St. Mary School Chardon may appear to be a traditional Catholic school from the outside, but step inside and you will see inquiry-based learning and students engaged with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) all around. St. Mary School Chardon is the first and only school in Geauga County to receive the Ohio Department of Education’s STEM designation. Thanks to new legislation, elementary schools are now able to receive the designation, but it is not easily given. St. Mary School has been working on the application process and visiting Columbus to meet with the STEM committee throughout the year. This process helped the school further solidify the teaching that takes place at St. Mary Chardon and plan for continued learning adventures in the future. The Ohio STEM Learning Network committee consists of the superintendent of public instruction, representatives from the departments of Higher Education and Development, and four appointed members of the public with expertise in business or STEM fields.
Principal Mary Petelin said, “This was a team effort in collaboration with faculty, students, partners, parents, PTU, and parishioners and led by the principal and STEM coordinator. St. Mary School Chardon holds a vision of continuing and growing relationships with their STEM Partners, which include iSTEM High School, Holden Arboretum, Hiram College, Total Micro Technology, Parker and many more. A mutual collaboration with our partners in business and the community will only enhance our students’ educational experience and better prepare them for the future.”
This year St. Mary students participated in many cross-curricular experiences that start with a problem and work to a solution, utilizing all subject areas to do so. Junior High students participated in the Cleveland Clinic Partners in Design program to help create a new app that could be utilized with inhalers, in addition to general distance learning opportunities, which earned the school the distinction of also becoming a Cleveland Clinic Banner School for the year. Junior High students also worked on a STEM aligned musical and a Punkin’ Chuckin’ catapult challenge making their learning both exciting and fun! Lower hall students took on a “One Hall-One Book” exploration of The BFG by Roald Dahl. The elementary students worked to build ladders, test states of matter, and much more throughout their reading. All families were invited to step into the pages of the book, which were built into the halls of the school a result of design challenges tackled by students grades K-5. The entire school fused service learning and STEM into a “One Nation Under God” project culminating in the creation of a United States Flag, which was flown over the school for the anniversary of 9/11. Next year the school has already planned to solve a lunch problem by investigating ways the school can build its own greenhouse to supplement the lunch program offerings. Full descriptions of theses projects and many more are available on the school’s website: St. Mary’s School Chardon.
All of these examples underscore the rigorous cross-curricular, problem-based, real world inquiry learning that is the fabric of St. Mary Chardon. It is an environment that is carefully and thoughtfully crafted by educators at weekly level meetings and with an eye to taking advantage of teachable moments and real-life design challenges as they come.
St. Mary Principal Mary Petelin explains, “STEM is a pedagogy of learning that promotes rigorous inquiry based, real world, problem solving centered learning that prepares students for college and beyond. At St. Mary School Chardon the engineering and design model has been adopted that also includes critical thinking, collaboration, and communication.”
The Department of Education states, “Designation of STEM schools is one of the reforms that puts our state at the forefront of education. Moreover, designation is how our state preserves certain core pieces of what we mean by “STEM.” These are requirements like:
- Non-selective admissions
- Real-world learning through partnerships with local businesses
While STEM designation has been open to middle and high school since 2008, the Ohio education community has spoken loud and clear on the need for STEM education to start earlier. The sooner students see STEM values like critical thinking and problem solving, the sooner they can build the skills tomorrow demands.”
St. Mary School has continually partnered with businesses and organizations to help bring STEM learning to the school. Through the STEM designation process, the school has also formed Curriculum and Governing Boards that are helping the school to achieve its goal and ensure that the STEM designation is lively and on going for years to come.
Junior high math teacher Julie Fedak says, “Partnerships within the community help to enhance the curriculum presented in school. Working with real-world experts helps our children know what is important in their future careers.” Parent and Development Director said, “As a parent, I’m excited to see my children’s school keep a Catholic School identity, but also push the limits of learning to the next level. My children not only work on the most relevant STEM content, but also continue to learn about service and spirituality everyday”.
St. Mary Chardon is a Catholic School for students preschool through 8 where students are encouraged to develop academically in an environment of faith, with a vision for the future. For information, visit St. Mary’s School Chardon or contact: [email protected] or Phone: 440-286-3590.
Pictured In Cover Photo: St. Mary staff, Julie Fedak, Amber Yeager and Mary Petelin visit the Ohio Department of Education for final approval of the school’s STEM designation.