by Lilla Ross | Photos by Woody Huband

Christ the King Catholic School in Jacksonville is the first school in the state to receive its STREAM accreditation.

Students from Christ the King observe beans germinating in the school laboratory. (Photo by Woody Huband)

STREAM, which stands for Science Technology Engineering, Religion, Arts and Mathematics, is like the STEM program in public schools but includes religion and arts.

Principal Stephanie Engelhardt said Christ the King began building its STREAM program during the 2011-12 school year with focus groups for parents.

“We are so excited to be the first school to get the accreditation,” she said. “We’re really proud.”

The goal of the STREAM accreditation is to help students become more engaged in the subjects with an interdisciplinary approach that is more hands-on, she said.

The school added 30 minutes to its school day so it could increase the amount of time spent on the subjects.

The program also requires students to spend more time using technology. “In grades sixth through eighth, I put an iPad in every child’s hands,” Engelhardt said. In kindergarten through fifth grade, an iPad is available for every two students.

Students photographing aquatic life in Strawberry Creek in Jacksonville. (Photo by Woody Huband)

Each class has developed a project, many of which include an opportunity to learn about church teaching in such areas as the environment and social justice.

For instance, kindergarteners have planted a nectar garden for bees and butterflies that is now an official Monarch Way Station, she said. The fourth grade has a project with solar panels and the sixth grade has been collecting data for the St. Johns Riverkeeper at nearby Strawberry Creek.

Seventh-graders are using vegetables from their salsa garden to can their own sauce. They also donate produce to L’Arche Harbor House, a nearby home for disabled adults.

The middle school was challenged to improve the lives of immigrant farm workers, Engelhardt said. And they have come up with all kinds of projects. One girl wrote a book contrasting the lives of a Caucasian girl and a Hispanic girl, the daughter of farm workers, who meet in school.

Students testing water samples from the Strawberry Creek in Jacksonville (Photo by Woody Huband)

The sixth grade developed a pulley system to help farm workers lift 32-pound buckets of tomatoes into trucks.

Several classes have been raising money or collecting clothes, diapers, cleaning products and other supplies to be donated to the farm worker ministry in Plant City.

The eighth-grade class is going to visit St. Clement parish in Plant City to meet farm workers and go to a field to see how food is harvested. The visit will be videotaped so it can be shared with the whole school, Engelhardt said.

This is not the first honor for Christ the King School. It was designated by the Department of Education as a National Blue Ribbon School, one of 312 in the country. It has about 250 students, who score in the top 10 percent in the nation in reading and math.