Magazine article Momentum

Full STREAM Ahead

Magazine article Momentum

Full STREAM Ahead

Article excerpt

The three-year-olds were presented with a problem: How can we design and build a house that the wolf won't be able to huff and puff and blow down? Provided with plastic soda straws, some marshmallows and string, the pre-kindergarteners got going on the design of a house that, when they applied a blow dryer, stood proud and tall. "What did we do," asked the teacher, "to build the right house for the three pigs?" And so a typical day of STREAM teaching began.

When the city of Buffalo, New York undertook the building of what has become known as "The Medical Corridor" in downtown Buffalo, a major influx of money and minds was created. The "Buffalo Billions" has meant that 6.5 million square feet, 120 acres of research, teaching, treating and innovation is being constructed, with the promise of new and distinctly different jobs in the offing.

Since the Catholic Center is at the very edge of this huge project, the Department of Catholic Schools realized that our schools would be expected to produce the workforce prepared with skills and experiences heretofore unimagined for the exciting jobs being created.

We had read and researched the STEM programs being implemented around the country, and decided that this approach to teaching was what was needed to reinvigorate our schools. But first we had to make sure that we maintained our Catholic identity, so we added A for arts, and the R for religion. Thus was born our STREAM: Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics-an integrated approach to educating techsawy, cosmopolitan, 21st century students.

In January 2014, we engaged several media companies to design our STREAM logo, produce outdoor advertising, create social media sites with Instagram, Facebook and Google, and purchase TV and radio spots. Even before we took practical steps to implement our STREAM program, we got the message out to everyone in Western New York.

While the surrounding school districts toyed with STEM programs, the Diocese of Buffalo went full STREAM ahead. In February 2014, the department hired a STREAM coordinator, Jean Comer, to focus on bringing the program to the schools for the 2014-2015 school year. Comer was a teacher in one of our schools and had, with the support of her principal, designed units that already functioned as STREAM programs. She hit the ground running, making community contacts, designing teaching modules, securing materials and creating an infrastructure that would support this effort.

When NCEA, in cooperation with the University of Dayton, offered the first STREAM conference, we were on board immediately. Our coordinator, along with several teachers and principals, attended the conference and networked with Catholic schools from all over the country. They enhanced their knowledge through the sessions and returned to put them to good use.

We decided to do a pilot of the STREAM program and invited our principals, with letters of support from their boards and parent associations, to apply. Ten schools were selected as STREAM schools. We had a kick-off on June 5, 2014 at the Darwin Martin House, a beautiful piece of architecture designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. At this event, principals brought their own local STREAM coordinators, toured the house, learned about the architecture program available to our schools, and explored the various community resources available to our schools in the eight-county Buffalo diocese. …

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