Don’t Let a Good Disruption Go to Waste

The following blog was contributed by Anne Schafer-Salinas, director of virtual learning at Incarnate Word High School in San Antonio, TX.

The 2020 – 2021 year is destined to be included in history books of the future. As the world emerges from pandemic living, schools are just as poised as any organization to learn from the last 15 months and shift where appropriate. 

Our goal as Catholic school educators is to prepare future generations to be compassionate, creative and collaborative. That is what we have inherited from the Brothers and Sisters who founded our schools. Education has always been a central tenet of our faith and the longevity of Catholic schools is a testament to the value placed upon education by our collective community. It is important that we find ways to offer the best of Catholic education while maintaining pace with global trends if we expect our campuses to thrive and prepare our students for the world that they will inherit.

This intersection of valued Catholic education and global evolution is what has propelled us to commit to offering a virtual campus in tandem with our brick-and-mortar school. The pandemic has highlighted that not all students thrive in a traditional setting and as Catholic educators, we have a responsibility to design innovative ways to serve our families. Families have also been able to capitalize on the mobility that virtual learning has offered. As the pandemic recedes in our country (thank you science!), schools are planning for the year ahead in what many are calling “a return to normalcy.” At Incarnate Word High School, we are taking advantage of the disruption to move ahead with a plan that had been in the pipeline to launch in a couple of years.  We are doing this with great intention. 

Our school, Incarnate Word High School in San Antonio, was founded by and is an active ministry of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word (CCVI Sisters). You can learn more about this amazing group of women online. In an interesting parallel, it was the cholera pandemic in Texas in 1869 that first brought the CCVI Sisters to the United States. As part of their commitment to “a life for God and a heart for others” the CCVI Sisters established several orphanages and schools. Over the past 140 years, IWHS has evolved as the needs changed: from a K-8 to an all-girls high school and eventually adding a university campus. Now another pandemic is propelling the school into its next iteration as we prepare to welcome our first virtual students this fall. The tradition entrusted to us by the CCVI Sisters of providing education to those who needed one has positioned Incarnate Word High School to successfully launch a virtual campus and continue to meet the needs of the young women seeking a strong Catholic education. 

Some schools will see what we are doing as challenging the status quo. I would offer, however, that we are continuing the legacy our founders instilled in us. We are providing an avenue that will allow more families to stay in the Catholic school system. There are many families who find that they cannot continue with a Catholic high school due to geography, health or accessibility. If Incarnate Word Virtual High School can create a pathway for some of these families to stay in the Catholic school system, it’s a win for all of us.

Many lessons have been learned in the last 15 months. It is what we do with those lessons that will define the next 15 months and beyond.

If you would like to connect and talk more about what we are doing here at Incarnate Word High School, please feel free to reach out. You can find me at: and on Twitter (@APAnnie7), LinkedIn and Clubhouse. To learn more about Incarnate Word High School, please visit our website:

Three Tips for Summer Rejuvenation

The following blog was contributed by Jill Annable, executive director for academic excellence at the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA).

“Trust. You do not have to know it all.” The words startled me. I was merely stepping out of noon Mass alongside an NCEA member superintendent while on a diocesan visit. The pastor stopped us in our tracks, pointed at me and said those words: “Trust. You do not have to know it all.” He felt it on his heart to tell me and I was reminded that the Holy Spirit speaks to us in this way if we are willing to listen. I did not personally know him and he was unaware of my visit, but his words were exactly what I needed.

Days later, I am still reflecting on its truth. For the past 15 months, we have each felt the pressure to know a little bit of everything, in fields well beyond education, in order to serve the families of our schools. For all of us collectively moving at this cheetah’s pace, what comes next?

We rest. We pray in thanksgiving. Reflect. Rejuvenate. Unable to slow your brain and unsure where to begin? Let’s focus on three strategies:

1. Put up the email vacation responder.

We all know you didn’t take any family vacation last summer. Instead, you were likely on weekly calls with your county health department and speed-writing a pandemic plan. You delivered a successful school year full of meaningful family partnership and academic excellence. We all recognize you cannot actually walk away from your inbox for eight solid weeks, but you can give yourself the mental permission to use an email vacation responder. Looking for an example? Try this one adapted from Michele Watson, principal of Holy Spirit Catholic School in Overland Park, Kansas, which reads:

We are all on a well-deserved and most needed summer break. Our summer hours are ___. I will be responding to email and voicemails intermittently throughout the summer. If you need something outside of our summer hours, please call ___.

