St. Mary Interparochial School
Philadelphia, Pa.
Grant: $35,500; Funded 2019-20 (Year #1 of 2)


St. Mary Interparochial enjoys a well-earned reputation for exemplary, affordable academics delivered with limited financial resources, steady and strong enrollment each year, a culturally and economically diverse student body, National Blue Ribbon School designation, and winning entries in local, regional, and national academic competitions. Yet, school administrators were not satisfied with their heavily-enrolled after-school program. They wanted more for the students, to convert their weekly technology experiences into fully-developed STREAM programming grounded in the principles of project-based design thinking and integrated throughout every grade.


The first step was to provide instruction and grade-level resources for all teachers. The school principal, a Milken Educator Awardee and recognized STEAM expert, led an intensive one-day professional development program on design thinking to prepare teachers to introduce STREAM-driven concepts and teaching into their classrooms. Teachers also learned how to identify, select, and use appropriate items for their STREAM carts and applications. Their pre- and post-training assessments of their own learning informed their next steps. Student pre-program assessments would follow, measuring existing knowledge of basic STREAM competencies — such as the 4C Model, design thinking, and computational thinking — and giving teachers a context to their class instruction. Administrators determined a two-bite transition would be the effective way to go, with the first year focusing on K-4 and the second on grades 5-8.


Once all teacher and student assessments were in place, the school transitioned its K-4 technology programming into a STREAM-focused curriculum in November 2019. STREAM principles were followed across all instructional areas. Teachers and students continued for four months, then unexpectedly but seamlessly shifted again, this time to COVID-produced remote/virtual learning on March 17. Students carried out modified collaborative assignments that revealed their adaptability, patience, and creativity due to their STREAM instruction. Process and content outcomes continue to be assembled and measured. Grades 5-8 are ready to introduce their programming. Other faculties are hearing about this success and have invited St. Mary’s principal to conduct professional development workshops on the subject. Teachers at two neighboring Catholic regional schools welcomed the new instruction in design thinking that takes their students well above and beyond “working with gadgets and tools.”

“Second-grade students learned how to code puzzles and, during their recess, coded a logic-based puzzle online and sent it to their teacher to solve. STREAM principles sparking curiosity — and outside the classroom!”

Jayda Pugliese, Ed.D. (c)
St. Mary Interparochial School