What’s New at Your School?
In years past, education was mostly about textbooks and lectures. Now, it focuses on hands-on learning and technology in and outside of the classroom—and St. Louis is home to many schools that are taking advantage of these tools. We caught up with some that are using cutting-edge methods to prepare students for the real world.
Christian Brothers College High School
This summer, a former library space was transformed into CBC’s new, 8,000-square-foot Innovation Commons. It’s a high-tech, collaborative learning space that houses the school’s STEM Academy and Center for Leadership and Entrepreneurship. The facility includes a robotics arena, flight simulation area, drone development technology, labs, presentation rooms, workspaces and more. Director of communications Patrick Walsh says it was built in response to a growing need for strong science and technology skill sets in the workplace.
Chesterfield Montessori School
The school recently moved its Adolescent Program into a new classroom space down the street from its main campus. The new location allows students to ‘get back to nature’ on 7 acres of land where they can study plants, wildlife and habitats. Head of school Kim Schneider says the idea is to integrate kids’ understanding of the natural world into classroom subjects like mathematics, science, humanities and the arts. “It also satisfies the adolescent’s developmental need for purposeful, manual work,” she notes. Students are studying beekeeping, learning about native plants and restoring natural habitats, among other things.
St. Joseph’s Academy
The high school recently established a student chapter of the Society of Women Engineers Next Generation (SWENext) to open doors for girls interested in engineering and design. “Ours is the first school-sponsored chapter in Missouri,” says Kara Kieffer, marketing coordinator. “SWENext members can take advantage of scholarships, internships, summer camps, outreach activities and online resources from the society, and they also participate in engineering design challenges.”
Cor Jesu Academy
The high school’s Corporate Partners Initiative recently was named a ‘Powerful Practice’ by the AdvancEd Accreditation Board, according to marketing director Colleen Barry. The initiative includes a career immersion program called Exposure, Experience and Exploration that places students at work sites all over the area, where they interact with employees and participate in hands-on projects. Barry says the program helps students decide on career options and gain real-world knowledge of nonprofits and major companies.
The elementary and middle school is using a grant from Boeing to integrate LabQuest 2 Probeware into its STEAM classes, creating multisensory opportunities for kids to collect and analyze data. Touch-screen computer interfaces and different types of sensors are used to extract data for a variety of projects; some examples are light, motion, sound, temperature, chemical and gas sensors. “By experimenting with these tools, our students are becoming meaningful scientists through critical thinking and problem solving,” says Ellen Knubley, associate director of marketing and communications. “They are connecting to real-life research using technology.”
High school students at Miriam start planning for the future as early as freshman year. The school has implemented a Career Day program with representatives from various industries. It includes workplace tours to show students how employees function as a team, and summer internships at 12 different worksites. Marketing and communications manager Laurie Burstein says students also visit area colleges and universities like Webster, Fontbonne, Ranken Tech and UMSL.
Rockwood School District
Deborah Ketring, chief information officer for the district, says Rockwood is integrating Autodesk software into high school industrial design classes as part of Project Lead the Way (PLTW). “It’s an engineering and architectural drafting curriculum, and Autodesk is a suite of design tools,” she says. “The system hosts project information on a centralized server, and students can use it on their Chromebooks. In the future, they’ll be able to access PLTW projects from outside the district as well.” Ketring says the program is cost-effective because the centralized hosting allows schools to use computer hardware they already have.
Central Christian School
Innovative partnerships with other local schools and nonprofits are helping Central Christian students learn to understand and respect their peers, says Christan Perona, director of admissions and communications. “Fifth-graders regularly visit with students at Promise Christian Academy, a local school for kids with special needs,” she says. “We also have activities with the Pujols Family Foundation, which serves children with Down syndrome.” The partnerships empower students to build friendships with people from a variety of different backgrounds.