Students are preparing for the future, thanks to committed staff and parents

By Staff     11/30/2017


They say it takes a village, and at St. Norbert Catholic School (SNCS) in Orange, that village includes a team of parent volunteers and enthusiastic teachers educating students about STREAM—science, technology, religion, engineering, art and math.  

STREAM is an enhanced version of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math), the nationally recognized academic disciplines developed to sustain innovation in the United States and ensure successful employment by better educating students in these fields.  

SNCS Principal Joe Ciccoianni, faculty and parents who work in the computer science industry contribute to SNCS’s curriculum with STREAM education, including:
• Computer Coding Classes: Kindergarten through 4th grade students can participate in six-week morning class before school that teaches basic programming and analytical skills. Parents Mike Swenson and Shawn Brule, both IT professionals, developed the classes, which are offered for a nominal fee. 


  • Raspberry Pi Classes: Parent Brian Pearson created advanced computer classes, typically offered once a year for a small cost, to grades 5 through 8. Students learn how to build and set up a computer and install an operating system using programmer’s code.
  • Adventures in Art Classes: Principal Ciccoianni teaches 5th– through 8th-grade students the basics of color theory and composition through blending color, tints, tones and shading instruction and directed painting exercises that culminate in a canvas art piece after six weeks.
  • STEM Activities: Technology coordinator Adriana Holguin integrates the basics of programming using Osmo games on iPads that also support math and language arts instruction and sequencing. “To the kids, they are playing games but they’re actually learning logic and critical thinking,” says Mrs. Holguin.


Megan Bauer gets her 6th grade class excited about technology, math, social studies, science and engineering with small-group hands-on challenges that combine multiple subjects such as building a catapult or water catchment.  

In 5th grade, students learn about engineering by building bridges with Popsicle sticks, while in social studies they construct Early Native American homes. For Halloween, STEM activities include making pumpkin catapults, candy towers and spider web bridges. 

“The students enjoy working in collaborative learning groups and being creative in their uses of the materials they are given,” says 5th grade teacher Michelle Navarro. “They learn that there is not just one way to solve a problem. It is also a great lesson in compromise, as they have to work together and listen to one another.” 

With today’s widespread fiscal budget constraints, private institutions like SNCS are restricted in offering advanced science, mathematics and programming education that complement basic classroom instruction essential to each grade. SNCS students are from various socio-economic backgrounds, with many from underprivileged families. About 25 percent of students receive some tuition assistance. 

“We are grateful that our administrators, faculty and parents work together to find creative ways to bring STREAM instruction to our students,” says Ciccoianni. “It is imperative our students are well prepared for continuing their education well into high school and college, and these STREAM classes and activities do just that.”