A brand new STREAM of thinking

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — Expanding on the popular learning initiatives STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) and STEAM (adding “a” for arts), St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School has added “r” for religion to make it STREAM.

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St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School students Ali Harvey, Olivia Kahler, Elliott Holmer and Brianna Biemann build a structure out of marshmallows and toothpicks as part of the after-school STEM club at the Davenport school.

Principal Julie Delaney said she learned about STREAM through the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA). “I thought it was a great concept and thought it’s not much of a stretch from what we are doing now. It’s not a new curriculum. It is a framework for creative instruction.”

After looking into STREAM and learning how other Catholic schools in the United States have implemented it, she talked with her school’s Board of Education about implementing it. “They were 100 percent behind this.” Her leadership team at the school, comprised of various faculty and staff, were also supportive. “We realized we do a lot of what is in this program already.”

Last month, Delaney introduced the STREAM concept during an in-service day for faculty and staff.

She gave teachers 45 minutes to figure out how STREAM could be implemented into a particular topic they were teaching. Occasionally, it might be challenging to get every single area covered in a class, such as gym or art. But she was impressed with the ideas that teachers suggested.

“This is a work in progress and we are taking this one step at a time. Once we’ve assessed where we are, we can see what areas me might need to beef up.” The initiative is being introduced in the classrooms, although weather-related school closings slowed down the roll-out a bit.
STREAM goals aim to incorporate Catholic identity into every aspect of curriculum, be forward thinking, provide a challenging learning environment and engage 21st century learners. The initiative complements Iowa Core, which sets the benchmarks and skills that students need to attain at each grade level. Adding STREAM enhances and expands the learning process, Delaney said. It can “increase critical thinking and get more students engaged.” Students have more opportunities to demonstrate their writing, arts and sciences skills.
Delaney is checking into STREAM certification or an endorsement. Some dioceses have their own certification. She is looking for a standard. This coming summer she hopes to send some faculty members to an NCEA-sponsored STREAM institute to expand their knowledge of the initiative.

As this school year progresses, teachers complete a form about how STREAM is being applied in a classroom topic. The information will be compiled in a binder for all faculty and staff to see what is being done and to spark ideas for others on how to address certain topics.
Traditional STEM has been popular at St. Paul’s, which also offers an after-school STEM club. Spots are limited, so when it is offered it is first-come, first-serve to participate each session. Students focus mainly on engineering, having built small-scale catapults and bridges for instance.

“This should be a seamless process to incorporate into our lessons,” Delaney said of STREAM.

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