Archdiocesan Schools Superintendent Greg Richmond, alumnus Tom Gallagher, Principal Kathy Berry, Father Bob Regan and 13th Ward Ald. Marty Quinn cut the ribbon to open the new STEM studio at St. Symphorosa School. --Photo by Cosmo Hadac

Archdiocesan Schools Superintendent Greg Richmond, alumnus Tom Gallagher, Principal Kathy Berry, Father Bob Regan and 13th Ward Ald. Marty Quinn cut the ribbon to open the new STEM studio at St. Symphorosa School. --Photo by Cosmo Hadac

Move over, 3 Rs

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St. Sym’s new STEM lab adds 4 Cs

By Cosmo Hadac

Officials at St. Symphorosa School last week cut the ribbon to open their new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) studio, which they said will help give students the tools they need to succeed in the digital age.

“In my mind we needed something that makes St. Symphorosa stand out,” Principal Kathy Berry said at the Aug. 30 event. “I mean, we have a lot of things going on here. Our students are known and loved, and we have a small-school atmosphere.

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Archdiocesan Schools Superintendent Greg Richmond, alumnus Tom Gallagher, Principal Kathy Berry, Father Bob Regan and 13th Ward Ald. Marty Quinn cut the ribbon to open the new STEM studio at St. Symphorosa School. –Photo by Cosmo Hadac

“But also, since COVID, everyone has a Chromebook, so that’s not really new,” she continued. “This studio is going to be a place where students are encouraged to develop their 21st century skills.”

“What happens in the classroom, I don’t think there’s enough emphasis,” Berry added. “There’s so much where students are just looking for the right answer, or just tell me how to do it, or give me the instructions and I’ll follow it.”

She said a STEM studio like the new one at St, Symphorosa “is a place where students can be collaborative, can use their critical thinking skills. There’s not going to be one right answer. That type of thinking is what’s going to take our students to the next level, make them competitive in the workforce, whatever they want to do in high school, college and beyond.”

The process of turning a classroom into the STEM Studio took years of planning and raising funds through grants and private donations. The school raised $60,000 to make the studio a reality.

Beyond donating money St. Symphorosa alumnus Tom Gallagher (Class of 1966), will be donating his time to teach students two days a week. Gallagher was a leading corporate CEO for more than 30 years before retiring in 2021 to teach. He also is an adjunct professor at the University of Notre Dame.

On the wall of the STEM studio there is a sign that reads Communication, Collaboration, Creativity and Critical thinking–the “four Cs” skills teachers hope to instill in their students.

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Thirteenth Ward Ald. Marty Quinn, State Rep. Angelica “Angie” Guerrero-Cuellar (D-22nd) and Catholic Schools Superintendent Greg Richmond work on building the tallest tower they can without speaking, an activity staged to display some of the non-verbal skills students will develop in the school’s new STEM studio. –Photo by Cosmo Hadac

In the studio there is a U-shaped table that has a couch, and stools of multiple sizes and textures. All of the other tables and chairs in the room are on wheels so they can be moved and arranged easily and there are places to stand and work. Berry said that this setup was very intentional, keeping in mind how students work differently.

The studio will be open to grades 5-8 in the first trimester of the school year followed by grades 1-4 in the second and kindergarten and pre-k in the third.

Like other educators, Berry is seeing that students lost some of their social skills during quarantine. She sees the studio as a place to relearn and sharpen them.

“You kind of have to teach them all over again how to because they were talking to people over screens, over Zoom. Now it’s interactive, in person. How we talk to one another, how do we relate, how do we take turns, share. All of those things are so important and this environment will make that happen,” she said.

“With our Catholic values, we want our students to have empathy, compassion, to show each other kindness–so it really brings all of those things together in one room,” Berry concluded.

St. Symphorosa School is still accepting transfer students for the 2022-23 academic year. Tuition assistance is available. For details, call the school at (773) 585-6888.

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