Though classes at Parish Episcopal ended over a week ago, the campus buzzes with activity. The hum of 3 D printers, the whir of band saws, and the excited voices of solution-seeking students echo through the Design Den, our 4,000 square foot maker space.
Our ParishSTEM Academy, sponsored by Texas Instruments, began its second year on June 8 welcoming over 30 students from KIPP Truth Middle School and Dallas Independent School District’s Thomas C. Marsh Preparatory Academy. These students will spend two weeks designing and programming robots; learning Autodesk and printing a 3D box; and constructing wooden candle holders using power tools.
Parish Episcopal has leading signature programs in global education, leadership, and blended instruction which have been developed over the last five years. ParishSTEM, however, represents the signature program that to date has had the biggest impact on the largest number of our students. Our vision to create a comprehensive, PreK-12 STEM program which every Parish student would experience was driven by three values at the foundation of our instructional philosophy:
- To engage students in authentic, meaningful work
- To create learning conditions which developed enduring habits of mind as creative thinkers, collaborators, and communicators of ideas and solutions
- To experience the interconnectedness of concepts across disciplines
Every student at Parish, from age 3 to 18, experiences STEM programming through regularly scheduled learning experiences in specially designed STEM spaces, in their “traditional” math and science curriculum, and through electives in middle and upper school which allow students with a passion for STEM learning to “go deeper.” We have repurposed over 14,000 Sq. feet of campus space into designated Maker and STEM facilities, gaining national attention along the way.
The ParishSTEM Academy, though, points to one of the most rewarding opportunities afforded us by the growth of ParishSTEM: to connect meaningfully with the broader community. As Head of School and a board member of KIPP DFW, I treasure community partnerships. When three different schools – one independent, one charter, and one public – pool their passions, people, and resources, good things like the ParishSTEM Academy happen for young people.
Our ParishSTEM programming and leading facilities have opened our campus’ gates and allowed for powerful learning and sharing with community members both near and far. At our 1,500 sq. ft. Beasley STEM Center on our Lower Campus, our youngest students have explored STEM concepts with friends from our partner school, Holy Family. Together, our young friends have learned measurement in the Fleeger Family Kitchen, designed protective habitats for imaginary bugs, and charted the growth of vegetables in the Nauslar Family Garden.
At our Midway campus, we have served for the last five years as host for the FIRST Lego League regional qualifier, welcoming competitors for over 30 schools across North Texas and southern Oklahoma for fun and competition. This past year, we served not only as a regional qualifier site, but also as the host for the First Lego League championship.
In the last 24 months, educators from close to two dozen schools and colleges, from schools across the Metroplex to as far away as North Carolina, Kansas, and New Mexico have come to see our spaces and exchange ideas on building rich, meaningful STEM-based programming.
Indeed, Parish’s five year journey creating a leading STEM program has been a rewarding one, but we know we still have much yet to learn, accomplish, and share.