SPRINGVILLE — St. Aloysius Regional School is barreling full-steam ahead, by using creative ways to engage students in the Science Technology, Engineering Arts and Math curriculum the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo has designated to complement the Common Core curriculum. STEAM is similar to the STEM program utilized by other local districts, but adds an extra arts element, according to St. Aloysius principal Scott Kapperman.
“The way the economy is these days, we’ve all got to come up with creative ways to offer quality educational programs for kids,” Kapperman said.
One of those programs is a partnership with St. Bonaventure University in Allegany, N.Y., which provides New York state-certified graduate student teachers to help out in St. Aloysius classrooms, as well as teaching experience for the St. Bonaventure students.
The program has gathered speed since Kapperman started it, about three years ago, with a few graduate students teaching in Springville. Now, he said, it is more of a full partnership that offers mutual benefits for both parties.
“It works out well for everyone,” Kapperman said. “They get our students involved in programs at the university, and they bring a lot to the classroom, too.”
Art for Hearts is one such program, an initiative the St. Aloysius fourth grade students will undertake, this spring. Working with St. Bonaventure art students, the kids will paint canvases to be auctioned off at SBU, with proceeds’ going to hurricane Katrina relief efforts.
In the past, St. Aloysius students have also fired ceramic ornaments to be displayed at SBU’s Quick Center for the Arts and toured that facility, to learn more about the arts.
But SBU’s involvement in St. Aloysius’ STEAM efforts does not end there. Kapperman’s staff recently undertook a team-building day at the Dresser-Rand Challenger Learning Center, a space-themed facility that is designed to “strengthen knowledge and interest in STEM education and give students the chance to become astronauts and engineers and solve real-world problems as they share the thrill of discovery on missions,” according to a press release from Dresser-Rand.
“It was awesome,” Kapperman said, of the staff’s experience. The group learned unique, hands-on problem solving and leadership, as they worked together to divert a comet, in the space simulator.
“It’s a whole different way of communicating,” he said, of what his teachers learned at the facility. “Whether you’re a student or a teacher in the classroom, you’ve got to manage whatever comes your way, in each moment. You’ve got to learn to think critically, on your feet.”
The St. Aloysius fourth-sixth grade students will take a trip to the Dresser Rand facility, to experience the simulator for themselves. Kapperman said that he hopes partnerships like that will help students use the Common Core to become career-ready, what he calls “the focus of the program.
“The kids are constantly engaged,” he said, of how the Common Core is enacted, at St. Aloysius. “With Common Core, we’re using creative ways to teach children. The days of sitting in a classroom and reading from a book are long over.”
In keeping with its creative educational strategy, Kapperman said that the school is adding iPads to its arsenal of teaching tools, particularly for special needs students who can use the devices to help them succeed in the classroom.
The electronics are being purchased through a state-funded grant, which Kapperman said helped outfit the new Learning Center, as well as the iPad initiative.
“If a student has a hard time taking notes, or they have spelling or literacy issues that prevent them from taking notes, the iPad can help with all of that,” Kapperman explained. “They give students the opportunity to succeed, before they get too frustrated to try.”
Kapperman said that he sees education moving toward tools like the iPad for not only students with learning challenges, but for the whole population.
“From a cost standpoint, it makes sense,” he explained. “If you replace textbooks with iPads, you’re not paying a couple hundred for books [with every new edition]; you’re just paying for the device, the program and an update fee.
“We also get parents calling to ask why their children have so many books and saying, ‘My kid’s backpack weighs more than my child!’”
He said that the school is not yet at the point of replacing all textbooks with iPads, but he sees education heading that direction, as time goes on.
Each of these programs, Kapperman said, are geared toward enacting the school’s mission: “To provide an atmosphere of happiness, love and stability, in which each child is accepted as an individual and to utilize this uniqueness to develop strong leaders with a sense of responsibility toward church, school and community.”
St. Aloysius is located at 186 Franklin St. in Springville and can be reached by calling 592-7002 or visiting www.staloysiusregional.com.