It’s hard to argue with its honesty, and its message still attends to its recipients. Encourage your faculty and colleagues to follow suit.

2. Read for pleasure.

Last summer, each hour brought a new layer of crisis that seemingly required immediate reaction. We constantly scanned news feeds and obscure education blogs. In contrast, what’s on this summer’s reading list? In light of its five year anniversary, come back to encyclical letter Laudato Si’ while lying in a hammock. Ponder Philosophy 101 by Socrates for a few minutes each morning. Indulge in a mindless fictional summer mystery with your toes in the sand.

And if you must, read specifically in relation to your ministry in Catholic education. The NCEA bookstore has you covered.

3. Don’t know everything.

Hide your phone for the night. Eat outdoors. Sleep in. Skip the beauty routine. Laugh. Dodge the nightly news once or twice. Take the long route on a walk. Read the extra bedtime story your grandkids beg for. Order the double scoop. Most importantly, rejoice in the acceptance that none of us were called to know or do it all. And when the slower pace is difficult, turn to the Lord for help. Consider Psalm 139:4 as a good starting place: “Even before a word is on my tongue, Lord, You know it all.” Let Him carry you.

In time, the sounds and smells of back-to-school will trigger us back to the pace we know and love. Meanwhile, in this moment of pause and deep breath, we are reminded that none of us are useful to His work in Catholic education if we are tired and weary. Thank you for delivering one of the most remarkable school years to date. Enjoy the blessings that summer brings.

Marketing Your School Is Easier Than You Think

The following blog was contributed by Margaret Kaplow, director of marketing communications, public relations and publications manager at the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA).

Tell your story. How many times have you heard that? If you have a finger in marketing at your school, you have heard this plenty. The good news is there are stories to tell in every school and NCEA has a cadre of stories you can use as you please. This blog post is not a Marketing 101 refresher, but more a signpost pointing in the direction of good stories to tell.

Good news stories attract new enrollment, fundraising opportunities, help with retention, local business partnerships, alumni interest and support and much more.  Your stories are the best way to market your school. Whether you have a part-time volunteer parent or a full-time marketing team, marketing content can be easy to find.

Start with a quick review of your school’s channels for communication. They include:

  • Website
  • Email
  • Social Media
  • Print

Once they are up to date, you’re ready to tell the good news stories of your school community. For instance:

  • Was your school open for in-person classes when other schools were not? Make sure everyone knows that and publicly thank your teachers, staff and administrators who made that happen.
  • The fact that your school has applied to be a Blue Ribbon or Green Ribbon school or for any other local or national recognition needs to be announced to your school community, just as it will be when your school is awarded the honor.
  • The number of graduates entering highly regarded high schools or moving on to college or vocational schools needs to be shared.
  • The ratio of teachers to students in your school might be the information that sways families considering Catholic school for their children.
  • The number of service projects and the names of the organizations can go a long way to helping your community understand the importance of service in Catholic education.
  • Do you have regular Masses for your school? Post the days and times and invite the community and prospective families.
  • Introducing new curriculum? How about sharing that on all your channels?
  • A schedule of professional development dates and titles tells prospective families that your school is engaged and relevant.  

There are plenty of good news stories to go around in the halls and classrooms, athletic fields and courts of your school. But if you are looking for other ideas, NCEA has some to consider: 

  • For 20 years the NAEP results have showed that Catholic schools consistently outperform public and other private schools in national assessments. Your entire community, current and prospective, needs to know this.
  • The Catholic Schools Week Year-Round Marketing Kit is a great tool to help your school devise a marketing plan that can be worked all through the school year. It also contains infographics that can be posted to your channels.
  • The data brief on New Students in Catholic Schools contains data to make your marketing message stand out for enrollment, retention and activism. This is also a great source of data on parent satisfaction.
  • Distribute the link to the NCEA Book Store to your students’ families so they can access some of the same books and resources being read and used by faculty and staff. 
  • The infographic on Catholic school data is a great visual on the highlights of Catholic schools in the U.S. And the information can be parceled out one piece of info at a time to keep your channels busy and your community informed and prospective families intrigued.

