Saint Raphael Academy becomes first STEAM Academy in state


PAWTUCKET — When STEM becomes STEAM, things get interesting.

As part of a Spanish STEAM project, Saint Raphael Academy teacher Kristen Murphy designed a unique lesson plan for teaching Mexican culture. After watching the movie “Coco,” and learning about mythical creatures called alebrijes, students created their own using Tinkercad and Thingiverse design software, then printed them on 3D printers. After sanding, priming and painting their creatures, students then filmed videos in Spanish that explained the steps of the project.

Many people are aware of STEM education, but not as many of STEAM, the addition of the arts to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math fields.

After three years of training, professional development and project implementation, Saint Raphael Academy is the first STEAM Academy high school in Rhode Island. SRA will celebrate its achievement with a ceremony on May 6.

Through a partnership with the Diocese of Providence and Roger Williams University, the STEAM Academy program at RWU’s University College provided professional development to incorporate STEAM practices into all disciplines, advancing students toward higher-thinking skills and problem-based learning across the curriculum. A grant from the Champlin Foundation supplied additional resources like green screens and 3D printers, further fueling creativity among faculty.

The teachers have fully embraced STEAM Academy, said Judy Baxter, Vice Principal for Academics. “As a result, there have been fundamental shifts in curriculum as well as classroom instruction, allowing for artistic and scientific exploration regardless of the content,” she said.

As is common at SRA, teachers were quick to help each other with ideas and problem-solving. Barbara Larned, fine arts chair and STEAM coordinator, was a resource for some teachers who didn’t consider themselves “art people” and were hesitant about using art in their lessons. And conversely, they were helpful to her in bringing more math into her lessons.

“I think teachers realized they are more creative than they thought,” said Barbara. “It’s interesting—you discover that a lot of the things you’ve been doing are not new. Realizing the STEAM connections, you can focus more on the math part, that you might highlight and spend more time on it than you would otherwise.”

The ceremony will be held at the Coutu Theater at 10 a.m. The event will feature a presentation by RWU’s University College staff and SRA student projects. For more information, contact Saint Raphael Academy at 712-8100.