This year’s Catholic Schools Week has particular significance for students and faculty of Nativity Catholic School in Burke, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Nativity used the week of Jan. 29-Feb. 4 to reflect upon the meaning of a Catholic education, said principal Maria Kelly.
"A Catholic education is quite the gift," said Kelly. "It gives students a strong academic basis and also gives them a moral compass."
Catholic Schools Week activities followed Nativity's 10th-anniversary theme "Decade of Devotion," as well as the national Catholic Schools Week emphasis on "character, compassion and values," said assistant principal Denise Richard. Students focused on reading and writing, and presented their thoughts on the Catholic school experience in general and Nativity School in particular at a school-wide coffeehouse Friday, Feb. 3.
According to fourth-graders Natalie Nohra and Campbell Buhrow, Catholic Schools Week provided an opportunity for students to have fun, incorporating activities such as the coffeehouse, craft-making, and "crazy hat day."
"Catholic Schools Week is really fun because we don't do much work and we have time to get to know each other more," said Campbell, 10.
Fourth-grade students learned to sew a quilt and made necklaces for their parents, said Natalie, 10. They performed in band concerts and choral recitals, watched puppet shows, and had essay contests as part of the week's activities.
Nativity works to instill values in its students along with academic learning, said Kelly. Each month, a different grade leads the school in focusing on a certain virtue. Most recently, she said, fourth graders led a reflection on humility.
"You can think of [humility] as when you're not saying, 'It's all about me,'" said Natalie. "You're sharing." It is important to practice humility, said Natalie, even though it is not always easy.
Classmate Lydia Grabski, 10, agreed. "When your sister and brother are mad at you, you don't snap back at them," she said.
Nativity's curriculum puts a strong emphasis on Biblical teachings, said Kelly.
"We focus strongly on gospel teachings and on integrating gospel values in everything we do," she said.
These values include helping struggling classmates and getting along with peers, said eighth-grader Keira Sibbald, reading from an essay she wrote.
"We are learning to be peacemakers, and people working for social justice, so that we can all live in peace," she read.
Education continues outside of school as well for Nativity students, said classmate Chris Foley.
"It helps us in the real world, by guiding us to make good decisions," he said.
The school was founded in 1996 as part of the Church of the Nativity parish. When it began, the school accepted students from kindergarten to eighth grade, said Kelly. Three years ago, a preschool was added. Parish members and parents have all been active partners in the school's development, said Kelly, especially this year. Nativity parents raised $20,000, which an individual donor and science grant matched with $10,000 each. This, along with another $10,000 grant from a California donor supporting parent involvement in schools, has allowed Nativity to revamp its entire science program, said Kelly.
"It's always amazing to see how involved parents are," she said. The science room will be completely remodeled, with extra storage, new microscopes and teaching materials, and a weather station on the roof. Last year, parent donations provided interactive white boards to all the classrooms, said Kelly.
"It's going to help make science really hands-on in class," she said.