Catholic Education Essay Ideas

Here is another great collection of Catholic schools week ideas and activities by Jennifer Dees and Meghann Robinson, both employees of the Alliance for Catholic Education program at the University of Notre Dame. This year’s Catholic Schools Week theme is A+ for America and I think they have come up with a great list of ideas and activities that you will find very helpful.

Catholic Schools Week: January 30 – February 5, 2011

This year the Catholic Schools Week theme highlights the gift that Catholic Schools are to our nation. Below are some ideas for how the theme can translate into meaningful activities during the week. Activities are sorted by subject for organizational purposes, although many activities are cross-curricular so make sure you read them all.

Please feel free to share any additional ideas you have planned by posting in the comments below or email them to us using the contact page.

The following ideas are organized by these subjects:

  1. Religion
  2. Math
  3. Social Studies/History
  4. Language Arts
  5. Science
  6. Art
  7. Music
  8. Faculty

Religion Ideas and Activities for Catholic Schools Week

  • Begin or end the week with a school Mass. Have the students plan the liturgy, and make sure students are involved as lectors, gift-bearers, servers, etc. Dress the altar with symbols of our country and Catholic education in the offertory procession, incorporating patriotic songs. Invite families and volunteers and hosting a short reception after Mass.
  • Have a prayer service celebration with the theme of the week.
  • Study saints that were influential in the creation of the American Catholic School System. For example, John Neumann, Catherine Drexel, and Elizabeth Ann Seton.
  • Research the founding order of the school and its charism. Brainstorm ideas about how the school could celebrate this charism with the students or faculty.
  • Have each class participate in a service project. This allows students to put their faith into action by giving to their communities.
  • Read the parable of the Good Samaritan. Discuss what this parable teaches about how students should behave when they grow up and become active citizens in America.
  • Create prayer partners. Pair classes/students and have them pray for one another.
  • Create a prayer chain using red, white, and blue strips. Have every student write an intention on a piece of paper to make a chain that wraps around the gym.

Social Studies/History Ideas and Activities

  • Help children see that they are part of a large network of schools by creating and displaying a map of the Catholic schools across the country.
  • Compare God’s Law and civil law. Click on this link for a fantastic lesson on the 10 Commandments. Connect this lesson to topics being covered in your history or social studies class.
  • Symbols are an important part of every culture. In America, the flag, the bald eagle, and many other symbols are signs of our patriotism. Compare these national symbols associated with our country to symbols that are important to our faith such as the Eucharist, the crucifix, and the Rosary. Discuss why symbols are important and what they tell us about a group of people.
  • Hold an intellectual competition such as a Geography Bee. Visit the official website for more details: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/geobee/

Math Ideas and Activities

Explore data with your students about how students benefit from their experience in Catholic schools.  As shown in this Catholic Schools fact sheet compiled by Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education, there is a proven “Catholic school advantage!”  Share some of these facts with students and conduct a class poll about the benefits of a Catholic education. What do students think are the most important reasons their parents send them to Catholic schools? Try these follow-up activities:

  • Studying percents or ratios, or need to brush up before the Spring standardized tests? The poll results will provide great numbers for problem-creation! Make up some questions for students to answer using the data they collected, and challenge them to create their own questions for each other.
  • Display poll results using appropriate graphs and tables, and prepare posters or brochures to share with the wider school community or even prospective families!
  • Looking for more published figures about Catholic education? Visit the NCEA website for loads of Catholic school census data, collected annually, as well as comparisons of Catholic school and public school testing results on the Nation’s Report Card.  Or share this promising nugget of research from a USCCB News Release.  Use these figures to practice number-and-operation skills like comparing large numbers, reading decimals, to modeling percents on hundreds grids, to creating and solving story problems.
  • An algebra exploration for middle school and high school students:  Discuss the value that parents at your school get for their tuition dollar, and then explore the exponential function associated with the recommended annual tuition increase of 5% a year.  At that rate, what will tuition be in 5 years?  10 years?  Discuss the elements of your school that make it worth the sacrifice, and have students brainstorm policies that could help make a Catholic education more accessible to families.

Catholic Schools Week Activities for Language Arts

  • Become pen pals with students at another Catholic school. Exchange letters about how you/they celebrate Catholic Schools Week.
  • Have a school wide essay contest. Share the top three essays and present an award to the winner at an assembly on Friday.  Include the little ones by having them participate in a drawing contest. (These drawings make great bulletin boards!) Topics might include:
  1. Draw yourself in 20 years being a good American because of what you have learned at your Catholic School
  2. If we have faith, hope, and love how does it make us better people for the future?
  3. What has my school taught me to do for my country?
  • Have a discussion with your students about the importance of being good readers and writers. Ask them why these skills are important both socially and spiritually.  Help them to see that by using these skills we can become more aware of the needs of others in the world and communicate these needs in a way that compels people to care for one another.
  • Hold an intellectual competition such as a Spelling Bee. Visit the official website for more details: www.spellingbee.com

Science Activities for Catholic Schools Week

  • Discuss ways that students encounter God in science, particularly in nature.
  • Discuss clean energy and other ways that we can be responsible stewards of creation. Make connections to the creation stories and the fact that we are given the privilege and responsibility of caring for creation.

