. Among them were Junior Athreya Murali and Freshman Clay Mitchell, whose week at the University of South Carolina’s McNAIR Center included CAD design work, developing an automated tool probing algorithm for a robot, and more. The students’ strong math skills and programming knowledge allowed them to make meaningful contributions to the Center’s work, while the internship gave them a hands-on opportunity to learn about research engineering.


3rd Grade Brings Classroom Learning to Life

Columbia Connections “brings learning to life,” says 3rd grade teacher Brooke Whiteman. “Instead of just listening to a teacher talk about something, they can actually do it.” The 3rd grade team took advantage of the Columbia Connections program in multiple ways in 2016-17, inviting RumbleLab owner Moultrie Ball to talk to students about the engineering process and have them product-test one if his kits, bringing in Cardiologist Chris Huffman to give a hands-on talk about human anatomy, taking students to Saluda Shoals to study wetlands habitats, using Historic Columbia’s Traveling Trunk program to explore what life was like for children like them during the Civil War, and participating in the Columbia Fireflies Read Around the Bases program. Beyond the enhanced learning experience, said Mrs. Whiteman, “the students learned to reach out and make connections to people and places beyond themselves and see the world is wider than their school.”


7th Grade Raises Awareness Through Storm Drain Project

Storm drains play a vital but often unseen role in our aquatic ecosystems. The 2016-17 7th grade class partnered with community organizations like the Gills Creek Watershed Association, the Congaree Riverkeeper, and the Richland County Stormwater Management Division to learn more about storm drains and storm water and to raise awareness of their importance by painting storm drains around the Middle School building. “Our goal was to remind citizens how the storm drain system works and how important it is to keep the water clean, since it goes untreated directly into our rivers,” said 7th grade science teacher Pam Bulak, who collaborated with Middle School art teacher Brian Rego on the project.

Columbia Poet Laureate Meets with 8th Graders

What’s the role of poetry in the life of a city? That was just one of the questions Columbia Poet Laureate Ed Madden addressed when he spoke with Heathwood’s 8th grade students on February 28.Poetry, which has been a recent area of study in Heathwood’s 8th grade English classes, may not at first glance seem like an obvious form of real-world action. But, as Madden explained, poetry can play a vital role in the life of our city. Most notably, in his role as Poet Laureate, Madden is often called upon to write poems about events that shape the city’s history, from the mayor’s annual State of the City address to major inflection points like the historic 2015 flood and the removal of the Confederate flag from the State House.


Cokie Roberts Shares Passion for History with Lower School Students

We all know a lot about the Founding Fathers. But what about the women who helped shape our nation’s early history? Renowned journalist and author Cokie Roberts visited Heathwood on February 24 to share their stories with our 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade students. Roberts, who was in Columbia for the Decked Edge Literary Festival, came to Heathwood at the request of Donnie Bain, Director of Heathwood’s Columbia Connections program. Seeing Deckled Edge as an opportunity to bring an author onto campus, Bain reached out to the festival’s organizing committee, who helped schedule the visit. Roberts' talk with the students about the fascinating women in her new children's book, Ladies of Liberty, was inspiring both because of the previously unknown stories it brought to light and because of what Roberts shared about the value of her own early education. “The reason I’ve ended up being a successful author,” she said, “is that I went to a school where I had to write and write and write and write. I didn’t always like it. But I certainly learned how to do it.”


Heathwood Students Help Launch WhatsNextMidlands Project

In November, 2016, Heathwood Middle and Upper School students participated in an idea session with What's Next Midlands, an idea managed by EngenuitySC that inspires community action. Along with community members elsewhere in the Midlands, the students brainstormed ideas that could impact and improve the community in a number of ways, including parks and recreation, culture, and infrastructure. Their idea to create a riverfront boat ramp that would facilitate access for kayaks gained enough traction that What's Next Midlands is now working with local government to turn their suggestion into reality.