Middle school, Army Corps strengthen winning partnership


Photo by Shayna BroukerVolunteers tend the garden planted by students and Army Corps experts Aug. 6.

Photo by Shayna Brouker
Volunteers tend the garden planted by students and Army Corps experts Aug. 6.

Forget science fairs with baking soda volcanoes and “Pi Day” with pies to try and understand the significance of 3.14. While such activities sure make learning about science and math fun, the students at Wiesbaden Middle School take science seriously with the help of a handful of experts from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Europe District. Now they have an award to show for it.

The middle school and the Corps won the Pete Taylor Partnership of Excellence Award for Outstanding Individual Project. Principal Dr. Susan Hargis and Vanessa Pepi attended the awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. July 30-31. Hargis submitted the award secretly.

“To me, the award was important because I wanted to honor the Corps for what they’ve done on a larger scale,” said Hargis. “Saying ‘thank you’ and writing emails only goes so far. I hold them in the highest regard, and I wanted them to be honored by the Military Child Education Coalition. This is about the work that five people put into the school.”


The MCEC’s Pete Taylor Partnership of Excellence Award recognizes successful partnerships and projects that ultimately benefit military-connected children.

For the past few years, Corps engineers and environmental specialists have been showing seventh-grade students firsthand practical application of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in everyday life and careers. Highlights included classes taught by USACE experts, field trips to the golf course to learn about environmental management and a garden planted by the students and Corps employees.

“I’m doing it because I received good mentors and examples,” said Vanessa Pepi, an environmental branch project manager who traveled to Washington with Hargis to receive the award. “It was me seeing people who made a big impression on me that made me want to give back and show them real-world experience.”

Photo by Shayna BroukerVanessa Pepi, Corps environmental branch project manager, and WMS Prinicipal Dr. Susan Hargis stand in front of the garden planted by students and Corps experts with their Pete Taylor Partnership of Excellence Award Aug. 6.

Photo by Shayna Brouker
Vanessa Pepi, Corps environmental branch project manager, and WMS Prinicipal Dr. Susan Hargis stand in front of the garden planted by students and Corps experts with their Pete Taylor Partnership of Excellence Award Aug. 6.

Because of the fruitful partnership, the Installation Management Command is rewarding the middle school with $10,000 to further its STEM education. The grant will provide each seventh-grade student with a STEM-related study trip per month for the first semester, and the Teen Center will host one STEM activity a month to each seventh grader in groups of 25 kids. The Corps will continue showing seventh-graders how STEM works in the real world — and how to make STEM work for them.
“The kids were overwhelmed,” said Hargis. “The change of pace opened their eyes to a different arena of careers and added relevance to what they were learning.”

The award is the latest in a string of recognitions for the middle school, including the Green Ribbon Award for reducing environmental impact and utility costs, promoting better health and ensuring effective environmental education — an accomplishment that saved USAG Wiesbaden more than $27,000 in energy costs.