ORCHARD PARK — The start of the new school year can be overwhelming, especially at a STREAM school. At a welcome-back meeting at St. John Vianney School, faculty informed parents of the fun opportunities it will be offering its students this year. These opportunities have allowed the school to take STREAM to the next level.
Pre-K students will be utilizing STREAM Sprouts throughout the year, which teachers said have enhanced the pre-K experience tenfold. The pre-K and kindergarten classes took advantage of opportunities offered for them at the Buffalo Zoo. They were able to get a guided tour and secret access to places that are not normally open to the public.
The school is also now offering a kitchen chem class to students in grades two through four, 20 of whom had signed up as of last month. Melody Nardone, a technology teacher, said students are excited to compete in the X-STREAM Games, hosted yearly at St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute in Kenmore. This year, they will be held on Dec. 4. For part of the technology curriculum, she will be implementing Robotics in addition to the eighth-grade curriculum, and the students will also have a chance to participate in the Hour of Code using the website www.code.org. Students have played coding games inspired by characters from "Frozen" and "Star Wars," as well as traditional arcade-inspired games.
"I am blessed to have completed my Rockin' Rollercoasters STREAM academy. These students had a blast learning about the physics of rollercoasters. They practically begged me to take them to Cedar Point for a field trip. What was phenomenal about this experience, was students were able to build a motion simulated rollercoaster online," Nardone said. "They then used that to build their coasters out of recyclable materials. Pretty neat, wouldn't you think? The issue was finding a safe place to store our coasters. We thought the school stage was sufficient. Unfortunately, there was a basketball game, and our coasters got destroyed."
Nardone recalled how she remembered looking at the students' faces when they saw that all of their hard work had been demolished right in front of them. She told them that instead of letting this defeat them, they were going to use this experience to build bigger and better rollercoasters next time. She purchased additional materials, and the students were able to finish their updated coasters in one afterschool session.
"This was an amazing life lesson - when faced with adversity, you can choose to let it defeat you, or you can rise above it. We chose to rise above it. Needless to say, they are pumped to be competing in the X-STREAM Games," Nardone added.
According to Nardone, there will be several afterschool STREAM academies going on during the school year. In the classroom, the school has rolled out the new engineering curriculum and teachers are loving it, she said, noting faculty "can't wait" to have students perform these activities the week before Christmas vacation. Instead of seeing a movie, students will be broken into groups to complete various engineering activities.
"Some of our teachers have completed training at the Buffalo Museum of Science for their ESP kits. These kits will be implemented in their lesson plan in early spring. Some of the kits include pollination, weather, rocketry and magnets. Can you believe that our students will be building their own rocket as part of their science curriculum?" she reflected.
Nardone concluded that STREAM has taken over the school, and teachers are embracing it with open arms. The school is striving to be STEM accredited, and Nardone felt the school has been well on its way to achieving that merit based on everything it has done so far.
"Being a Cohort II school, we have learned quite a bit from last year. We know what worked, what didn't work, and we tweaked and added to the curriculum to accommodate and enrich our students. From field trips, public speakers, after school programs, and the STREAM curriculum, we take pride in being the model STREAM school," Nardone added.