LYNN — Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito was welcomed with hugs from the students of Sacred Heart School during her visit on Wednesday afternoon, which was a part of STEM week in Massachusetts.
Strengthening STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education in the commonwealth’s K-12 schools is a priority of the Baker-Polito administration, according to a press release announcing that the fourth annual Massachusetts Statewide STEM Week takes place this week.
Polito was greeted inside the school lobby by a line of excited students from pre-kindergarten to fifth grade; the students were holding posters that they had made and signed for her. The youngest children went right up to Polito to give her hugs as well.
“Oh my goodness!” said Polito. “So happy to see you!”
The students presented her with a Sacred Heart swag bag, a face mask, coffee mug and jar of Smarties candy to “outsmart” anything that she might face.
Polito was then taken on a tour around the school. She visited pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and fifth-grade classrooms and spent some time engaging with the students.
She explained to the fifth graders the meaning behind the STEM acronym and how science, technology, engineering, and math are an integral part of many life situations, including the activity they were doing. The fifth grade was crafting skeletons out of Q-tips, using an X-ray of a human body displayed on an electronic blackboard as reference. Polito explained how doctors use all components of STEM to heal human bones.
There are currently 226 students at Sacred Heart School, who range from 2 years, 9 months of age through fifth grade. The school has a partnership with St. Mary’s School, where children go to continue their education in STEM, and other areas of study, from grades 6-12.
“We have a continuum of learning from our baby scholars to our older scholars and 12th grade,” said Kristina Relihan, principal of the school.
The school offers STEM experiments throughout the school year, although it is still defining what it looks like to a 2-year-old vs. a 10- or 11-year-old, said Relihan. During Polito’s visit, pre-kindergarten students were observing how corn kernels behaved in a bubbling mixture of water, vinegar, and baking soda. In the kindergarten classroom, students voted on whether a small and large pumpkin would float or sink in a basin filled with water (the answer: both floated).
“As you saw today, the amount of excitement that comes from doing sink-and-float, dancing corn, the skeletons, they are learning skills that are going to take them into the future,” said Relihan. “That’s what we focus on every day: We need to teach them how to be good citizens, have a wonder for learning, and just wanting to continue to learn.”
The visit from the lieutenant governor is a celebration of the students and their accomplishments, as well as a validation for the whole community for what it is doing for children’s education, Relihan said. She added that meeting the lieutenant governor gives their scholars a sense of pride.
Relihan would like to continue growing enrollment at the school and in the STEM program to maximize the early childhood aspect of education. She would like to instill in her students that learning these skills is beneficial to them and will enhance their adulthood.
The visit was organized by the Lynn Education District, which was founded four years ago as a collaborative effort among schools, nonprofit organizations, and the private sector in the city.
“We are fortunate that we have a terrific working relationship with the Department of Education and lieutenant governor’s office,” said Joel Abramson, co-founder of the Lynn Education District.
Abramson said that they asked the participants of the Education District to send the unique projects and programs that they were running during the STEM week to incorporate the theme of “See Yourself in STEM.”
The organization then chose Sacred Heart School to be one of the lieutenant governor’s premium stops due to the unique nature of its program, Abramson said.
Polito said that she saw happy children who are safe, supported, and knowing that they are loved.
“I am glad I saw this school. Now I can see the whole connection: how Lynn Public Schools, the charter school, and your Catholic school are working together and why,” said Polito. “You’ve created a community and I know how much we raise STEM in the community. These are our future engineers, our future scientists, our future doctors, our future technicians.
“Education is the biggest gift we can give obviously to our kids; it’s the biggest gift we can give to our future. And we can provide them with the foundational skills. They will be able to connect to our economy and be productive citizens for our commonwealth.”