Tell your story. Put your good news to work for you.

Wondering where to go for college? A new directory of Catholic colleges and universities may help

The following blog was contributed by Quentin Wodon, the volunteer team lead for the Global Catholic Education website.

In some countries, those considering enrolling in a Catholic college or university may have a choice between a few universities or none at all. In the United States, they have a choice between up to 250 Catholic colleges and universities (depending on which institutions are included). This provides a rich array of choices, but to make a sound decision on where to apply and enroll, information is needed.

A new directory published by the Global Catholic Education project and co-sponsored by the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) and the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU) might help. By providing detailed data on all Catholic colleges and universities as well as links to their websites, the directory makes it easier for prospective students to conduct their search. In addition, the directory provides insights on four questions that most prospective students have: (1) Should I go to college?; (2) How should I select a college?; (3) How can I compare different colleges?; and finally (4) Should I go to a Catholic college? While each individual student must answer those questions for himself or herself, information provided in the directory may be useful.

1. Should I Go to College? Enrolling in college may not be the right choice for everybody, and unfortunately, college remains difficult to afford for too many youth in the United States. Still, about two thirds of young people in the United States decide to enroll in higher education institutions according to the latest available statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of 3.2 million youth ages 16 to 24 who graduated from high school between January and October 2019, 2.1 million (66.2%) were enrolled in college in October of that year. In addition, many older adults also go to college.

Going to college is a privilege, as well as a great opportunity which can bring lifelong rewards. In comparison to workers with only a high school diploma, those with a college degree tend (on average) to have higher earnings, better job opportunities, lower unemployment rates, higher job satisfaction rates, and the list goes on. For example, the latest data available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that workers with a bachelor’s degree make approximately $500 more in median weekly earnings than those with only a high school diploma (an increase of two thirds versus the pay level for high school graduates). The disadvantages faced by those without a college degree have been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic which has disproportionately affected low income workers.

2. How Should I Select a College? While each student is indeed unique, it may be interesting for students to know about the priorities of other students, and whether there are differences in the priorities of students who chose to enroll in Catholic colleges and universities in comparison to all college freshmen. Data from the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) Freshman Survey suggest that the most important factors leading freshmen to enroll in a Catholic college are as follows: (1) This college has a very good academic reputation (71.8%); (2) This college’s graduates get good jobs (67.3%); (3) I was offered financial assistance (65.5%); (4) The academic reputation of my intended major (59.0%); and (5) A visit to this campus (54.7%); (6) This college has a good reputation for its social and extracurricular activities (52.4%); (7) I wanted to go to a school about the size of this college (49.7%); and (8) The cost of attending this college (48.7%). The other reasons are cited by less than 40% of students.

Interestingly, the largest differences in priorities for selecting a college between students going to Catholic institutions and all students relate to: (1) Financial assistance (more than 9 in 10 students in Catholic colleges benefit from financial assistance); (2) College size (many Catholic colleges have small or medium size enrollment, which is seen as a plus); (3) Employment prospects (many Catholic colleges have strong placement records, which is one of the reasons why student debt default rates are much lower among graduates from Catholic institutions than nationally); (4) Faith affiliation (this is a key criteria for one in five students in Catholic colleges); and (5) Advice from professors (professors in Catholic colleges tend to care about their students – this is part of the institutions’ ethos).

3. How Can I Compare Colleges? All Catholic colleges and universities – and one could argue most colleges in general including those that are not Catholic – aim to provide a comprehensive education for the whole person. Prospective students should carefully look at the websites of the colleges they are considering to understand their programs, the courses being taught, who is teaching those courses, the opportunities for extracurricular activities or internships, distance learning options, and exchange programs, among others. Ideally, students should make visits to campuses they are interested in, although this might not be feasible, especially for international or out-of-state students.

