What do you bring to the table? Are you a thinker? An organizational pro? Are you good with computers, or better with your hands? Are you the performer, or are you better behind the scenes?
Everyone has ideas and value. How are YOU using your unique gifts and expressing your value to the world each day?
This is the central theme of the Innovate and Design Time, (IDT) given to middle level students each week at Notre Dame Prep (NDP), an independent, Catholic all girls-school in Towson.
Providing a nurturing environment that enables female students to bond and work together is important to the educators, staff, and parents at NDP. Especially when it comes to science, technology, engineering, and math education. Equally important? Integrating the arts in to the STEM curricula. Hence, STEAM.
“All girls have ideas and value. We want them to be able to find ways to express that,” said Mary Agnes Sheridan, Middle Level STEAM coordinator and mathematics teacher at NDP. “When you give them the opportunity to take an idea that they have, and sketch it out, and work collaboratively in a group to perfect that idea, with the tools to create the ideas in the physical world, they respond to it with a ‘Look what I did! This was my idea!!’ That’s the important part of our STEAM program.”
Walking through the school, you’ll see sixth graders using digital design tools and getting real-time digital feedback from peers across the hall. Seventh graders are solving crimes in their forensic science lab and eighth graders are filming documentaries and short films to broadcast to share with the community in the WNDP digital studio. The range of collaboration in the STEAM curriculum is endless.
“The biggest advantage of the single-sex classroom, is that the students can be themselves. It’s more of a collaborative sisterhood for the young women that are here,” said Mary Agnes. “Times have changed, but when I look back at the history of our school, (We just turned 145!) it was not traditional to educate young women. When the School Sisters of Notre Dame created the school, they realized that if you educate women, you’re actually educating an entire community. Having young ladies working and learning about the field of STEAM is our future- the future of our communities, our country and the world.”
Not only do students tackle STEAM-related design projects and collaborations, they also work closely in advisory groups. These groups build social skills and core relationships, foster an understanding of what it means to be a responsible digital citizen, and further understanding of how one’s digital presence can influence people’s perceptions in real life. Given the challenges that young ladies face in their middle level years, educators at NDP spend a great amount of time getting to know each student and provide guidance through their formative years.
“I’ve seen such a change in my daughter since coming to NDP,” said parent, Lisa Gallo. “She has more confidence since she’s been in the all-girls setting. She’s in smaller classrooms with girls that have the same interests. They all love and help each other, and the teachers all so supportive. They’ve given her so many opportunities!”
Her daughter, Annemarie, recently attended a week-long workshop with NASA (after being encouraged by her teachers to apply) where she used her engineering skills to work with professionals in the field. She and two friends were so excited about their experiences when they returned, that they created a short film to share with their school community.
When asked about NDP’s educational philosophy, Mary Agnes Sheridan told us, “We believe in the education of the whole person. We want our students to discover and nurture their individual gifts, and know that the world needs what they can do. They were created for a purpose. We want them to share their gifts in order to make a difference.”
We have a great feeling about all of the gifts that these students will be bringing to the table in the future, and know that the world can use all that they can give!
This article is sponsored by Notre Dame Prep, as part of our s(cool) partner series. Learn more about them in our independent school directory. Photography by Laura Black.