Green Hills eighth-graders race to the top

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:13

    GREEN-John Vicario believes eighth graders learn best through their hands. In his science classes at Green Hills Middle School, students build airplanes and fly them, and build cars and race them. In his third year of entering student teams into the Junior Solar Sprints competition, several of his students have excelled with solar-powered cars they built using physics concepts they learned in his class. For Vicario, that's just one example of how hands-on learning is working. "They think it's fun and we sneak the learning in there," Vicario said. He's used the hands-on approach in teaching for some 30 years. And that's why he decided to make the Solar Sprints race part of the eighth-grade science curriculum. All eighth-graders at Green Hills partner up to build small cars powered by solar panels. Some are built for speed and others to compete in the craftsmanship, innovation, and technical merit categories. The school holds a run-off competition, to find the best cars to enter into the Sussex County solar sprints race, sponsored by Trans Options Inc, a company that promotes alternative energy sources. This year, several Green Hills teams did well in the county race and went on to do the same in the inter-county race with Sussex, Warren and Morris county schools. This Sunday, June 13, two teams from Green Hills School will go to Springfield, Mass., to compete in the northeast regional race, after placing first in speed and craftsmanship in the inter-county race in May. Robert Corcoran and Artie Elwell were the winners for speed and Sarah Cristea and Ashley Stephens won for craftsmanship. "The nice thing about racing against other cars is