More than 500 Catholic school teachers and administrators, as well as corporate sponsors and community leaders, attended the inaugural STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Education, Arts and Mathematics) Symposium hosted by The Diocese of Venice Department of Education.
The buzz of excitement was infectious on March 21, 2022, at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers, as teachers moved between breakout sessions, eager to put into practice what they learned during the STREAM Symposium.
“STREAM embraces Catholic culture as the core of interdisciplinary learning,” said Bishop Frank J. Dewane. “STREAM’s vision requires planning, development, collaboration and communication across all six disciplines. Its framework illuminates Catholic values and teachings among multiple creative systems and cutting-edge platforms that inspire students to apply faith, science, and technology in meaningful ways.”
The Symposium began with Mass at neighboring St. Cecilia Parish. The Mass celebrant, Father John Belmonte, SJ, Diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Education, said the day was about sharing new methods, new ideas and being creative and learning new limits and innovation.
Father Belmonte said that when we encounter one innovative person, be it a teacher, principal, or anyone else, “what we see with that one person is something new, our own renewal. I want to encourage all of you to take the bet that you once placed, that is the one you took when you started teaching – to work, to create, to teach and to inspire within the limits given to you. Teaching is nothing more than your deep desire to share what you have found to be true, good and beautiful.”
The STREAM Symposium offered teachers and other participants a choice of more than 30 breakout sessions. Each 45-minute session encompassed a STREAM topic ranging from integrating smart boards and educational software to promoting digital safety and project-based learning in the classroom, as well as how best to integrate the teachings of the Church in a classroom setting. Between sessions, attendees also visited with premier education technology vendors and sponsors and participated in interactive exhibits that showcased faith-infused innovation.
The Symposium also featured a keynote address by Nathan Davis, Leadership Executive, Apple Inc., entitled “Creativity in Learning.”
The Diocese of Venice strives to be the nation’s premier provider of STREAM education, Father Belmonte stressed. “This system supports teachers by helping them prepare every student to become a man or woman of God, a person of virtue, who pursues scientific, technological and artistic endeavors founded on Faith. This Symposium is one way to convey that support.”
The behind-the-scenes planning for the STREAM Symposium was made possible by Jennifer Falestiny, Diocesan Curriculum Specialist, with the support of the entire Education team.
Early in the day, Father Belmonte presented the first ever Blue Apple Award, given to teachers who have demonstrated leadership in STREAM and robotics education at their school. The color blue in the Bible has been described by scholars as denoting the Holy Spirit and Truth or service to God, as well as the waters of the new creation in the Book of Genesis, and most importantly the color blue is associated with our Blessed Mother. There were 16 inaugural recipients of the Blue Apple Award.
In addition, Years of Service Awards were presented in categories of 10-15 years, 15-19 years, 20-25 years, 25-29 years, and more than 30 years.
Father Belmonte noted that this was the first time all of the Diocesan teachers and administrators were gathered together since before the pandemic and said “it is good to finally be together. This is my first chance to be with all of you since I started as Superintendent almost two years ago.”
The day concluded on a high note with an “after-school snack” which included four food trucks full of treats, sweets and coffee, meaning everyone left the day with a big smile.