Jan. 29, 2007

'Catholic Schools: the Good News in Education

By Cullen Schultz
Staff Writer

St. Peter’s Catholic School has a long tradition in Delano, and the tradition continues to grow as it kicks off the annual Catholic Schools Week.

The school is associated with St. Peter’s Church, as well as the Delano Catholic Community, as a whole.

To find the origins of the school, one must first look back at the creation of the St. Peter’s Church in Delano.

St. Peter’s was first established in 1864, with the first church being built in 1865, located by the St. Peter’s Cemetery.

After the second St. Peter’s church was built, in Delano, in 1874, there was a need for a school.

The nuns wrote and requested nuns to be sent to St. Peter’s to teach the children. The request was granted, and St. Peter’s Catholic School was born.

“It has always been a part of the church to educate,” second grade teacher Shelia Barth said.

When St. Peter’s Church moved for the third and final time in 1913, there was a need to build a school for the students by the church, and St. Peter’s Catholic School was constructed in 1929, with an addition being added in 1958.

The school remained open every year, except for 1928 when the nuns who were teaching caught a case of tuberculoses, and were recalled to the convent.

“They closed for one year because of sickness, and the Mother called them back to the convent,” Mark Otto said.

Now, St. Peter’s Catholic School has been in existence for more than 130 years, and the tradition, as well as the curriculum, continues to grow.

St. Peter’s is accredited with the Minnesota Non-public School Accrediting Association, and is a K-6 elementary school servicing 97 students and has seven teachers.

The kindergarten program is designed for a full day, but has the option of half-day classes as well, which is rare, because most schools design programs for half-days. The atmosphere is very positive, and they provide a great student-to-teacher ratio, as well as a strong curriculum.

“Bullying and disrespectfulness is not what we do at St. Pete’s,” said principle Cheri Bowe.

The curriculum at St. Peter’s provides strong art, language arts, music, physical education, religion, science, and social studies classes, along with an exceptional math program.

Over the last four years, the school has been building up the program, and recently scored exceptionally on its composite test scores.

“It is something we are really proud of,” Barth said.

The curriculum also gives the teachers flexibility to experiment with various teaching methods to see what fits best for the students. This allows the teachers to do various activities, and field trips the students have fun with, while at the same time, learning valuable lessons.

“The teachers are very wonderful, creative, and care about the kids,” Bowe said.

Some examples of activities the students get to do are a wax museum, and a yearly trip to the Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Camp, in Lanesboro, and the Passion Play.

“Take other experiences and make them fun and educational,” Otto said.

The wax museum project gives the students the opportunity to pick a historical figure, do research on them, come up with a profile, and dress like them.

The student then must stand completely still holding a pose, then every three minutes, they must change their pose, while the whole time people walk by just like at a wax museum.

“It is another way for them to learn,” Barth said.

The trip to the Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Camp is always exciting for the students.

They get to be outside and learn about nature and science by doing experiments, as well as physical activities such as rock climbing. The experience also gives the students team building skills, which help them progress throughout the school year as well as in their life.

The Passion Play, which is done by second graders, takes place every year in the gym. The play is a nonverbal reenactment of the journey of Jesus to be crucified and then resurrected. The play goes through the Stations of the Cross, each station positioned as an act of the play.

To go along with these activities, the school provides many more experiences for the students, such as speaking in front of Mass on Fridays; science, geography, and alternative fairs, Christmas programs, a spring musical, Fourth of July float, and the Veterans Day Musical.

“There are many opportunities the children have for public speaking, singing, and acting,” Bowe said.

Besides the activities and trips, the school has much more to offer. The school has just purchased 10 new computers, giving the students more opportunity to work with the technology.

Also the teachers have five LSD projectors, which allow them free access whenever students want, not prohibiting them on projects.

“It is so new we are still working out the kinks,” Barth said.

The ratio of projectors to teachers allows them to try new activities with the students. Right now, St. Peter’s is in the process of working with the Minneapolis Institute of Art to get into its Art Adventure Program.

The program offers various forms of famous art work, which the students would get to, observe and study.

“A volunteer would go there and they explain the art to them, and the volunteer comes back and teaches it to the students,” Bowe explained

With the success of St. Peter’s, along with Catholic schools as a whole, this week they are celebrating Catholic Schools Week.

Nearly 8,000 Catholics school celebrate the event along with St. Peter’s. The theme for 2007 is “Catholic Schools: the Good News in Education.”

“It is to promote to the public that Catholic schools are continuing our mission,” Barth said.

The week-long festivities kicked off Sunday with a pancake and waffle breakfast, tours of the school, and the first ever Cabin Fever Family Day, which involved wildlife exhibit, scavenger hunt, juggling, juggling lessons, as well as the third annual vehicle raffle drawing.

On Monday, the teachers will be facing off against the students in a beach volleyball game at 2 p.m., which everyone is welcome to come cheer on their favorite team.

Tuesday’s events start with a presentation by Sr. Monika, where she will be telling the students about her religious experiences and her life, followed by kindergarten round-up at 6:30 p.m.

The roundup is for future students and their parents, designed to introduce them to the school and staff. A dinner will be prepared in the cafeteria, followed by games and activities for the children.

“It is an opportunity for new students and parents to tour the school and get some information,” Bowe said.

On Wednesday, the St. Thomas Drill Team will be at the school, and Thursday the fifth and sixth graders will read to the Cherub Corner students.

After the readings, the students will play home and school games in the gym, with bingo being offered in the cafeteria.

To end Catholic School Week, the students will dress up, and show their faith by wearing or carrying a religious article. To finalize the day and week, a talent show will be performed, with students, as well as teachers, allowed to participate.

“The week is kind of like homecoming week for the kids,” Otto said.

Catholic School Week is about having fun, celebrating their faith, and reaching out to the community.

“We have an identity, and we like to celebrate our catholic identity,” Bowe said.

St. Peter’s has a long tradition, and its tradition continues to grow, and with the help they receive St. Joseph’s/St. Peter’ Churches, as well as from alumni, parents, and volunteers, they will continue to excel.

“The level of commitment from parents and families have to the school is unbelievable,” Otto said.

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