Holy Family Regional students embrace a new kind of learning

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Eighth-graders at Levittown’s Holy Family Regional Catholic School have a new reason to get excited about school.

Last week, students were sprawled out on the floors, huddled in groups around tables, engaged and focused on one of their newest projects — building robots.

For them, it’s a welcome break in the usual curriculum, and thanks to a anonymous $7,000 donation from an alum of Queen of the Universe, the school was able to buy in, purchasing several EV3 Robotics kits made by LEGO.

Students work in groups of three or four to build the small robots and program them with an iPad application. They make them move through mazes, pick up and carry items and customize them with their own designs.

“When we do these kinds of things, we don’t have absences,” said Terry Gottshall of Bensalem, who teaches eighth-grade math and science and sixth-grade math at the school. She heads the robotics program at the school.

It’s part of the school’s new STREAM initiative, which includes the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math portions of the usual STEM model, but incorporates Art and Religion. Sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students participate in the program now, but soon the entire school will be a part of it.  

In addition to the robots zipping around the classroom, each student will spend one trimester working on a STREAM project. Right now, students are studying green engineering by learning about building and insulating container houses, made from shipping containers.

Other trimesters will focus on biomedical engineering by studying prosthetics for fish and agricultural engineering with vertical farming.

The sessions will culminate with students making a project with a multimedia presentation to share with their classmates and the community.

“We give them leeway to work with their creativity,” Gottshall said. “That’s when the growth happens.”

Last Wednesday, Isabella Lucano, 13, and David Phinn, 14, both students from Fairless Hills, were tinkering with their robot. They had to get it to latch onto an object and navigate through a maze.

“We had a lot of fun with building it,” Phinn said, explaining how they made the “brain” of the robot by strategically placing cords and wiring it correctly. “I think I maybe want to be an engineer when I’m older. I like building stuff like this.”

“I want to be an engineer, too,” Lucano said. “But like an Imagineer. They work at Disney World, and I’d like to design all the rides. That would be so cool.”

Parents of current and prospective students will get to see what the school has to offer first-hand on Nov. 6 when the school holds its open house from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. There will be a robotics display, where attendees can get a more in-depth look at how the program works along with other hands-on activities for other programs the school is offering.

“It’s a dream to come in every day and teach this way and to be able to bring this kind of learning to the students,” Gottshall said. “When I look from where I started 14 years ago, to where we are now, there’s just no words. It’s amazing.”

Holy Family Regional Catholic School is located at 2477 Trenton Road in Levittown. For information, visit hfrcs.org.



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