Our Approach to Student Engagement in a Wired World
In our wired world, there are many opportunities to use technology for good. Humans can connect remotely, organize content, innovate, conduct and share research, and increase work efficiency. At Lakewood Catholic Academy, we remain committed to exposing our students to a wide array of technological tools with which to learn, grow, connect, and create. Educational access to leading edge technology is provided within a relationship-based framework.
We are, however, conscious of the unintended consequences of an increasingly technological society. In his 2015 encyclical on the environment and human ecology, Laudato Si, Pope Francis states, “When media and the digital world become omnipresent, their influence can stop people from learning how to live wisely, to think deeply, and to love generously.” The overuse, indeed the omnipresence of, technology can dishonor what it means to be human.
We understand the potential adverse effects of technology on physical health, behavior, mood, speech, cognition and attention span of a developing child. Additionally, we are aware of the influence of persuasive and addictive technological and digital design on the developing brain. It is for these reasons that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding screens for children under two and limiting exposure for older children.
Fundamentally, our philosophical approach to technology in the education and formation of children is that no technology should replace the human connection between teacher and student or between students. Technology is only one tool/medium in the holistic education and formation of students; it is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself.
We recognize that educational technology changes rapidly. We will adapt to the changes and utilize the very best technological resources available to us. What will not change is our commitment to prioritizing human connection over internet connection. At one point in the evolution of education, printed workbooks were the latest ‘technology’. At that point, no student ever said, “That workbook changed my life!” But they did say that of teachers and of their peers. The same is true today. We will not become so fascinated by what technology can do that we forget what it can’t do. The world’s best computer technology will not inspire, motivate, console, encourage, or reward students as profoundly as a teacher or peer can.
At Lakewood Catholic Academy, we will honor and prioritize real time, in-person relationships, for it is through relationships that we grow best and learn best.
Greeting & Engagement
In a widely-cited 2018 study, when teachers started class by welcoming students at the door, academic engagement increased by 20 percentage points and disruptive behavior decreased by 9 percentage points. LCA students experience multiple greetings by classroom teachers throughout the day.
Upon entering our building each day, students typically encounter administrators and other faculty members who joyfully greet students. From that moment on, we ask that students put away their cell phones and prioritize human connection. At LCA we look into the eyes of those in our community. We refuse to become a place where eyes are rested constantly on devices. Students should see the light in each others’ eyes rather than the electric glow of a device.
Students are introduced to our Saintly Seven acronym, “SLANT”. Slant stands for Sit up, Lean in, Ask and answer questions, Nod, Track the speaker. The culture promoted by SLANT is one where all members are invested in and are active members of the learning environment. Each component of SLANT fosters growth in areas related to interpersonal communication.
Front Porch Visits & Orientation
Saints entering kindergarten and fifth grade are visited by teachers or administrators prior to the first day of class. These visits are wonderful opportunities to meet one another and to share thoughts about the coming year. Through these in-person visits, we honor the power of human connection.
Fifth and sixth grade orientation day includes a session on formal and informal interpersonal communication. Students practice eye contact, handshakes, and the art of conversation.
The Great Lake Shake
Our sixth through eighth grade students participate in an experience that celebrates interpersonal communication skills. Our LCA Great Lake Shake competition calls for students to interact with a wide variety of adult leaders from our community. Students are challenged to demonstrate excellent verbal and non-verbal communication skills with unfamiliar but supportive adults.
While learning educational content is important, students also learn and practice many interpersonal skills. Students are encouraged and taught to collaborate, communicate, and reflect. Classroom interactions include group discussion, debate, problem solving, presentations, and designing and creating by hand. In our fast-paced society, it is important to give students time and space to think, share, and create.
Our seventh and eighth grade students participate in a Communications class focused on interpersonal and presentation skills. Students are also introduced to different aspects of the performing arts. The techniques learned in this class enable students to improve their public speaking skills as well as gain confidence in the use of different presentation styles.
Daily prayer allows time for a personal connection with our Creator. Masses and prayer services provide opportunities for our community to share in rituals focused on fostering a deeper relationship with Christ. Through prayer intentions, students develop awareness, empathy, and compassion for those in need in both our local and global communities.
Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is a Montessori based approach to religious education based in Scripture and Liturgy for children in elementary school. This program takes place in the LCA Atrium. Our Atrium is a prayerful, peaceful environment in which our students spend time weekly.
Every week, students participate in an examination of conscience in the tradition of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Students silently and personally reflect on questions that both challenge them and assure them of God’s love. Through regular practice of silence and stillness, our Saints learn that they can and should take a break from an increasingly noisy world.
The LCA Social Justice Curriculum exposes our preschool through eighth grade students to a world greatly in need. Through age-appropriate research, reflection, planning and action, students develop empathy and an awareness of their responsibility to love their neighbor as they love themselves.
IB Community Project
The IB Community Project is the culminating service project for Lakewood Catholic Academy students. After reflecting on their gifts, talents, and interests during a guided retreat, eighth grade students identify a need in the local or global community and develop an action plan to address that need. The Community Project requires research, planning, action, and reflection. LCA Faculty members serve as supervisors, walking with students as they evolve through the project. Living out the pillars of Catholic Social Teaching develops student empathy and agency.
House Leadership Program
The House Leadership Program is structured to foster a supportive community. Students in fifth grade through eighth grade belong to one of six houses. Throughout the year, fun activities, challenging competitions, and meaningful interactions build supportive, positive relationships across grades. This leadership program features a variety of challenges including public performances that require all students to develop the skills necessary to communicate to large audiences.
INTERNATIONAL BACCALAUREATE APPROACHES TO LEARNING SKILLS
As an IB World School, we are tasked with designing curricular experiences that foster critical learning skills. Approaches to Learning (ATL) skills include the domains of communication, social, self-management, research, and thinking. Information and media literacy as well as appropriate use of technology are recognized as critical skills for development. However, many of the skills we must foster cannot be practiced without explicitly planning activities around interpersonal connections. Examples of skills that are included in these domains are:
- Give and receive meaningful feedback
- Negotiate ideas and knowledge with peers and teachers
- Practice empathy
- Manage and resolve conflict and work collaboratively in teams
- Practice strategies to develop mental quiet
- Demonstrate persistence and perseverance
- Practice dealing with change
- Practice delaying gratification
- Create novel solutions to complex problems
LAKEWOOD CATHOLIC ACADEMY: A COMMUNITY OF FAITH
While we take great pride in our ability to provide students with access to the latest technology, Lakewood Catholic Academy is a community that is committed to living wisely, to thinking deeply, and to loving generously. At LCA, we promise to LOOK UP, not only at each other, but also towards our God, who is the focus of our community of faith.