Holy Cross receives STEM certification

Mary Rose Weiter, Holy Cross High School’s art teacher and maker space coordinator, left, and Jennifer Barz, principal, showed off projects created by students in the new maker space. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

Holy Cross High School has achieved one of the major goals of its strategic plan in becoming a Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) certified school.

“This was a big cornerstone of the academic part of the plan,” said Jennifer Barz, Holy Cross’ principal, during a recent interview.

The school, located at 5144 Dixie Highway, received its STEM certification in June from Cognia, a global nonprofit organization that provides accreditation to some Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Louisville.

Barz said she thinks of the certification as a “seal of approval.” 

“It’ll be our task to continue demonstrating the STEM standards,” she said. The certification is not an “add-on. It’s our mission.”

She said that the school has long been committed to providing STEM and STREAM (Science Technology Religion Engineering Arts and Math) learning. Holy Cross started offering classes in robotics and coding in 2016, she noted. The school now has a new STEM lab in which the students are learning and creating.

Holy Cross takes a three-prong approach to the STEM program, Barz said.

  • Use of the maker space, where students are able to create “beyond a poster” using three 3D printers and other equipment.
  • Integrating STEM across the curriculum. Mary Rose Weiter, an art teacher and the maker space coordinator, said Holy Cross’ teachers are committed to integrating STEM into their course work. Weiter has aided teachers in understanding how they can do so, she said. For example, she said, students learning a unit on Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” have researched their family’s lineage and created a family crest. Students in AP English class learned to use the different pieces of equipment in the maker space and wrote user manuals. Science students have worked with Louisville Metro Sewer District conducting surveys and helping to address flooding issues. 
  • Making connections to STEM careers through the school’s internship program.  

“We want students to think about where they want to be,” said Barz. STEM learning helps them become “problem solvers and critical thinkers.”

“Students are more prepared to stick with a chosen career, understanding that ‘I can grow through a failure. I have the skills to turn it around,’ ” Barz said. 

Jennifer Barz, Holy Cross High School principal, stood in the school’s maker space July 24. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

She believes the certification adds value to what the south-end school already has to offer.

“We’re on the cutting edge of the world today. Change is happening in the world and in our school too,” she said.”When they’re (students) coming into a place where we’re preparing for change it’s not scary; it’s a new frontier. You’ll be ready for everything that comes your way.”

Shelly Pence, who oversees the school’s internship program, agrees. 

Pence said that Holy Cross has been moving in this direction for years. She attended Holy Cross in the 1990s and remembers doing innovative work then. 

“We’ve always been an innovative school. We don’t see STEM as getting the tools in the building,” said Pence. “The way it hits the mark is the process. Our mentality of the process has been engraved for many years. … It’s a four-year journey of competencies.” 

Pence noted that this preparation becomes apparent in students’ school’s internships.

The Corporate Internship Program is part of the school’s four-year curriculum preparing students for careers. It culminates junior and senior year with internship days in which students work for a local firm — such as local hospitals and in news media — one school day each week throughout the year.

Ruby Thomas
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Ruby Thomas
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