STEM in the Diocese of Salt Lake City

Starting STEM in Sandy, Utah

Blessed Sacrament School, serving daycare through eighth grade, is located in Sandy, Utah, a small community near Salt Lake City. As one of the pioneering private schools in the region, it recently adopted and integrated Woz ED STEM Kits into its curriculum, marking the beginning of its STEM journey.

Principal Bryan Penn shared insights into the impact on both teachers and students following this implementation, alongside the encountered challenges. With Drones, Animation, Engineering , Coding, and Robotics in the lineup for the students at Blessed Sacrament, there is so much more to delve into and the students are constantly looking forward to more STEM.

This school was started thirty five years ago by two nuns, Sisters Barbara Stanek and Sharon Carroll, looking to establish a learning space for children. They could never have guessed how far their tiny school would go. Principal Bryan Penn is excited to see how much further STEM education goes at Blessed Sacrament, other schools in the area, and beyond. He comments on the vital nature of STEM education and says,

“Helping students with the things they need to know is the purpose of an educator. These are the skills they are going to need in the future. We are training students for jobs that don’t exist yet and equipping them with the ability to think in the ways of a true problem solver.”

Current STEM Programming at Blessed Sacrament

Blessed Sacrament adopts a unique approach to STEM education by pairing students from different grade levels to collaborate and utilize STEM kits together. The school divides students into groups based on their grade levels: 6th-8th graders form one group, 3rd-5th graders another, 1st-2nd graders at the primary level, and Kindergarteners at the foundational level. Each group covers the various levels (1, 2, and 3) of the Woz Pathway, which the school has acquired, throughout two semesters.

This collaborative setup encourages peer engagement and fosters a learning environment where students teach and learn from each other. Currently, students engage in STEM activities twice a week. One day involves teachers demonstrating the material and explaining its application, while Fridays are dedicated to hands-on experimentation with the technology. This approach aligns with the concept of elasticity in cognitive development, allowing students to solidify their understanding through experiential learning.

Beginning a Partnership in STEM

In 2023, Blessed Sacrament, a small Catholic school, embarked on its STEM journey. This initiative was sparked by a presentation given by Cobalt ED, a partner of Woz ED, in Salt Lake City, which was attended by Diocese of Salt Lake City Superintendent Mark Longe. Recognizing the potential to enhance science and technology programs across the Diocese, Longe encouraged schools to explore this opportunity further. After subsequent discussions and demonstrations by the Cobalt ED team, the administration of Blessed Sacrament decided to implement five STEM Pathways from Woz ED.

As with the inception of any new program, there have been challenges along the way. The primary obstacle has been adapting to new materials. Many of the staff members at Blessed Sacrament are seasoned educators with extensive experience in traditional teaching methods. Despite this, they have shown remarkable dedication to mastering the new materials and are committed to delivering high-quality STEM education to their students. Their perseverance, patience, and passion have been instrumental in the implementation process, earning them the admiration and gratitude of Principal Bryan Penn.

One significant outcome of this new curriculum is the development of what Principal Penn describes as “the scientific method mentality” among students. They have embraced the idea that learning is a process of trial and error, fostering resilience and a growth mindset. This mindset has permeated not only STEM lessons but also other subjects, empowering students to approach challenges with optimism and a willingness to persevere until they succeed.

Keeping Science and Technology Education in Mind

Principal Bryan Penn told me that the school is already thinking about adding several other STEM Kits into the curriculum, and looking to spice up their science program with Woz ED Science Kits. He’s excited to see where this takes them and is looking forward to implementing additional technological resources as they continue on their journey. 

Spring is an exciting time for Blessed Sacrament as they round out the year and look to the future. Principal Bryan Penn, like many educators, continues to be inspired by the tenacity of his students and attributes his ability to watch them learn and grow as the reason he keeps coming back year after year.

Published: April 12, 2024


Science Kits

Career-Aligned Pathways