All parents want their children to get a great education that prepares them for college, career and success in life. And, increasingly, parents are keeping a close eye on what their children are learning in their school classrooms and questioning whether or not it aligns with their values. For some families, a faith-based education just makes sense.
“Many public schools have a good moral foundation. But in a faith-based school, being taught your morals means you learn that it’s less about yourself than it is about the greater community,” explains Lisa Curtin, a fifth grade teacher with St. Monica Academy, a growing Catholic elementary school for children PreK-8 located on Chicago’s Northwest side. “Children apply teachings of the Bible through their actions and service learning. Going to church weekly helps add to the moral development of students.”
With a humanistic approach to developing the whole child — academically, socially and spiritually — students at St. Monica Academy learn that by reaching outside the school to the broader community and helping others they’re helping build a common good.
Through a unique environmental curriculum, students at St. Monica Academy learn the value of environmental stewardship. “First and foremost, our students learn that the world is a gift that should be cherished. Through stewardship, they learn how to care for that gift that was given to us. And they also learn how to use modern technology to really preserve that gift,” Curtin says.
Student Environmental Education and Development Studies (SEEDS) is an academic initiative that engages students at St. Monica Academy in project-based learning in multiple gardens on the school’s campus. Wholly unique and ground-breaking, SEEDS was developed in partnership with the Chicago Botanic Garden and launched in 2007.
“Part of this curriculum is to grow gardens and each class is responsible for a different garden,” she explains. From a preschool sensory garden through a kindergarten cooking garden to a first grade fairy tale garden, students are challenged to research plants, care for them and apply cross-curricular academic concepts through hands-on experiences in their class garden.
“Through this program, our students learn about honoring the hard work you put into the garden and what the Earth is giving back to us,” Curtin says. “The kids are in awe and wonder about how their gardens are created. We live in the middle of a city and there’s not a lot of opportunities for kids to see how plants are grown from seed. It’s an amazing experience for kids to see that.”
Connecting the dots
Through service education projects, students at St. Monica Academy learn that what they do outside of school in the wider community helps the world become a better place. “Students go on field trips to Feed My Starving Children to witness the impact of programs on food insecurity. They sort books in warehouses to be sent to libraries. Our student government organizes schoolwide food and coat drives and they make goody bags for the homeless,” says Curtin.
And the lessons children learn through the faith-based education at St. Monica Academy are embraced and reflected in the school community. “Everyone is familiar with the saying ‘it takes a village,’ and we have replaced it with ‘it takes a school,’” Curtin says. “In a faith-based education parents and teachers work together to implement faith through the curriculum, but we are also all living our faith. Faith is expressed freely in our school and that’s a hallmark of faith-based education.”
Through ice cream socials, fundraisers, galas and other events, parents become involved in the growth of St. Monica Academy. “As a parent here, you are invested in seeing this school succeed. Your kids’ classmates become their best friends and their parents become your best friends. There’s a sense of ownership and pride in accomplishments, knowing that you do everything as a community together.”
With highly skilled teachers who really care about their students, plus after-school enrichment programs and a fast-growing STEM curriculum, St. Monica Academy is a welcoming neighborhood school where children can thrive through a faith-based education that prepares them for future academic and career success.
Learn more about St. Monica Academy. Visit school.stmonicachicago.com.