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Exploring with Mindful Creativity and Curiosity

The E=mc² program: The Power of Curiosity at GHS

From the district's Fall 2016 newsletterAlthough the school year has just begun, the 15 students who are involved in this year’s independent research course, “Exploring with Mindful Creativity and Curiosity” or simply “E=mc²,” are already thinking innovatively.

The E=mc² program allows students, the majority of whom are Technology Help Desk members, to earn an elective credit and explore a topic of their choice throughout the year.

Through researching and reading prevailing theories surrounding their topics, then gathering both qualitative and quantitative evidence, students gain a deeper understanding and analytical viewpoint of their chosen topic.

Last year, students enrolled in this course chose topics ranging from building telescopes to researching foot pronation, to designing a recording studio in a library classroom.

High school librarians Bernard Bott and Melissa Gergen act as the program’s research coordinators.

“I love that we are granted the opportunity to do this,” said Bott. “Things are constantly in motion with this class and it’s exciting to see what happens when interest meets motivation head on.”

This year, the students’ projects are just as diverse as the last, with a few more “artistic” topics, that Bott says, “should give the program an interesting angle.”

Close up of student's workThe main objective of their work is for students to follow a guided and/or open inquiry model. This model is premised on the idea that the process is worth as much, if not more, than the product. This approach gives students the freedom to choose and explore an issue or topic, and to experiment and implement findings based on research.

“Many students are building things (i.e. hydroponic gardens, robots, EEG-based machines), and while these projects may have a tangible end product, we still want students focused on owning their learning and the learning process,” said Bott.

“There are other students working on more research-based topics like dreaming, the human brain, and the education system. Regardless of the topic students are studying, we want them to make a conscious effort to ask what it is they want to learn, and why it matters,” Bott continued.
Febronia Mansour, a junior in her second year of the program admits that in the beginning, the open-inquiry model was a bit of a shock to her system.

“My brain is very systematic,” but with the help of Mr. Bott and Mrs. Gergen, “they will not let us fail,” she said.

“They are phenomenal in achieving this perfect balance of helping us out but also knowing when to step back and give us the opportunity to learn. With this freedom, we’re responsible for things like creating our own websites or choosing a medium of assessment that shows evidence of learning. We also have less specified due dates, which makes it really important to manage our time and set periodic goals,” said Mansour.

Mansour is in the advanced level of E=mc² having participated last year, as well as completing a summer prerequisite.

According to Mansour, the main difference between the two levels is the amount of responsibility and freedom students have. The first level of the course is “more-guided” inquiry, she said.

Mansour’s favorite thing about participating in E=mc²? “The passion that exudes from all who are a part of it. A lot of students might give off a vibe that they don’t care about school, but I think that’s only because they’re simply uninterested in what they’re required to learn. In E=mc² however, the ability to choose a topic completely eradicates this. We’re able to explore what we’re really interested in and get credit for it!”

Mansour was sorry to say goodbye to her topic on foot pronation last year, but is already consumed, “in the best way possible,” she assured, about her topic this year on neuroplasticity.

Bott said, “I don’t know what success looks like in this program from a traditional standpoint, but when students think about something, analyze their own thoughts, and can be passionate while doing it, that is success to me. Our goal is to help students understand that learning can start
anywhere, but ends with them. Curiosity is vital to every student’s future and we are hoping to be the curators of curiosity, but the students must own it.”Photo of E=Mc2 student

Mr. Bott and Mrs. Gergen invite community members to follow the E=mc² students along on their inquiry journeys. View the program site and individual student project pages at

Febronia and Emily






Christian Tolfa, a senior in the E=mc² program updates his student site, "Bringing Education into Modernity."





Check out the projects of Febronia Mansour (left, Gr. 11) and Emily Loparco (Gr. 12) on the E=mc2 site.