Given that career prospects do matter for students when selecting a college or university, and that going to college is one of the largest financial investments people make in their lifetime, prospective students should also do their homework in terms of the job prospects that might be available to them depending on both the university and the major they choose. The good news is that data on those outcomes are now readily available from the College Scorecard. If you type the name of a specific college or university in the College Scorecard search field, you will be provided by a wide range of information among others on graduation rates, expected salaries, tuition costs, and debt levels as well as default rates. The Scorecard enables users to compare up to 10 universities or 10 fields of study.

Catholic colleges and universities do well (on average) on the various measures provided by the College Scorecard in comparison to other institutions. But to facilitate comparisons, the directory provides in an annex detailed data on selected variables for all Catholic colleges and universities. What the directory does not do is to rank colleges and universities. While some rankings may provide valuable information to prospective students, they often also have perverse effects.

4. Should I Go to a Catholic College? Of the four questions, this is the most difficult one for which to provide insights based on data, because it depends so much on the particular priorities of individual students. But a few pointers can be provided. There are no measures of the quality of the education provided by colleges that are available for most institutions and widely accepted. Yet what seems clear is that many Catholic colleges place an emphasis on the quality of teaching. Many Catholic colleges also try to make their education affordable to students from disadvantaged backgrounds. This does not mean that they always succeed, but the preferential option for the poor is a key aspect of Catholic social thought that also permeates Catholic higher education. In addition, beyond universities that enroll many students, many institutions are small liberal arts colleges which again emphasize the quality of the education provided. Of all Catholic colleges and universities, more than one third are liberal arts colleges.

Catholic colleges and universities do place an emphasis on faith and values, but this is not forced upon students. In some Catholic colleges and universities, most students are Catholics. In others, a minority are. Nationally, two-fifths of students in Catholic colleges and universities are Catholic. In practice, if a student is interested in exploring or deepening his or her faith, whether Catholic or otherwise, there is no doubt that resources are available to do so in Catholic colleges and universities. But if this is not the student’s priority, that’s OK as well in most colleges. Finally, one interesting aspect of the Catholic ethos is that it encourages collaboration as opposed to competition. This is often the case in the classroom, but also in research and other activities that professors engage in. Because of this emphasis and the affinities that a common worldview affords, there are many examples of collaborations across Catholic colleges and universities. This can provide an added layer in students’ experiences, as can the fact that service to others is valued on campus, with typically a wide range of opportunities for volunteer work and a willingness of many students to engage.

The smart way to support your school all year round: gift card fundraising by ShopWithScrip

The following blog was contributed byShopWithScrip, the #1 online fundraiser supporting Catholic schools and thousands more organizations across the U.S. Whether your school needs funds for family tuition, classroom enhancements, class trips, or a combination of things, gift card fundraising is the best way to achieve your fundraising goals.

The school year is wrapping up soon, but your fundraising revenue streams don’t have to take the summer off. If there was an easy way to raise money all year round and grow your bottom line, why wouldn’t you?

With gift card fundraising by ShopWithScrip, families can raise money anytime, anywhere—whether they’re buying groceries, grabbing a coffee, or filling up their gas tank for a summer road trip.

How does gift card fundraising work?

Families use the website or mobile app to buy gift cards for their everyday purchases, and the brands they shop give back to your school. They can earn on gas, groceries, clothing, dining, entertainment, and travel to create more opportunities for your students. Tip: Gift cards also make great end-of-year gifts for teachers.

750+ brands available including:

  • The Home Depot
  • Walmart
  • Starbucks
  • Panera Bread
  • Visa

Why choose gift card fundraising?

  • Convenience: It’s easy, on-the-go earning. Families can buy eGift cards right from their smartphones and use them right away to pay online or in-store. Plus, select physical gift cards can be delivered directly to their doorsteps. Many gift cards are reloadable so families can keep earning with the same ones.   
  • Save time, save money: Say goodbye to the hassles of traditional fundraisers—there’s no need to spend hours selling things, knocking on doors, or planning events. Plus, families don’t have to pay additional money from their own pockets. See more specifics about time and money savings in this comparison chart.
  • The opportunities are limitless: Many families earn $1,000 or more every year. Discover how much money your school could raise with the earnings calculator.

