The Archdiocese of Baltimore will offer science, technology, engineering and math programs in seven of its elementary schools, including in Anne Arundel and Howard counties, during the coming school year, diocesan officials said Friday.
The schools include Resurrection-St. Paul School in Ellicott City, which in 2009 became one of only 13 schools in the diocese to receive the National Blue Ribbon of Excellence award, and St. Jane Frances de Chantal School in Pasadena, which launched an after-school STEM Club for junior high students this year.
The archdiocese recently developed formal criteria for designating STEM schools as part of its efforts last March to invest in new initiatives to keep its schools competitive, officials said.
There's been a greater emphasis on developing the sciences in education throughout the country.
"The work of these schools and their partnerships with the higher education and private industry will create a network of affiliates and begin to build a cadre of instructional mentors for our elementary school faculty and students," Barbara McGraw Edmondson, archdiocese interim superintendent of schools, said in a prepared statement.
Both Resurrection-St. Paul and St. Jane Frances had already taken significant steps in enhancing their math and sciences programs well before receiving the STEM designation.
At Resurrection-St. Paul, seventh- and eighth-grade science and math teacher Nick Caputo participated last year in the state's STEM Portfolio Project, which is designed to improve teaching and learning in STEM subjects.
Caputo's school Web page includes a section on evolution and natural selection that includes the topic, "Thought Experiment: Who Would Win and Why?" It asks such questions as which species would prevail — wildebeests or zebras — if an overpopulation of lions covered Africa.
In 2007, the Ellicott City-based branding agency eCity Corp. donated to Resurrection-St. Paul 175 story books titled "eCoEd" that promoted recycling as part of the school's earth science curriculum.
Resurrection-St. Paul's Blue Ribbon designation — the highest academic honor given by the U.S. Department of Education — was the first for an Archdiocese of Baltimore school in Howard County since Trinity School in Ellicott City in 1990.
At St. Jane Frances, 23 junior high students took part in the school's launch of a STEM Club, meeting twice a month for in-depth studies about math and the sciences.
In addition, the school offers a Science Club where students take part in projects that generate from classroom discussions. Among the activities they engage in are learning about the physics of slime.
St. Jane Frances has STEM programs in third through eighth grade, with an emphasis on sixth through eighth grade, said Principal Michelle Jones. The school's sixth grade is building roller coasters that demonstrate speed and velocity.
They are starting the rides from the top of the science lab cabinets and are using all recyclable material, Jones said. They also built their own skyscrapers and used fans to test which could withstand varying degrees of wind, she said.
"You have to take the energy and enthusiasm of the children but you have to keep the structure of it," said Jones. "You have to be willing to work with their enthusiasm.
"That's one of the things we've worked with, that the children have to have that creativity and freedom to imagine because that's what experiment is about, but they have to have the data and the resources to make good, informed hypotheses and opinions."
The other schools that will receive the STEM program are Holy Angels Catholic School in Baltimore, Immaculate Conception School in Towson, Our Lady of Grace School in Parkton, St. Joan of Arc School in Aberdeen and St. John Regional School in Frederick.
The STEM announcement comes as the diocese prepares to take part in National Catholic Schools Week; it will host events and activities throughout this coming week.