by Susan Fotovich McCabe
Special to The Leaven
OLATHE — Not even storms and a steady rain could keep scores of families from attending the third annual Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Art, Mathematics (STREAM) Night at Prince of Peace Parish here. It’s just that popular.
Inside the school, both students and their parents shuttled between classrooms staffed by Prince of Peace teachers, Catholic high school students and employees from area technology companies to engage their hands and minds with future career opportunities.
Kasie Broeckelman, a first-grade teacher at Prince of Peace, is one of the founding organizers of STREAM Night, and even she was amazed by how popular it has become.
“The goal is to reach the kids who are struggling to find where they fit sometimes, who love science or math or the technology of video games,” Broeckelman said. “Now we can show them how they’re made and get them excited about their future.
“It’s a night to showcase what options there are in the world and where we’re moving. While it would be exciting to be the next superstar athlete, it could be equally as exciting to be the next coder or scientist that finds a solution or cure to a global issue.”
“It’s to help the children see that they can soar with the gifts that God has given them,” she concluded.
One of those future scientists may be Monica Straub, 10, a fourth-grader at Prince of Peace School. Monica wants to be an engineer, like her father Phil, who works at Garmin. Her favorite subject is math and she’s getting an A in the class.
“I like to build stuff, like with Legos,” she said. “I have other girlfriends who like to build with Legos, too.”
In fact, Garmin is one of the local technology companies that return each year to participate in the STREAM event. Garmin’s Austin Morgan, a parishioner at St. Paul Church in Olathe, said the company regularly participates in STEM-related events. It’s part of Garmin’s culture to cultivate new talent in its own backyard.
“From a corporate perspective, Garmin gives us the ability to help youth. The company gives us time off to participate in the events because Garmin needs skilled workers,” Morgan said. “People who grew up in the area know how nice the area is. We foster that love of science that we’ll need in the future.”
Garmin’s activity for the evening was to build a maze out of Legos. Each student was given an avatar to navigate through the maze using coding instructions. A second activity involved making paper airplanes and catapults to demonstrate aerodynamics.
Garmin began in the aviation industry, Morgan said, so that particular project was a nice throwback to its roots.
Morgan isn’t surprised by Monica’s early interest in engineering. In the many STEM events he’s attended, girls represent about 55 percent of the total attendees, on average. And, he said, “Girls ask the most questions.”
Kolbe Meinhardt, 9, is in the third grade at Prince of Peace. He was interested in learning how to make printing plates — a key technology for producing U.S. currency.
Kolbe, who enjoys playing video games, attended the event because he likes “art, drones and other stuff.”
That “other stuff” included activities like Lego robotics. St. James Academy and St. Thomas Aquinas and Bishop Miege high schools all contributed fun activities to the evening.
Honeywell also participated in the evening with an array of hands-on activities.
This year, STREAM Night incorporated Catholic scientists who have made a difference. One of the classrooms featured a Fibonacci activity. Fibonacci art is a mathematical sequence that creates a spiral that is seen in God’s creation, such as the ear, seashells, and more.
St. James Academy principal Shane Rapp, Ph.D., underscored the importance of the STEM model in teaching all subjects and engaging all students.
“STEM is more of a mindset,” he said. “It’s an approach or a way of teaching that is beneficial in whatever field you go into.”
That’s a sentiment echoed by Prince of Peace middle school social studies teacher Will Reiter.
“Anytime we can do hands-on activities to teach, which is what STREAM is, we have more engagement in education,” Reiter said. “A few years ago, we changed to the Common Core curriculum, spending more time on math and science and problem-solving. Students are used to looking up answers in a book.
“But in real life, that’s not how it works.”
Prince of Peace is dedicated to advancing its STREAM effort. It currently offers an after-school engineering club, Lego engineering (first grade), and STEM club for first, second and sixth grades. STREAM Night received financial support from the school’s PTO and local engineering firm, DLR Group.