“I have been fundraising with gift cards for the last six years. As the mother of two children enrolled in parochial school, the cost of tuition can become a financial burden. These earnings have saved us thousands of dollars over the years. The best part is that the gift cards are used for items that we would purchase anyway! It’s a win-win for our family.”

– Cristina L., raises money for Holy Parish Catholic School

Now is a great time to get started. With the end of the school year approaching, families can give gift cards to their teachers to say thanks—while supporting your school. Learn more and start a free program today at The ShopWithScrip Customer Support team can help if you have any questions, please call (800) 727-4715 Option 3.

A Father’s Love Story

The following blog was contributed by Adam P. Zoeller, a member of the theology department at Saint Xavier High School in Louisville, KY.

“I know your works (behold, I have left an
open door before you, which no one can
close.” (Revelation 3:8).

Sitting on the couch waiting past the curfew of your adolescent son and/or daughter is an experience filled with anxiety and anticipation along with fear and emotional exhaustion. However, when the vehicle pulls into the driveway, the feeling of being overjoyed that their child is home safely can supersede any negative emotion. This shared experience by parents is not the basis for the parable of the Prodigal Son, but there are some striking similarities. “So he got up and went back to his father. While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20-21).

The message behind this selected verse of the Lost Son story is the anticipation of and
excitement by which God rejoices when one of His children returns home. This parable of Jesus Christ from the Gospel of Luke is a summation of the entirety of salvation history (God’s actions and people’s responses), from the Fall to the Promise. The message is reinforced by the evangelist by including the parables of the Lost Coin (Luke 15:8-10) and Lost Sheep (Luke 15:1-7) in the same chapter. The unconditional charity displayed in these stories captures the infinite mercy of God while providing a model for parents as faithful leaders of their unique and respective domestic church.

The reckless behavior of the Prodigal Son does not fulfill his personal expectations of
happiness nor God’s desire for us. The story emphasizes the importance of healthy relationships which begin in the family. According to the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: “The family is, so to speak, the domestic church.” (Lumen Gentium #11). The dynamics of the family have shifted and changed in our society, but the foundation of any family should be rooted in how we know, love, and serve God. Thus, the responsibility of parents is to maintain this standard in the family. What is the result of this standard? The answer is simple. The continual spiritual growth within the domestic church and the restoration of the relationships between families. This restoration can be seen in the witnesses of grace within families and communities, which in turn will provide a taste of God’s kingdom on earth.


About the Author

Adam P. Zoeller is a member of the theology department at Saint Xavier High School in Louisville, KY. He has nearly two decades of experience in male adolescent education and formation; teaching in both Carmelite and Xaverian traditions. He earned his B.A. in religious studies and B.A. in clinical psychology from Spalding University (Louisville, KY) and his M.Ed. in educational leadership from the University of Cincinnati (Cincinnati, OH). He holds a Master’s Catechist Certification from the Archdiocese of Louisville. He has written blogs as well as presented workshops and webinars for the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA), been published by the Catholic Journal of Education (“Tolkien’s allegory: Using Peter Jackson’s vision of Fellowship to illuminate male adolescent Catholic education”), worked on educational materials for Revolution of the Heart: The Dorothy Day Story from Journey Films, and was an educational consultant for Ave Maria Press for their World Religions teachers manual.

Upcoming Projects: Adam is co-editor for Hollywood or History: An Inquiry-Based Strategy for Using Film to Teach World Religions (Information Age Publishing).

Adam lives in Kentucky with his wife and his three daughters. He can be reached at

10 Lessons to Heed in Achieving School Financial Sustainability

The institutional knowledge of Habeeb and Associates Architects can help your school begin to map out financial sustainability. H & A Architects specializes in educational design and puts a spotlight on 10 things your school can be thinking about for the coming school year beginning with a “healthy building” and classroom designs that encourage student engagement. With 20 years of experience working with Catholic school facilities, the attached presentation features H & A Architects’ innovative but practical ideas on how to work toward and achieve financial stability.

