Is a focus on STEAM consistent with a school’s Catholic Identity?
This is a crucial question. Here are some of my thoughts:
Advancing Catholic School’s Reputation for Quality
Let’s get the practical side out of the way, but put it out there nonetheless. Amplifying STEAM curriculum helps all schools, including Catholic schools, stay competitive in today’s diverse educational ecosystem.
History documents a trend of Catholic Parochial schools closing due to the rise of local charter schools.
When Rockhurst hosted the AdvancED Regional STEM Conference in March of 2018, over 60 educators from Catholic schools attended to learn how to improve their school. I believe this conference helped equip other Catholic schools to better serve their students. Traditionally, Catholic schools are not staffed with an innovation officer to serve as the school’s compass as it navigates into the future. The STEM Conference helped point schools in a positive direction. This is a good thing for Catholic education.
New Service Opportunities
When school’s leverage STEAM curricula and pedagogies, new opportunities are created that allow students to model the values of Catholics. In the last five semesters alone, Rockhurst students have 3D printed a prosthetic arm for a 4 year old, constructed a costume for a wheelchair bound 7 year old, fabricated wooden toys to give to children over the holidays, and built a database for a nonprofit organization that serves refugees. Rockhurst’s new Entrepreneurship for Others class challenges students to build a solution to help the surrounding community, much like the one-day MECA Challenge events. I believe STEAM provides a pathway for students to live out their Catholic identity.
STEAM is about Studying God’s Creation
When Brother Guy Consolmagno, S.J. addressed students in the Fall of 2016, he stated that “Studying the universe is studying God’s Creation.” STEAM is simply one more way to active religious awe. The following fall, the Rockhurst community witnessed a beautiful eclipse and preceded the astronomical wonder with a school-wide prayer.
Rockhurst has multiple maker spaces throughout the building. The Learning Commons even had a costume making contest in the month of October, which resulted in a student sewing a starry night costume, influenced by the famous work of Vincent van Gogh. Art itself participates in the act of creation. What better way to celebrate our God-given humanity?
History of Catholic Mathematicians
As a mathematician, I get most excited about the rich history of Catholic (and especially Jesuit) mathematicians. Did you know that Christopher Clavius, S.J. created the Gregorian Calendar? Moreover, he was Galieo’s teacher! The Rockhurst Math Hub is actually dubbed the Clavius Center (The idea for this name was not mine, but the mathematics department chair Joe LeRoy). I may be too biased with this subject since I wrote a 30 page paper about Jesuit mathematicians in college. I won’t paste that paper into this blog post, but I encourage you to explore this website that outlines much of this history.
STEAM Initiative’s Mission & Vision
Ultimately, Rockhurst is a Catholic, Jesuit high school. The school is about fostering life long friendships and forming Men for Others who are committed to justice (service opportunities), religious (studying God & his creation), intellectually competent (STEAM Curriculum), open to growth and loving. When I reflect on my Rockhurst experience, my lifelong friends happened mostly through sports, clubs and retreats. Even now, the most meaningful four days I spend at Rockhurst is during the time I witness young men cultivating their relationship with God during their Kairos retreat when I serve as a Kairos Director.
Over the last three years, new Jesubot friendships have been forged. Students are interacting with each other more often during instruction time in the Active Learning Classrooms - a great way to improve a student’s ability to be open to growth and loving. Furthermore, classes that focus more on projects continue to leverage these foundational Jesuit school values. For all of these reasons, the STEAM initiative’s internal Mission and Vision are written in service to Rockhurst’s Mission and Vision.
Are there other ways Rockhurst lives out its Catholic identity? ABSOLUTELY.
This is the beauty of St. Ignatius’s wise words of “Finding God in All Things.”
When I honestly pray and reflect on where the STEAM initiative fits into Rockhurst’s Catholic identity, I feel the Good Spirit at work. Through the lens of STEAM, the school’s Catholic Identity is crystal clear.
Happy Easter! Greg Owsley, class of ‘00