By KELCY DOLAN
This summer nearly a third of the Catholic schools within the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence participated in a professional development program created by the Roger Williams …
By KELCY DOLAN
This summer nearly a third of the Catholic schools within the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence participated in a professional development program created by the Roger Williams University’s Professional Education Center.
The center, based on the university’s Providence campus, creates personalized educational programs for businesses, non-profits and even government agencies looking to provide their staff with secondary training.
The program for the Diocese was to help educators take STEM to STEAM. STEM stands for the academic disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, all subjects that have had a push in classrooms over the last decade. STEAM is the incorporation of the arts as a means of teaching the other topics.
Tom Pilecki, co-author of “From STEM to STEAM: Using Brain-Compatible Strategies to Integrate the Arts” and instructor for the Professional Education Center’s program, has helped create and foster similar programs across the country, serving more than 100,000 children and their educators.
He said in a press release, “Educators incorporating STEAM teaching and learning strategies become a lot more engaged and collaborative with their peers because STEAM forces them to come up with extraordinary new and creative ways to deliver the curriculum they’ve been teaching the same way for a number of years.”
More than 70 teachers and administrators attended the workshop, which ended Aug. 19; several of the participants were from locally based schools, including St. Peter, St Rose of Lima and St. Kevin Schools. The program included a three-day workshop where participants collaborated with one another to create lesson plans using STEAM principles that could be used within their school’s curriculums and sharing best practices with one another. Schools are expected to start using STEAM project-based curriculums this fall.
Jamie E. Scurry, dean of the School of Continuing Studies at RWU, which runs the Professional Education Center, said STEAM is a growing nationwide trend, “but the Catholic school district led by Diocese of Providence may be one of the only school systems implementing it at this level throughout its district.”
An example of a STEAM project would be students constructing a giant clock, physically turning the hands to help in learning how to tell time. Similarly, in learning about variables in math, students can use music, clapping out a beat and adding different musical “variables,” to understand the concept.
Daniel J. Ferris, superintendent of schools for the Diocese, said in a press release, on top of student achievement, it is “professionally very satisfying” to see interdisciplinary and collaborative work between teachers, even from different grades.
“This level of creativity is what Catholic schools do well. We have the instructional nimbleness and flexibility to be able to work together and affect quality classroom instruction in a very creative way,” he said.
Lori Healey, the kindergarten teacher from St. Rose of Lima, said that the “worthwhile” workshop was all about creativity.
“Students get to be creative as individuals with STEAM, and teachers get to be creative in their curriculums. Both parties are learning through that creativity,” she said.
Healey attended the workshop with two other teachers from St. Rose and said the three of them plan on continuing with the workshop, helping to bring it to the rest of the teachers at their school to integrate STEAM school-wide.
Although she believes St. Rose was already incorporating STEM principles, this workshop and the new STEAM ideal is bringing children’s education to the next level.
She said subjects like math and science are often times taught out of the text, but said with STEAM that doesn’t have to be the case; students can come to better understand the concepts within each subject through “hands-on experiential learning.”
“The arts component is what keeps students interested,” Joan Sickinger, principal of St. Peter School, said. “Art uses a whole different cognitive part of the mind, one that keeps students engaged. If students are engaged, they are more apt to learn and remember material.”
Sickinger attended the workshop with five of her teachers.
Because the arts is such a broad term, concerning anything from theatre to writing to music, teachers really have a wide array of possibilities in incorporating STEAM into their curriculums.
To begin, Sickinger said, their teachers will try and have one collaborative STEAM project each trimester.
Sickinger said as the schools continue with the program, and they define curriculums, STEAM would become an integral part to the school year.
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