Five Ways to Include Disability in Equity Work

The following blog was contributed by Stephanie Cawthon, professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin and founding director of the National Deaf Center.

Last year brought not only the COVID-19 pandemic, but also an intensification of the public consciousness and the need to recognize, unpack, and take action to remedy the deep racial injustices in our society, particularly those experienced by people of color. Data shows our disabled students of color face systemic barriers at far higher rates than their white disabled peers. That proves to me that advocating for disability rights must include addressing the racial divide in our work to support students with disabilities.

Here are the questions I’m asking you to consider, whether you’re a district administrator, school leader, or teacher: When you think about diversity in your school or district and the initiatives to support its increase, do they consider disability? Do you acknowledge racial disparities within the disabled community?

The case for including disability in conversations about race—and vice versa

If we want to truly improve equity in education, we must expand our thinking about what diversity is to include disability—and we must expand our thinking about racism in our work around disabilities—particularly when talking about inclusion, equity, and access to opportunity. Why? Because intersectionality is an important part of equity work. Intersectionality refers to the reality that we are not just one thing; that is, that several things, including race and ability, make up our entire identity.

Expanding our thinking is also important because, as Cindy Li says, “We are all just temporarily abled.” Disability, at one point in time or another, will affect all of us.

How to include disability in equity work

Here are five things that can help you better understand disability and its place in equity work.

  1. Begin by defining “disability.” What does “having a disability” or “being disabled” mean, anyway? Once you know what you’re talking about, it can be easier to decide what, exactly, to do about it.
  2. Acknowledge that disability is complex. Disability rests on a continuum. More specifically, disability is variable, contextual, embedded in culture, and not neutral. 
  3. Address ableism and language. Ableism refers to attitudes and behaviors that devalue people with disabilities. Ableist phrases, however unintentional they might be, can be found throughout the English language. They often use disability status as a way of putting someone or something down.
  4. Keep intersectionality front and center. The understanding that one size doesn’t fit all is foundational to work in special education, but we, as a field, are rarely explicit about how this concept applies to intersectional experiences related to race and gender.
  5. Be wary of “helper” mentality. Ableism can often masquerade as “helping” (quotes very intentional) instead of truly advocating or practicing allyship.

Read more on the NWEA blog, Teach. Learn. Grow., and on Stephanie Cawthon’s website. Interested in supporting students with disabilities in your school or district? Apply for a $10,000 NWEA Educators for Equity grant by June 11, 2021.

About the Author

Stephanie Cawthon is a professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin and founding director of the National Deaf Center. She is passionate about using research to help the deaf community succeed in school and beyond. She holds a BA and MA in psychology from Stanford University and a PhD in educational psychology from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Now STREAM-ing: A Catholic Interdisciplinary Approach to Learning

The following blog was contributed by Allie Johnston from William H. Sadlier, Inc.

STREAM is an acronym for a uniquely Catholic interdisciplinary approach. In this acronym, each letter stands for a discipline: S—science; T—technology; R—religion; E—engineering; A—art; and M—mathematics. Integrate them and you have STREAM, a vision and a framework that makes faith and Catholic identity central to interdisciplinary learning. For years, Catholic schools have been putting this approach to work, highlighting the interrelation of religion and Catholic school values with the STEM subjects and the arts.

What is STREAM in Catholic Education?

Though common today, the STREAM acronym has evolved over the past two decades. STEM as an acronym (representing science, technology, engineering, and math) was first used in 2001. And then, it became STEAM. The insertion of the “A” represents the arts, which some critics felt was a vital component missing from STEM. The addition of the “R” to STEAM to become STREAM sometimes represents reading. But for Catholic schools, the “R” represents religion, a subject at the heart of a Catholic education.  

For a simple visual illustrating the STREAM approach, take a look at the What is STREAM? Faith Fact.

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A successful STREAM approach seamlessly integrates ideas from the six disciplines into learning experiences. It is a vision that requires planning, development, support, collaboration, and communication. For nearly a decade, STREAM initiatives have taken root and grown in Catholic schools across the country. Though unique, their interpretations and applications share the incorporation of the central and foundational lens of faith to impactful interdisciplinary teaching and learning. You’ll see it described as STREAM curriculum, STREAM education, or even an entire STREAM school.

