Enhancement of Curriculum Major Focus in New

By Colleen Rowan WHEELING— “If we’re going to move Catholic school education in the right direction we have to enhance it, strengthen it and make it meaningful for the time in which we are living,” said Sister Elaine Poitras, CSC, Ph.D., superintendent of Catholic schools for the diocese. “That’s what our vision is.” As she discussed in her first meeting with principals of the diocese’s 25 Catholic elementary and grade schools and seven Catholic high schools Sept. 10, enhancement of the curriculum is a major focus. Emphasizing that Catholic schools must be catalysts in helping students grow into media-savvy critical thinkers who can effectively communicate on the global level equipped with the foundation for moral decision making, Sister Elaine said that advancements in the curriculum will help students to be successful in the world of tomorrow. “Our goal is to do things in a way that frees children to be not only active and participative but also to (become) adults that will contribute to their church, to their local society and to the world,” Sister Elaine said. “The children who are in kindergarten today are going to be the movers and the shakers of this country and of this world. The education that we provide today has to inspire them into that time of action.” The theme for the 2008-2009 school year is “To Go Where There is No Road and Make a Path,” a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson. Sister Elaine said that she and staff of the diocesan Department of Catholic Schools will be working with principals in considering what changes to the curriculum will be made. In discernment of these changes, many different areas are being considered—one of which is teaching and learning styles. Sister Elaine cited the work of Howard Gardner, professor of cognition and education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, on multiple intelligences, that individuals learn in a variety of ways—verbally and musically, among other ways. “If we don’t in some ways support their way of thinking, of their way of processing information,” Sister Elaine said, “we deprive them of an opportunity to learn.” Collaboration is key, Sister Elaine said, for the future. Students, she said, must learn how to pull together groups of people whose thinking skills compliment each other. It is also material, she said, for schools to teach critical thinking skills to help students analyze information and to help them become media savvy. Oral presentation is also a major focus for curriculum enhancements. Stating that students must be effective communicators to be successful in the future, being able to write and speak the English language well, Sister Elaine said they must also begin to learn other languages such as Mandarin Chinese, Arabic and Russian. “We need to give them exposure to languages that are going to open up their world,” she said. “Understanding language and culture is going to be a great asset to them in moving into the work places of the 21st century.” Also a foremost focus for Catholic schools, she said, must be fostering moral decision making in a world in which relativism reigns and values are at risk. “We need to be very conscious about teaching moral decision making from the earliest stages,” Sister Elaine said, “so that they can see the difference between right and wrong.” “If Catholic schools are going to be relevant and meaningful into the 21st century,” Sister Elaine noted, “and if they are really going to be able to carry on their mission of creating disciples and evangelization then they’ve got to be up to speed all the way around.”