Beth Crites’ kindergartners sat on the floor in groups as they watched several electronic caterpillars squirm between the legs of the tables and chairs.
While it appeared as if they were playing with toys, the students were learning how to plan and sequence — skills essential to computer coding — as they arranged the parts of the caterpillars into several configurations, which programmed them to move in different directions.
It’s one of the ways in which students at Sts. Joachim and Ann School in St. Charles are learning via the school’s new Innovation Station, which debuted this year. Sts. Joachim and Ann is among a growing number of Catholic schools that have implemented a special learning space dedicated to STREAM education — an integrated approach to Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. (See related.)
The Innovation Station was made possible through fundraising and individual donations from school families, including a sizable donation from a grandparent of a student. Other families donated STEM-related learning toys for the room. A dedicated room for the school’s already existing robotics program will be located next door to the lab, said Amanda Goughenour, fifth-grade teacher, who coordinated the new classroom.
STREAM concepts already had been integrated into the classroom experience, but the new lab provides a dedicated space for classes to use at least once a week. Starting with an empty space, Goughenour visited several schools with STEM labs, and researched on the web. The room already had a SMART board and sink; several more electrical outlets were added as well as storage cabinets and magnetic bulletin boards.
“Everything in it has been thought about five or six times, and we went with the best — everything down to the chairs,” she said.
The idea for the lab grew out of a school improvement process, or self-study, in which all Catholic schools undergo every seven years to set priorities and goals for the future. Additionally, school officials noted the enthusiasm for a family STEM night held twice a year in the gymnasium, with representatives from St. Louis Science Center, Boeing, MilliporeSigma and Washington University and others leading STEM activities. The next, planned for October, will include demonstrations in the Innovation Station.
Goughenour said the goal is to inspire students and their families in exploring STREAM concepts. “My saying is teach to inspire — I want to inspire them to do what they want to do,” she said.
Sts. Joachim and Ann pastor Father John Brockland noted that parents undoubtedly have strong feelings about their children being prepared for a world that is immersed in technology.
“As a pastor, from my point of view, every great human achievement has started with somebody asking, ‘What if?’ If we can help kids cultivate the capacity to wonder and imagine and investigate that’s a great thing,” he said. “For us as people of faith, if we know there are people out there asking those questions who are also disciples, then we have a great assurance that the achievements that are going to be made are going to be done in harmony with God’s kingdom.”
Students are incorporating lessons on virtues within their classroom time. For example, fifth- and sixth-graders recently made model boats out of recycled materials. The lesson was coupled with a conversation about the virtue of charity in helping flood victims. Students watched a brief video on recent flooding.
Other activities include participation in the Clavius Project robotics Jamboree at Saint Louis University High School. The program teaches area grade-schoolers robotics, coding and applied mathematics. Sts. Joachim and Ann School also is anticipating acquiring a 3-D printer for coding.
“This is going to keep them inspired,” Goughenour said. “It’s just keeping that sense wonder — we really feel that child of wonder here and this room does that.”
“I think the biggest dream about this space is exhausting its possibilities” Father Brockland said.
>> Apply for Beyond Sunday grant
Several technical assistance sessions will be held to explain the application process for Beyond Sunday grants. They include:
• Monday, Sept. 10, 4-6 p.m. at Cardinal Rigali Center
• Tuesday, Sept. 18, 10 a.m.-noon at Cardinal Rigali Center
Register at bit.ly/2wNzbp0. Please contact Steve Rich with questions [email protected]. Grant guidelines can be found at bit.ly/2wIR8pJ.
>> 2018-19 Academic Capacity Enhancement grants from Beyond Sunday
growing number of Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of St. Louis are
dedicating space for the application of science, technology, religion,
engineering, arts and math (STREAM) concepts in the classroom. Several
schools have received Beyond Sunday grants from the Roman Catholic
Foundation of Eastern Missouri this year for technology upgrades and
more. They include:
• Makerspace Good Shepherd (Hillsboro), St.
Joseph (Imperial) plus Parish School of Religion, Our Lady (Festus), Our
Lady Queen of Peace (House Springs), St. Agnes (Bloomsdale), St.
Joachim (Old Mines), St. Pius X High School (Festus), St. Rose of Lima
(DeSoto) and St. Vincent de Paul (Perryville) $100,000
• Tech upgrade Rosati-Kain High School (St. Louis) $81,800
• STREAM ColLABoration St. Peter (Kirkwood), St. Gerard Majella (Kirkwood) $67,970
• Makerspace St. Justin Martyr (Crestwood) $62,414
• Robotics St. Pius X High School $56,149
• Tech upgrade St. Cecilia School and Academy, Most Holy Trinity School and Academy, St. Louis Catholic Academy (St. Louis) $50,000
• Outdoors/environment Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and PSR $50,000
• Tech upgrade Holy Redeemer (Webster Groves) $32,250
• Makerspace St. Peter (Kirkwood) $22,500
Robotics St. Stephen Protomartyr, St. Ambrose, St. James the Greater,
St. Frances Cabrini Academy, St. Raphael the Archangel, South City
Catholic Academy, St. Roch, St. Gabriel the Archangel (St. Louis) $22,420
• Makerspace Holy Infant (Ballwin) $15,000