By KATHY CHANG
METUCHEN — Testing car speeds with speed guns and air resistance with parachutes are the types of activities that fourth-graders at St. Francis Cathedral School are experiencing through the school’s STREAM club.
STREAM stands for Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics.
The school’s club is the recipient of a $2,500 Farmers Insurance grant awarded by the company’s Thank America’s Teachers program.
Edward van Eckert of the Edward van Eckert Agency in Metuchen and Maria Portales of the Maria Portales Agency in Woodbridge, who sponsored the grant for St. Francis, were on hand to present the check to Stephanie Monteleone, a kindergarten teacher who runs the after-school program, on Nov. 3 with her mother, Judi Monteleone, who is the vice principal at the school.
Principal Barbara Stevens said the STREAM club was created a year ago.
She said the school’s focus has been implementing a STREAM curriculum. The school held its first STREAM fair last year in May and also created an after-school STREAM club program.
“We were anxious in starting the club so we didn’t wait for the funding,” said Stevens.
David Liantonio, business manager at the school, worked with the Monteleones on the grant proposal.
“The purpose of this club is to ignite students’ curiosity and to engage them in active inquiry and problem-solving,” the proposal stated.
The club utilizes the product called littleBits, which contain color-coded parts that have different functions.
“These parts combine to allow students to build innovative circuits that merge electronic building blocks with other materials,” the proposal explains. “Students have a chance to solve such hands-on challenges as creating a circuit or making a smart flashlight.”
The littleBit kits are reusable, and the initial investment of $2,500 allows St. Francis Cathedral School to begin a STREAM club that could serve up to 60 students.
Monteleone said there was a lot of interest in the club. In the first year, they had 16 students in the first session of the school year and 16 students in the second session.
“We had to select names out of a hat,” she said. “We hope with the funding, it will help us open the club up to more children.”
Judi Monteleone added that materials for the club are currently dispersed around her office.
“We hope we also can find a permanent space for storage of the materials,” she said.
The students in the club called the activities “fun” and explained that they have to work together.
Monteleone said each student keeps a science journal reflecting their experience with the different activities.
Eckert and Portales said sharing what the grants do for schools like St. Francis helps Farmers Insurance make that easy decision to give back to their communities and education.
Throughout the year, Thank America’s Teachers and Farmers Insurance give away more than $1 million in educational grants to teachers around the nation, supporting proposals and projects that make a difference.
Area schools that have previously benefited from the Farmers Insurance grants include Colonia Middle School, St. James School in Woodbridge, Bishop George Ahr High School in Edison, Edgar Middle School in Metuchen, Woodbridge High School and St. Joseph High School in Metuchen.
For more information about Thank America’s Teachers, visit www.ThankAmericasTeachers.com.