Why Catholic Schools Are Focusing on STEM/STEAM

There’s been a dramatic increase in interest from Catholic Schools in STEM/STEAM programs. A major reason is the growing importance of offering robust STEM/STEAM programs in all schools of choice. Today’s parents expect technology and next-generation learning to be part of any quality education. 

Paul Hans, Principal of SmartLab partner school Roncalli Catholic High School in Omaha Nebraska told us, “If a Catholic school wants to compete with other public and private schools they need to stay relevant”. He continued, “It’s more imperative than ever to give families what they want…that means innovative programs like STEAM centers.” 

This new emphasis on STEM/STEAM is also supported by the National Catholic Education Association. NCEA is now in the second year of its STREAM initiative. STREAM stands for science, technology, religion, engineering, art and mathematics. Among NCEA’s “10 Characteristics of a STREAM School” are: 


  • STREAM schools promote a culture of innovation as well as a commitment to ethical behavior. 
  • STREAM schools are inclusive. They serve a broad population and operate on the dual premises that math and science competencies can be developed and that all students need access to STREAM competencies to become full participants in 21st Century education.
  • STREAM schools foster an environment that encourages problem solving, group collaboration, and independent research by utilizing instructional practices and organizational conditions conducive to student achievement.
  • STREAM schools are “think forward” institutions and place high priority on educator training, learning, leadership, and 21st Century skill applications.


Creative Learning Systems has partnered with Catholic schools across the country and at all grade levels to implement next-generation STEM/STEAM programs for their students. 

SmartLab programs are unique in their approach to promoting these characteristics.  In a SmartLab, students apply leading-edge technology to hands-on, minds-on projects. Personalized learning engages students of all interests and abilities. Collaboration, communication, problem-solving and innovation happen every day.

Principal Hans shared that Catholic schools from all over the state have visited Roncalli High School to see how the SmartLab program supports their academic goals. “When we meet with them, we don’t focus on the products students create but the processes and skills that all learners need to practice to be successful after high school. Academics and GPA may get our students in the door, but what will keep them here is their capacity for problem-solving, communication, work ethic, and people skills.”

China Educator Delegation Visits SmartLabs

We were honored last week to host a delegation of educators from Guangzhou City, China. This delegation of teachers, principals and superintendents, affiliated with Beijing Normal University, visited Colorado SmartLabs to learn about innovative approaches to STEM education in the U.S.

The China delegation visited Rocky Heights and Cresthill middle schools (Douglas County School District), The Englewood middle and high school campus (Englewood Schools), Wilder Elementary (Littleton Public Schools) and Merrill Middle School (Denver Public Schools). 

Highlights of the tours were meetings with the superintendents of Littleton and Denver school systems and Richard Crandall, Colorado Commissioner of Education. The delegation also enjoyed a Q&A session with STEM students at Cresthill Middle School where both students and delegates had the opportunity to compare and contrast educational systems in the U.S. and China.

Members of the delegation frequently remarked on the level of engagement of students in the SmartLab STEM programs. They were impressed by the use of applied technology for project work, the degree of choice and personalization of learning, and authentic assessment through eportfolios. Common observations were that, though there is no equivalent program in China, Chinese students would benefit greatly from similar opportunities.


Future Rooms: Deerfield School District Featured in Tech & Learning Magazine

Last fall, the Chicago Tribune reported on the Deerfield Public School District 109 (IL) SmartLabs. Now, Tech & Learning Magazine has recognized Deerfield as a sterling example of how districts are "redesigning rooms to invigorate their STEM/STEAM programs". Read more in this article Future Rooms: The Intelligent Use of SpaceCreative Learning Systems is proud that Deerfield chose SmartLabs to be an integral part of its innovative approach to education.



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