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Now STREAM-ing: A Catholic Interdisciplinary Approach to Learning

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. In this article, you'll learn about STREAM in Catholic education and get access to free STREAM downloads in English and Spanish!

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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 the year 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, download and 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.

 

Successful STREAM curriculum strives to seamlessly integrate Religion into the STEAM content areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics

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 inspire 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 to 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 Use of Technology and Design

Help students understand that the Catholic principles that guide our communication and interaction with others and information in the physical world applies 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 has 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 buildings 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.