STEM, STEAM, STREAM. These buzzwords have floated around the academic world for many years, but how do they apply to The Franciscan School (TFS)? For the last several years, students at TFS have created STEM projects, including our long-standing annual science fair. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Math. This acronym was first created in 2001 as a movement to help students prepare for today’s high-tech jobs. But since then, it has become so much more than jobs. By the addition of “A” into STEAM, Arts helps the holistic development of students and reinforces STEM concepts. Finally, “R” was added in many Catholic Schools to create STREAM, which gives the entire structure an underlying foundation of Religion in our lives. Many secular schools joined by adding an R for Reading, and TFS, of course, incorporates reading in all we do as an essential skill for high-tech, low-tech, and all jobs. But at the heart of STREAM, whatever the acronym, it advocates for an integrated curriculum that ultimately teaches kids how to think critically and be prepared for the world ahead of them.
For the 2021-2022 school year, TFS has formally launched our STREAM initiative into the school, but not as a separate, stand-alone program. With the leadership of Kayla Dellinger (Technology Coordinator) and Tina Kollauf (Media Center Specialist), this program has been designed to integrate into all classrooms, all grade levels, and in the media center and technology lab. “At TFS, we encourage students to be lifelong learners,” says Dellinger. “By embracing new initiatives and technologies, teachers are showing students that there is always something new to learn.” In its inaugural year, Dellinger and Kollauf have tied the program into the school’s One Book, One School initiative, as well as with curriculum concepts across grade levels. In September, one day was dedicated to all grade levels working on STREAM activities related to our first One Book, One School read-aloud, “Carl and the Meaning of Life.”
Dellinger emphasizes that the STREAM program at TFS provides hands-on experiences that engage and motivate students to take control of their own learning. And because STREAM is being used as an umbrella program across regular class environments, it helps to provide deeper and wider learning experiences for our students. So far, students at TFS have designed playground equipment, prayer spaces, towers, pumpkin catapults, amusement park rides, marble mazes, bubble wands, 3D printed containers, sleds, acorn parachutes, structures for levitating paper clips, Christmas ornaments, and so much more!
At TFS, STREAM gives students the opportunity to practice many skills that they will need for the future, including problem solving, troubleshooting, overcoming obstacles, embracing failure, interacting with different materials, collaboration, compromise, teamwork, logic, and inquiry. These skills are useful not only in classrooms, but also in social settings and in working with others to complete a task.
TFS Principal Mike Watson, whose support has been instrumental in the development of the program, says “These are skills that everyone will need in any future academic and employment scenario. Introducing and developing those skills early in their academic lives will give our students an advantage on their future success.” With the school’s motto of faith, academics, and service, Watson is also pleased with how faith and the arts can be woven into the program and in line with our Franciscan charism.
Watson and Dellinger are excited as to how well the STREAM program is progressing in its first year, as well as its wide-spread embrace by faculty and students. The future is bright as students get their hands and feet dirty in science, technology, religion, engineering, arts, and math!