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Why Catholic? Meet Bishop Nelson J. Perez

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Creating a new learning curve

Northeast Ohio Catholic Magazine

January 18, 2019

Student in Science Lab

As Bishop Nelson Perez visits schools across the eight-county diocese, students and teachers enjoy sharing their knowledge and expertise with him. He has seen television studios like the new one at St. Albert the Great School in North Royalton where students prepare daily announcements. He even taped a greeting for the student body in the TV studio at Elyria Catholic High School.

At Benedictine High School in Cleveland, he saw how students created intricately carved wooden crucifixes using special equipment. Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School in Cleveland gave him a tiny plastic Viking helmet that students created on a 3D printer.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Technology and state-of-the-art learning are part of nearly every school curriculum. Catholic schools have as much – if not more in some cases — to offer than their public school counterparts.

Many schools are pursuing STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — programs which integrate these disciplines into the curriculum. Some take it to another level— STEAM — adding the arts and still others opt for STREAM, which includes religion for a more comprehensive learning experience.

The blackboards and chalk of 20th century classrooms have been replaced by Smartboards, interactive White Boards and other technology. Many schools also provide laptops or tablets to students.

St. Edward High School in Lakewood recently opened its new Joseph & Helen Lowe Institute for Innovation, a 32,000-square-foot facility designed to enhance the culture of innovation and to empower the community at the all-boys’ school to create, collaborate, experiment,de- sign, engineer, prototype and launch new ideas.

“You create a culture just by committing to a vision and then making that vision operational every single day and making every hour count,” said Nick Kuhar, the school’s director of innovation. After accepting the newly created position, Nick toured some of the country’s most innovative high schools to see their facilities, courses, programming, software and skills taught to students in the sciences and humanities.

“I honestly felt St. Ed’s is right up there with those schools. It’s just a matter of getting the rest of the country to notice that we should be part of the innovation conversation,” he added.

Innovation and technology also can involve personal experiences like Trinity High School’s pre-professional internship program that helps prepare students for careers.

The program allows 250 students in grades 10-12 at the coeducational school in Garfield Heights an opportunity to participate in a broad range of internships. One senior hoping for a career in film production and special effects worked with the Greater Cleveland Film Commission. Another who was thinking about being a sports physician spent one day per week providing hands-on patient care at the Cleveland Clinic, and a sophomore eyeing a career as a scientist prepared fossils for display at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

Trinity High School students in scrubs

Trinity’s program gives students an advantage of gaining experience and a deep understanding of their potential career paths before graduation.

Another unique learning opportunity is the Anatomage Table at St. Joseph Academy in Cleveland. Billed as the most technologically advanced anatomy visualization system on the market, the device allows students to work with equipment they will encounter in the medical field, helping to prepare them for future success. The all-girls’ school is the first high school in Northeast Ohio to have the Anatomage Table, which arrived in 2017.

The device is loaded with more than 1,400 high- resolution 3D images, and displays with the touch of a finger. Students can view CT scans — including cadavers, the human heart, animal anatomyandskulls from the Smithsonian. The Anatomage Table enables teachers to demonstrate the various functions of the human body on an interactive level where it can also be isolated — blood, organs, muscles, the brain, spinal cordandskin.

“As a visual learner, it is easier for me to understand anatomy since it is in an interactive and high-definition way. It is interesting to see how our body’s systemsinter- acttogether,” said student Lucy Casper.

Students learning at the anatomy table

Elementary schools have joined the innovation movement as well. St. Vincent de Paul School in Akron, which earned the STEM designation in 2016, incorporates technology into every grade level from preschool to eighth grade. All students have iPads to enhance their technology education. Preschoolers visit the technology and engineering center — which was created from a large storage area near the school gym — weekly and are taught to start thinking in three dimensions. Grades K-3 spend two days a week in the center and grades 4-8 visit three times weekly.

Akron is the home of the Soap Box Derby and some of the cars are hung on the technology room walls. Older students can disassemble and reassemble some of the cars in order to try and improve them under the guidance of Jeff Koncz, the school’s engineering/STEM teacher.

Third-graders recently designed and built toothpick bridges to help acquaint them with dimensions, engineeringandstrength for structures while fourth-graders designed furniture to learn scale and proportion. Older students dabbled with robotics using special kits that include small motors.

Students at Incarnate Word Academy in Parma Heights use their technology expertise to adapt toys for children with disabilities. Sixteen seventh- and eighth-graders meet monthly for the Replay for Kids Workshop, said Karen Micheli, technology instructor.

IWA students also design projects in a drawingpro- gramand output them on a machine called Boxzy,a milling, 3D and laser engraving device. They are working on laser engravings that could be given to hospitalized veterans or as part of a package for the homeless. Seventh- and eighth-graders in the after-school roboticspro- gramparticipated in the Hummingbird Robotics garden project. They made the garden come alive by programming motors, sensors and LED lights. Karen said it was a true STEAM project that included collaboration with art teacher Claire Kovacs and fourth-grade teacher Mary Beth Schram.

Student learning about robotics

“Getting on my students’ wavelength and takingsome-thingthat can be boring or monotonous and turning it into something fun was always my goal. I wanted to give my students a memorable experience every chance I could,” said Nick, summing up the excitement of the innovation movement at St. Ed’s and in Catholic schools across the diocese.

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