Art Activities for Catholic Schools Weeks

  • Create posters that advertise how Catholic schools produce good citizens.
  • Study American artists’ and their works. Thank God for their talents and for providing the inspiration for their work (nature, cities, etc.). One great example is Ansel Adams.

Catholic Schools Week and Music Classes

  • Sing patriotic songs.  Older students may be able to make connections between these songs and religious songs.

Ideas for Involving Faculty in Catholic Schools Week

  • Catholic Schools Week should be an inspirational time for teachers and administrators who give so generously of themselves to make Catholic education available. Take time as a faculty to reflect on the gift of Catholic education and what you do every day to change the lives of the children you teach.
  • Create prayer partners among the faculty members.
  • Reflect on the questions below individually or as part of a mini faculty retreat:
  1. How does your subject area play a part in the revelation? How does what you teach reveal God to you and your students? What do kids come to know about God from being in your class?
  2. How do you see Christ in your coworkers?  How do you make Christ visible to them?

Have a wonderful Catholic Schools Week!

P.S. If you like what you see here, sign-up to receive a free copy of The Religion Teacher’s Guide to Lesson Planning, which includes descriptions of 250 activities and teaching strategies that teachers of all subjects will find useful.

Filed Under: Activities, January ResourcesTagged With: catholic schools week, guest post, jennifer dees, meghann robinson

The following essay was the winning composition in this year’s Catholic Schools’ Week Essay Contest.

Catholic schools: Communities of faith, knowledge, service
By Michael Schultz

When prompted to write about Catholic schools, all I could think was, “What can I say about Catholic schools?”

The real question I should have been asking myself was: “How can I put into words how great the experience of Catholic education has been for me?”

I am tremendously grateful for all of the fruits in my life that are the result of my Catholic education. Catholic schools have planted the seeds of faith, knowledge and service within me and I will continue to nourish and help them grow throughout the rest of my life.

Not only have Catholic schools taught our faith to me, but they have also given to me the opportunities and resources to share our faith with others. Attending Catholic schools has taught to me the teachings of the Church regarding social justice and the dignity of all people. By learning this, I’ve had the motivation to help care for the poor and pray for the unborn, at home, and in the real world at soup kitchens and at abortion clinics.

I have deepened my faith through prayer, presence at Mass, attending retreats and taking theology classes. I have learned different ways of sharing this faith in the ways I live and act. Instead of simply presenting our collection of beliefs on paper, they have taken us to Mass, on visits to nursing homes and food banks, and on retreats to show us how we can spread the Good News in our everyday lives. The sharing of faith has been the key to my success at Catholic schools.

Catholic schools have been the pillar of my eagerness to gain knowledge. They have taught such things as math and English, but they have also challenged me to think critically about real world problems. They have given to me the opportunity to test myself in competitions such as the Governor’s Cup and Quick Recall.

They challenge me in honors classes, and rigorous Advance Placement college level classes. Catholic schools have taught the importance of education through the many great teachers I have had. I attribute a large portion of my work ethic to my eighth-grade math teacher, who pushed me to do my best and work hard. For me, she made learning more relatable to the student through her in depth lesson plans and willingness to help with assignments outside of school.

The things I have been taught are very important to me because they have been made more meaningful in the way they are presented. And, throughout the learning experience, Catholic schools have also reminded me that all knowledge is from God.

One of the most powerful things that Catholic schools have given me is the willingness to serve. From the time I was in lower grades to the present, stewardship has been strongly encouraged and challenged. I have been empowered to give of myself by completing service hours for confirmation and annual requirements. In attending field trips to Dare to Care, the Ronald McDonald House and soup kitchens, I have been shown face to face the need and call for service that God gives us.

Being of service to others is not just something I can think about, but it is a way of living that I’ve been taught. The service I have completed through Catholic schools has made a lasting imprint on me, and I hope, on those for whom I served.

The education that I have received at Catholic schools has made me a more complete person. Not only am I prepared educationally, but I am also prepared with my faith for the rest of my life. I have been encouraged to go out into the real world and be of service to others. I have learned that “you never stop learning,” and “you can never stop praying” at the same place. Catholic schools are the only places that can bind faith, knowledge and service together to develop the whole student, not just his or her brain.

Michael Schultz is a sophomore at St. Francis DeSales High School.

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