by Kathy O’Hara
Dear friends of Catholic schools,
Often, Catholic school educators are asked, “What’s the difference in Catholic schools other than religion class and Mass during the week?”
Recently, one of our teachers reported to the parish community what was happening so far in the fourth grade in the parish school. She described the Catholic school difference beautifully, though that was not her intent. Here is what she wrote:
“The fourth-graders began the year pondering creation and the Creator. They read the creation stories in Genesis and used these to explore text structures, sequence events, and compare and contrast. The BIG IDEA they discovered is that there is ONE loving God who created ONE human family and we are connected to ALL peoples of the world. After reading a story titled ‘God’s Eyes,’ the [students] created images of themselves with mirror eyes that would enable them to see past differences and divisions and find the reflection of God in every person.
“Reflecting on their relationship with God and one another led to a study of prayer. They learned to praise, give thanks, love, ask and express sorrow.
“As they studied the writing process, they incorporated these into original prayers to be read each morning and afternoon.
“Reading ‘The Discovery of Mexico,’ an ancient Aztec myth, helped students develop an appreciation of cultures as they celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. . . .
“That God is a God of order, pattern and infinite possibility was a theme discovered in math as students studied the base-ten system, place value, and that 10 digits can be arranged in periods to create an infinite list of numbers.
“Social studies was spent practicing map and globe skills, which will make it easy for the [students] to put the GPS away and explore Earth the ‘old school’ way! Students summed up their study of atoms, matter and the scientific method by decorating keys that said: Creation is a gift, and science is the key.
“The [students] are excited to use the scientific method to conduct an experiment with the two white rats that arrived last week. These furry friends will help them understand the important roles nutrition, sleep and exercise play in keeping the holy temples of their bodies healthy.
“God is so good!”
While it is true that students in Catholic schools study religion and pray daily and celebrate Mass during the week, there is much more that contributes to the Catholic school difference.
This teacher’s update illustrates that, in Catholic schools, the teaching and learning of each subject and skill is grounded in the lens of our faith in a way that shows that faith and reason are necessary ingredients of a truly excellent education.
¡Vaya con Dios!