A successful STREAM approach seamlessly integrates ideas from the six disciplines into learning experiences. It is a vision that requires planning, development, support, collaboration, and communication. For nearly a decade, STREAM initiatives have taken root and grown in Catholic schools across the country. Though unique, their interpretations and applications share the incorporation of the central and foundational lens of faith to impactful interdisciplinary teaching and learning. You’ll see it described as STREAM curriculum, STREAM education, or even an entire STREAM school.

Why is STREAM beneficial?

A STREAM approach reflects the rich connections among disciplines that exist in real life. STREAM is an opportunity for today’s learners to learn via multiple lenses, including the lens of faith. This approach develops broad, creative, critical thinking skills that can be applied across disciplines and as disciples both in and outside school throughout learner’s lives—both now and in 21st century careers.

Ideas that Support a STREAM Approach

Implementing a STREAM approach requires an investment of time and effort to integrate the disciplines of science, technology, religion, engineering, art, and mathematics. Efforts to design STREAM learning experiences or projects support meaningful and engaging connections and applications. To inspire and encourage these efforts, here are some ideas to support STREAM thinking and learning.

STREAM Learning Idea: Sadlier Math Sample Lessons

See how Sadlier Math’s STREAM Lesson Plans help you integrate science, technology, religion, engineering, and the arts into your math instruction with short, quick activities that are manageable in just a few class periods.

Just for Catholic Schools, every grade level of Sadlier Math features:

  • 14–18 chapter-based STEAM Lesson Plans that connect math lessons to real-world applications where students use their math skills to problem solve
  • STEAM activities aligned to standards such as Common Core and Next Generation Science and addressing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
  • 10 STREAM Lesson Plans that integrate religion into selected STEAM Lesson Plans with an activity focused on one of the seven themes of Catholic Social Teachings

Try a sample STREAM Lesson Plan for Grades 3 and 6 now!

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STREAM Learning Idea: Saints as Scientists, Engineers, Artists, and Mathematicians

Utilize technology to explore the lives of the saints and demonstrate the interrelation of faith and career. For example, invite children to use tools to research Saint Luke, a physician, Saint Hubert, a Franciscan mathematician, or Blessed Carlo Acutis, an amateur computer programmer. The stories of the lives of saints and holy people wonderfully illustrate connections of a lens of faith applied to the STEM and arts professions. A religious education class may offer an opportunity to discuss or artistically present ways that these saints influenced and impacted their work, the Church, and the world in faith-filled and interdisciplinary ways.

STREAM Learning Idea: Responsible Technology Use and Design

Help students understand that the Catholic principles that guide our communication and interaction with others and information in the physical world apply to the digital world, too. As rapid advances in technology and infrastructure impact the digital landscape and the ways in which we use digital tools, responsible and safe use and consumption of digital materials have important links with religion. Designing digital materials expands these links. Ask students to develop a multimedia presentation to teach their peers and classmates about this or one of the themes explored in your religious education program.

STREAM Learning Idea: Building the Church

Engineers build places for us to worship or meet and feel God’s presence. Throughout history, cathedrals and churches were extensions of the natural world and safe places to gather, pray, and celebrate the faith. Take students on a tour of your local parish church. Research the engineers and architects who built it and learn more about their vision and the choices (both functional and artistic or stylistic) that went into building your parish. Bonus points if you can set up a time to interview or meet with the engineers themselves! Contemplate the building’s connections to the natural world. As a class, embark on a project to design or build a model parish church or Catholic school that supports your community’s many functions and aesthetics. Intergrade technological tools to plan and mathematical concepts to bring models to life.

STREAM Learning Idea: Faith Illuminated in Art

Throughout history, artists have relied on the fine arts to express faith. Stained glass windows were an innovation originally used to teach parishioners who could not read about the faith as they attended Mass. A STREAM investigation might explore the science behind stained glass, and how and why stained-glass windows are designed, made, and installed. A project might invite students to design and engineer their own windows using mathematical concepts and art materials (like clear contact paper and colorful tissue papers) or digital tools to express faith.   

