We’ve all heard of STEM, or STEAM — the integration of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics into one cohesive learning experience. In these classes, students engage in real world, problem solving skills by designing, building, coding, creating, and “imagineering” new solutions.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help School, like many Catholic schools, has taken the traditional STEAM initiative, and added the element of religion, the lens through which all other subjects are seen.  

STEAM, at their school, has become STREAM.

We met with Enrichment Coordinator, Mary Gregorini to learn more.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help School

STREAM Education at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School

Tell us about what kinds of projects your students are working on in the STREAM Lab at your school.

We recently took our STREAM program to the next level and created a makerspace engineering lab, where our students have access to a 3D printer, robotics equipment, drones, a Lego wall, computers, a laser cutter and lots of other creative supplies. I’ve worked with students to incorporate a “maker mindset,” where we view mistakes as learning opportunities. It’s been an exciting process!

Our younger students engaged in critical thinking activities inspired the book, Rosie Revere, Engineer, and they created their own inventions to solve contemporary problems.

The STREAM Lab has added such value to our curriculum. We have just begun this very exciting and worthwhile journey which will provide our students with the experiences they need to flourish today and in their technology-rich future.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help School

How does your STREAM program differ from a traditional STEM or STEAM program that you’d find in other schools?

Creating academic, faith-based activities and opportunities is first and foremost in our plan as we grow our Pre-K through 8 STREAM program. Any problem that needs a solution can be looked at in the light of our faith.

Each class selects a charity to serve throughout the each year. That focus of service provides us with a wide range of opportunities as plan our activities to also bring in math calculations, creating materials that will support the children in their mission of helping others, and critically thinking of ways to support our targeted organizations such as our sister parish in Haiti with our Penny Wars.  The receptacles where students dropped their coins and checks collapsed this year.  We will be challenging students to plan, design, and create new ones that hopefully will collect more money next year for our brothers and sisters in need.

The ideas and opportunities are endless for a small school like ours to tap into the talents and faith of our students to support others in the community, as Jesus taught us to do.

Have you had a moment with your students where you sat back and thought, “THIS is what it’s all about!”?

We created a video of some of our students talking about their “blueprint” ideas. First watching them create a simple drawing and then to hear it take life from their perspective was awesome.  Each student poured his or her heart into designing on paper what they would like to see to help others and themselves. The first steps, in my opinion, are sometimes the hardest, but produce the most genuine form of imaginative and creative works.  The rest is just trial and error… which is so rewarding to watch!

Our Lady of Perpetual Help School

What benefits do you think your STREAM program offers students?

Hands-on activities especially benefit students who learn differently and don’t succeed in a traditional ‘sit at your desk’ environment. Interactive learning transitions students from passive consumers of information to active creators and innovators. It fosters curiosity and critical thinking skills.  Students who don’t test well often flourish in a more exploratory environment.  

Many STREAM projects allow these students to show their knowledge in a different way. It also allows students to learn for themselves through collaboration and problem solving. Students are not always given the specific instructions; they know what the desired outcome is, and go on to discover different ways of achieving it. We strive to show the students that real-life problems have solutions that can be generated by each one of them.

Educational practices change, as do students’ needs and wants as we help to prepare them for a productive and successful future. I think the biggest benefit to them is seeing that life is dynamic, need is dynamic, and opportunities are dynamic and must be acted upon.  By changing our academic practices, and not remaining stagnant in our approaches to learning, we model for them the importance of reaching beyond what is right in front of them to take academic risks and chances that could result in each of them changing the world for the better, while helping them grow closer to each other and God.

 

This article is sponsored by Our Lady of Perpetual Help School as part of our Cool School Partners series. To learn more about Our Lady of Perpetual Help School, visit their listing in our Independent School Directory or call them at 410-744-4251. Photos provided by Our Lady of Perpetual Help.