STEM in The Diocese Part Two: Saint Marguerite Catholic School

A Little Catholic School Doing Big STEM Things!

Resting forty-five miles outside of Salt Lake City, Utah in a tiny town called Tooele, is a Catholic  elementary and preschool called Saint Marguerite Catholic School that sits adjacent to its local parish. The parish was first established in 1910 as a local worshiping place for immigrants. It was named after parish founder Frank McGurrin’s deceased niece. Later, with the demand of early childhood education rising, parishioner and educator Janet  Barbiero opened a preschool in her basement. This was the beginning of what exists today, a preschool through 6th grade school with the mission of supporting each student’s growth and allowing them to thrive in various learning environments.

The journey into STEM implementation started with Salt Lake City Diocese superintendents Mark Longe and Nikki Ward who had been seeking out ways to give their schools an edge. When they met Cobalt ED’s CEO, Gail Richardson, and he introduced them to Woz ED, they decided that STEM Kits may just give them a leg up when it came to offering something effective and beneficial to their students. With many charter schools in surrounding areas, Saint Marguerite was looking for the niche that would set them apart.

Chris Nielsen wears multiple hats when it comes to Saint Marguerite Catholic School. She is the lead teacher for first grade and the principal of the school. While she sacrifices a lot for the teachers and students of Saint Marguerite, she recognizes the rewarding nature of her job, and finds joy in witnessing the students grow. Woz ED STEM Kits have been an excellent way to give students opportunities to grow in various directions.

Parish-Style STEM Programming

Every teacher at Saint Marguerite Catholic School is fully trained in Woz ED STEM Kits, and they are excited about the new material. The school keeps its STEM programming simple and universal with “STEM Wednesdays, where the entire day is dedicated to STEM learning across all grade levels. They have repurposed an old assembly room, designating it as The STEM Learning Room.

The students are grouped together by grade levels to learn material within various STEM pathways. Currently, kindergarteners are coding with Osmo, first and second graders work with stop-motion animation, third and fourth graders use drones, and fifth and sixth graders work with 3D printing. This system allows students to focus on one element at a time and become comfortable with the different technologies they are exposed to.

Nielsen shares with me that she, along with other teachers and parents, has been in awe of their student’s progression with STEM in just one year. She tells me that their skillsets are growing rapidly and she loves to see the collaboration happening amongst them. She uses the example of the fourth graders learning how to build and fly drones. At the beginning of the year, they could barely get their drones programmed to leave the ground or avoid walls. Now, they are navigating obstacles like pros and using drones to deliver parcels. She is especially excited that,

“Students can see the application of where this can go for them in the future.”

What Else is Brewing in STEM Education and Beyond?

St. Marguerite is excited about a new scholarship opportunity (Utah Fits All) that will be implemented this coming school year. This program  (open to every K-12 child who is a resident of Utah) is an $8,000 scholarship that, if awarded, can be used to pay for a student’s tuition.  This scholarship will ensure that a private education is within reach by removing the financial obstacles that many of their families face. . This year, 23 students at Saint Marguerite Catholic School were awarded a Utah Fits All Scholarship. This covers the majority of tuition and fees. Not only is this an incredible opportunity for students and their families, but it takes some of the stress off of the school as 90% of their families are in need of financial aid and/or a tuition reduction.  With the financial cushion of the UFA Scholarship and Woz ED STEM Pathways in the lineup for next year, Saint Marguerite is ending the school year with high hopes for the future. 

The best thing about STEM is that you can build off of the knowledge it teaches. Woz ED STEM and Science Curriculum is written by former educators and designed specifically for a streamlined approach; carrying students from pre-k through 12th grade. Saint Marguerite has partnered with Blessed Sacrament Catholic  School for training and support. The two schools implemented  the same Woz ED Kits to use a  building block approach and hone specific skill sets  like animation, coding, drones, and 3D printing.

Nielsen and her leadership team hope that exposure to STEM will introduce future opportunities to students at a young age and show them what is possible to pursue. Teaching students at such formative stages of their development is rewarding but comes with a massive amount of responsibility. At Saint Marguerite, they recognize this and constantly seek the best ways to engage students, allow them to grow in their own ways, and encourage them to explore the world around them.

Nielsen is dedicated to the mission of Catholic Schools because she cares about her students and wants to make sure they have what they need to succeed. She believes they are doing good things at Saint Marguerite, preparing students to set goals and become their best selves in the future. As Nielsen puts it,

“It is important for teachers to help their students think critically, get along with one another, and set themselves up for success.”

STEM education is helping them do just that.


Are you a teacher using Woz ED STEM or Science Kits in your classroom? Did your students create something really cool that you want to share? Do you have feedback for our team? Let us know below!

Give us feedback for our Science Kits HERE

Give us feedback for our STEM Kits HERE

Published: May 31, 2024


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