STREAM Learning Idea: Engineering Social Justice

Engineering is at the heart of one of our central focuses as Catholics: social justice. Brainstorm the ways that engineers are necessary for meeting the needs of communities at the center of various social justice issues facing the Church today (for example, the planning and building of wells in countries without water or the creation of sustainable agriculture in a world impacted by climate change). Determine an issue to investigate as a class or group. Rely on data to determine the scope of the issue’s impact and consider technologies or innovations that would support a solution. Consider art as a medium to share findings about, increase awareness of, or propose solutions to the issue.

STREAM Learning Idea: Making and Sharing Music

One of the beautiful contributions Catholics have made to the arts is in the area of liturgical and sacred music, which strongly ties to mathematics and the science of sound. Listen to examples and discuss ways music helps us to worship, pray, and celebrate as Catholics. Using machinery or audio technology, invite students to work in groups to compose, record, or remix and then share a song in this category.

In Summary

The benefits of STREAM and its creative implementation in Catholic schools have made it a powerful and successful approach for Catholic education. Download and share the What is STREAM? Faith Fact among administrators, teachers, or families to explain or promote STREAM in your community.





Education Pluralism and the Right to Education in the United States

The following blog was contributed by Quentin Wodon, the volunteer team lead for the Global Catholic Education website.

The fortunes for Catholic K-12 and higher education in the United States have diverged for some time. Enrollment in Catholic K-12 schools has been declining for more than 50 years, with an especially severe drop this year as schools became less affordable for parents due to income losses from the pandemic. By contrast, Catholic higher education has done well, with rising enrollment until relatively recently. Today, some Catholic colleges and universities are facing hard times due to the pandemic and unfavorable demographic trends. Still, many of the 250 or so Catholic colleges and universities remain strong. As a result, while the United States accounts for less than three percent of global enrollment in K-12 Catholic education, the country is home to a fifth of all students enrolled in Catholic higher education.

A key reason for these differences in fortunes relates to tuition. Many parents have a hard time paying for the cost of K-12 Catholic education, even though they may appreciate the emphasis placed by the schools on values and faith. Catholic colleges and universities also charge tuition, but so do public higher education institutions, albeit at a lower rate for in-state students. Therefore, one could argue that public institutions have (slightly) less of a pricing advantage at the higher education level than at the Catholic K-12 level.

This in turn leads to very different levels of education pluralism depending on the level of education being considered. The Global Catholic Education Report 2021 released today suggests a new measure of education pluralism based on the literature on market concentration. The measure is ex-post, based on the shares of students enrolled in different types of schools or universities, as opposed to ex-ante based on whether laws and regulatory frameworks are conducive to pluralism or not. It turns out, not too surprisingly, that in comparison to other countries, education pluralism at the K-12 level is low in the United States, while the country fares better for higher education. Differentials in comparative advantages related to pricing between public and private education are likely to play a role here.

Combining the new measure of education pluralism with data on more traditional educational outcomes, the Global Catholic Education Report 2021 proposes a new set of indices to measure the fulfillment of the right to education at the primary, secondary and higher levels. The United States does well on educational outcomes, but not so well at the Catholic K-12 level on education pluralism, therefore not entirely fulfilling the promise of Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that “parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”

What is measured gets done, the adage goes. It remains to be seen whether the measures of education pluralism and the right to education suggested in the Global Catholic Education Report 2021 will catch on. But the report at least makes an attempt to provide a simple quantitative assessment of education pluralism and the right to education globally. More generally, the goal of the report is to make the international community aware of the contributions of Catholic education, while also making Catholic educators aware of lessons emerging from international experience on how to improve educational outcomes. The theme of the 2021 report is education pluralism, learning poverty and the right to education. The report is published under the Global Catholic Education project and co-sponsored by the International Office of Catholic Education (OIEC), International Federation of Catholic Universities (IFCU), World Organization of Former Students of Catholic Education (OMAEC) and World Union of Catholic Teachers (UMEC-WUCT), the four organizations representing Catholic education globally. The report is available for free download and results are summarized in a short YouTube video.