Young students of SS. Peter & Paul School in Williamsville had a surprise as they got off the bus for the first day of class, Sept. 3. Bishop Richard J. Malone welcomed each of them and promised them an exciting year ahead.
SS. Peter & Paul is one of 10 STREAM schools in the diocese. The STREAM initiative incorporates science, technology, religion, engineering, arts and math into a curriculum, with students learning a subject across the different disciplines. For example, when the sixth grade learns about Greece, they will read about the history in social studies, make models of Greek columns in art class, and hold Olympic competitions in in gym. Students can expect a year full of discovery and creation through hands-on learning.
Father Jerome Kopec, pastor of SS. Peter & Paul Parish, explained the new initiative by telling the students they will "go from subject to subject, taking what they learned in one subject and bringing it back to the next subject."
During his visit Bishop Malone took part in a science experiment in Carol Quinn's fifth-grade class and met the class pet, a bearded dragon. As a thank you for visiting, the students presented the bishop with a SS. Peter & Paul fleece jacket and water bottle, which he said he would wear while walking his dog. SS. P&P graduate Alex Quinn gave the bishop of portrait he had drawn.
Even though this was the first day of class, students got into the flow of STREAM right away. Sophia Young and Olivia Zon, both fifth-graders, did some experiments with "gunk," a product made for the sake of experimenting.
"Gunk is a mixture of different things. Right now, we're using glue, starch and salt to make something sticky. Then we test it out and make observations," explained Young, 10.
"We're learning how gunk is, what does it look like and how does it feel and if it stretches. We're learning its velocity and if its elastic," added Zon, also 10.
Along with the STREAM program, SS. Peter & Paul boasts a remedial program, rare in Catholic schools, that employs full-time remedial teachers and a specialized learning center.
"That's something we work really hard for, so that even children with learning difficulties can still get a Catholic education," Father Kopec said.
Bishop Malone has been a part of Catholic education since he was a student himself. He has taught religion on the high school and college levels, and served as secretary of education for the Archdiocese of Boston. He still plans his vacations based on the school calendar.
"I'm always very much at home and happy to be among students like yourselves," he told the nearly 350 students gathered in the school gym.
The bishop said he supports the STREAM curriculum100 percent.
"It is a way to make what is already, very good schools academically, even better," he said. "Our Catholic schools have high ratings nationally for the wonderful education they provide, and how they really form our children to be, as they grow up, healthy human beings, good citizens and good Christians. It seems to me the STREAM initiative, keeping religion at the center, will help to prepare these students for good employment in the future."
Despite the closing of 10 parish schools last June, the bishop said he felt excited about the new academic year.
"I'm hoping it will be across the diocese in our 35 elementary schools, a sense of hope and freshness and moving forward with a real sense of confidence about what we are. The sad thing about the closing of the schools, which I thoroughly believe was necessary but I know painful, really was to stabilize the whole system of schools. And hopefully we've done that now," he said.
Carol Kostyniak, secretary for Catholic Education, Sister Carol Cimino, SSJ, superintendent of Catholic Schools, and Jean Comer, diocesan STREAM coordinator, also took part in the visit to the school.