At St. John Vianney School in Orchard Park, students have been learning about science, technology, religion, engineering, the arts and mathematics as a school participating in the diocesan STREAM program. As December rolls around, they are preparing to take what they have learned to the X-STREAM by making their own video games.
The annual X-STREAM Games and Expo, which will take place this year at 10 a.m. on Dec. 3 at St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute in Kenmore, let students compete with peers in other area Catholic schools in contests to see who can create the most successful inventions.
To both prepare for this event and gain important skills for living and getting a job in a digital world, St. John Vianney students have focused on coding this year under the tutelage of Melody Nardone, the school's STREAM coordinator.
"I was one of the people who actually created a coding course by utilizing video games. The Buffalo Diocese actually hired me to write this course and actually implement it with the other area Catholic schools that are STREAM schools," Nardone said. "There are 18 area STREAM schools that actually bought my coding course that I wrote."
At the X-STREAM Games, the attendees, including Bishop Richard J. Malone, will be able to test and play the students' creations: video games with three difficulty levels, ranging from easy to hard. Students learned about potentially lucrative careers available in video game and graphic design today.
"We went through that, and we taught them the basics of video game design using a basic template and platform. There's the basic rules of school - no violence or anything like that. The video games that I've been seeing have been absolutely amazing, at least in my class," Nardone added. "One student based a video game completely on Halloween, so there are pumpkins, ghosts and things like that. The mere fact that he created that video game is phenomenal."
Since the games are online, students can play them anywhere, and others can log in from around the world and play them.
In addition to video games, another of the STREAM academies at St. John Vianney across grade levels included "You're the Balm," which allows students to make and market their own lip balm as entrepreneurs in fourth and fifth grade.
"It really gives them that encouragement to go forward, to know what it's like to write up their own business plan. I don't think I wrote my own business plan until I was 25, so to know that students are doing this at such a young age to get those 21st-century skills is just amazing," Nardone said.
Students in lower grades have had Kitchen Chem, which teaches them how to cook and measure with an emphasis on healthy foods. LEGO University allowed children to build 3-D models out of the blocks. Teachers in various grade levels were also trained to teach about weather, pollination and rocketry, which Nardone called "phenomenal."
"We have our pre-K doing their sprouts, and we've implemented that for the last three years. Every single teacher across the board, from pre-K all the way to eighth grade, is implementing engineering design briefs," she said. "The kids are absolutely loving it. They are fully engaged in the lessons. Parents are embracing STREAM - it is alive and well here at St. John Vianney School."