STEM Competitions Give HFCA Learners a Voice and Choice
Whether you are signing kids up for sports or were an avid March Madness fan, you know that athletic competition has performance-enhancing effects. Holy Family Catholic Academy believes that academic performance likewise benefits from healthy competition, and the students at the Inverness school have the recognition to prove it.
In addition to honors and awards, participation in academic competitions increases students' motivation and initiative to take control of their learning. Empowering students to expand learning outside of the classroom develops student agency - simply defined as giving students a voice and choice in their learning.
Explains Principal Kate O'Brien, "As an International Baccalaureate World School, we strive to create an environment where students are driven by their interests and curiosity while receiving direction and support from dedicated teachers."
Mrs. Cindi Frayman, HFCA Middle School Science and STEM teacher has introduced students to a number of STEM-related competitions. As a degreed Chemical Engineer, some of the competitions arose from Frayman's association with professional organizations and some from academic relationships she has developed with scientists at the University of Chicago and institutions like Argonne National Laboratories.
Explains Mrs. Frayman, "Our relationships with leading STEM professionals have been tremendously valuable. Not only do HFCA students have access to learning from scientists and engineers working on cutting-edge research, but interacting with these experts has prompted our students to enter team and individual STEM competitions."
This year, HFCA middle school students met University of Chicago Scientist, Joanne Stubbs, Ph.D., who also participates in educational programs sponsored by Argonne National Laboratories. After the meeting, Dr. Stubbs followed up with Mrs. Frayman and encouraged her to consider competing in the Department of Energy National Science Bowl.
Explains Dr. Stubbs, "I was deeply impressed with HFCA's students' level of engagement and their very thoughtful questions. I thought they were up to the challenge to compete in the National Science Bowl."
Based on that complimentary feedback and student interest, HFCA entered not one but two teams in the competition.
"Teamwork is a required skill in STEM careers, explains Mrs. Frayman, and this event required students to think on their feet while also enforcing key skills of collaboration and communication."
States 8th grader, Abby Farrell, "Our team worked well together and the preparation for the competition allowed us to explore different areas that interested each of us."
Even as a first-time competitor, HFCA finished in the Top 10 of the participating regional schools.
Recently, HFCA 6th grade student, Isabella Schultz learned she placed 2nd and 3rd place in two competitions hosted by Argonne.
Says Isabella, "I have a passion for science, and I am thankful Mrs. Frayman encouraged me to enter the science and engineering competitions. It was awesome to see if I could improve on DaVinci's parachute that he invented over 500 years ago."
Likewise, Caleb Stout, another 6th grader won a poetry contest sponsored by the Chicago Section of the American Chemical Society.
States Mrs. Frayman, "Caleb's award was a great example of how HFCA students can apply their STEM knowledge in different ways."
Concludes Principal O'Brien, "We are so proud of our students. Their curiosity, motivation, and open-mindedness to take risks and compete academically is a credit to them and reflection on the hard work of our amazing teachers."
Using their voices and choices HFCA students shine in academic competitions and develop skills for high school and beyond.