Testing STEM and Literacy

Blessed Trinity students test STEM and literacy superheroes for new PBS TV program

By Kathy Schneeman

For students at Blessed Trinity Catholic School (BTCS) in Richfield, a chance encounter led to assisting with the production of the new Twin Cities PBS program Hero Elementary, premiering summer 2020.

First grade teacher Melody Wyrick was at a coffee shop discussing strategies for keeping students engaged in the classroom when Joan Freese, PBS executive producer, piped in. 

“She suggested my students help test concepts of a new show focusing on STEM and literacy,” Wyrick said. 

Hero Elementary is a cartoon that follows the adventures of young superheroes as they investigate, observe and test ideas. It follows a science curriculum encompassing ebooks, hands-on activities, games and interactive notebooks that supports school readiness for grades K-2.

Its emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and literacy concepts aligns with key initiatives supported by the Catholic Schools Center of Excellence (CSCOE). This includes the C-STEM Lending Library and Groves Academy partnership that aims to ensure all students are fluent readers and spellers by third grade.

“Learning to read at an early age unlocks education throughout a lifetime,” BTCS Principal Patrick O’Keefe explained. “The more ways we can provide access to literacy, the better chance for every child to thrive.”

Teamwork on display

The PBS Twin Cities team visited Wyrick’s classroom several times last school year, offering students the chance to work together, learn new skills and have fun. During a visit in February, first grade student Aaron Fragoso reached the getting lots of points,” he said.

Dr. Momo Hayakawa, PBS research associate, was impressed by the BTCS community.

“The reason we keep coming back to BTCS is because the children are very respectful, patient and diverse,” she said. “They have lots of ideas and are excellent with articulating helpful feedback, which helps us modify our program.” 

When Dr. Hayakawa asked what the students liked about helping with the show that day, first grade student Sophie Emilio answered, “I liked the story when the superheroes persevered.”

Dr. Hayakawa responded with a smile, acknowledging Emilio’s insightful view into the bigger lessons happening because of this unique partnership.

“Did you just use the word ‘persevere’?’” Dr. Hayakawa said. “Yes, when we work as a team, we need to persevere.”

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