JUPITER | The new STREAM lab at All Saints Catholic School emphasizes several aspects of adult life that should pay dividends for today’s students in tomorrow’s workplace. While learning all the things for which the STREAM acronym stands — science, technology, religion, engineering, arts and mathematics — they’re also exposed to working as part of a team, problem solving and independent thinking.
Angela Chetalo, the STREAM lab facilitator (note that she’s not called a “teacher”), works with students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, guiding them to embrace the concepts that will help them later in life.
“In addition to all of the science, math and technology components that are imbedded in the curriculum, it’s working together,” she said. “They have to work in a group of two or three. They have to rotate who they work with. So, sometimes they’re not with their friends.”
The lab consists of SmartLab kits that students are directed to assemble during multiple class sessions. Each kit includes background information that helps develop skills in reading, research, math and critical thinking to successfully complete the project. The students present their findings to the larger group and are urged to reflect on how the work progressed with their partners.
Some of the advanced kits involve coding a computer device in order to build it, such as a robot or drone. Another kit teaches students how to build a solar oven, which they use to boil water, and learn about areas in the world where clean running water is practically unheard of.
Michelle Kleisley, school technology director, said that learning to work with others is a valuable life skill.
“Sometimes you have to work with people you don’t see eyeto- eye with or you’re not really crazy about working with them, but you’ve got a project to finish,” she said. “You’re working for a company and you’ve got to work with this department and you don’t want to, but you’ve got to get that project done. It’s these little life skills that this kind of learning opportunity really brings out.”
All Saints recently announced that it received accreditation as a Catholic STREAM school from the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops. The announcement explained that STREAM programs provide “a personalized, experiential, project-based, real-world learning experience across various disciplines, while promoting and integrating Catholic identity and teachings.”
Chetalo, a longtime math teacher with a math and science background, grades student performance a bit differently than in other classes, giving students an O for outstanding, G for good, etc. At every session, she gives them a grade of 1 through 5 based on engagement and focus. When they complete their project and present it, she gives them points, maybe up to 25, Chetalo said.
“It’s more about teaching them to work hard, to refocus and not give up, than to have a perfect project,” she said. “Those type A’s — I’m one of them — those ones who want 100, have a different experience here. They have the frustrations that some of the strugglers feel in the regular classroom, and they have to work through them.”
In some ways, the STREAM lab is an antidote to the difficulties that many students experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We’re hoping this will bring back that creativity, the independent thinking, the questioning and collaborating,” said Kleisley, who added that Chetalo is great at helping students learn by questioning and trial and error.
The lab, which was paid for through multiple funding sources such as grants and parish support, gives students the chance to learn and be creative, Chetalo said. They’re used to wanting to know how to do something to get a good grade. She tells them that their goal is to successfully complete each project. How they achieve that is up to them.
“Since I’m a facilitator, I’m not going to teach them how to do what they’re doing,” Chetalo said, adding that she encourages the youngsters, especially the seventh- and eighth-graders, to thoroughly read the project material before jumping in and trying to build, which will prompt fewer questions and mistakes in the long run.
Kleisley said the STREAM lab has become one of the students’ favorite places to be on the All Saints campus. The curriculum combines many different subjects and helps students become independent learners.
“This really challenges them to go beyond,” she said. “I think this will be a very valuable opportunity for many of them.”
As an announcement from Principal Jill Broz said, “The pastor board, administration, faculty and staff and families are truly excited about this new learning space. This new lab certainly helps our school live our mission by encouraging students to open their hearts to the Lord, their minds to learning, and their talents toward service to others.”