October 1, 2021 | Local News

Rita Larimore visits a group of her fifth-grade students working on a project in the STREAM lab at St. Joseph Interparochial School in Bowling Green on Sept. 8, 2021. ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD | WKC

A place to learn; a place to have fun

New STREAM lab at St. Joseph aims to spark creativity


A group of energetic fifth-graders crowded around the doorway to Rita Larimore’s lab in the afternoon of Sept. 8, 2021, at St. Joseph Interparochial School in Bowling Green.

They each accepted a squirt of hand sanitizer before filing into the room, which was decorated with colorful geometric patterns, religious artwork, and inspirational signs, including one that stated “This classroom is a mistake-making, laughter-sharing, independence-building, brain-stretching, sort of place where everyone matters!”

“I am trying to make this a bright and cheerful place to be,” Larimore told The Western Kentucky Catholic, speaking of her STREAM lab – which stands for science, technology, religion, engineering, art, and math.

Several fifth-grade students plot out the design for their project in the STREAM lab at St. Joseph Interparochial School in Bowling Green on Sept. 8, 2021. ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD | WKC

STREAM fosters “creativity, problem-solving… helping them think differently,” she said.

This academic year is the STREAM lab’s first full year, following the school’s desire to have one for the past few years, said principal Rodney Schwartz. He and Larimore explained that if it wasn’t for a generous donor, St. Joseph would never have gotten a STREAM lab.

“The bonus is having Ms. Larimore!” said Schwartz, pointing out that she did all of the décor and lab design herself.

Larimore, who taught in the classroom at St. Joseph for the past 32 years, teaches part-time in the STREAM lab three days a week. The STREAM schedule is perfect for her, since she said she wasn’t ready to retire and still wanted to be in a school setting – plus, the students didn’t want her to retire yet!

Since this is the lab’s inaugural year, Larimore has had the freedom to build her own curriculum, asking herself “What will spark their creativity?”

This year the lab is offered for grades 2-5. Larimore works to meet the different levels and learning needs of each class.

She said modern students are accustomed to simple memorization as a form of learning, and STREAM initiatives help shift that mindset, instead, to working their way through problems and questions.

“A lot of it is (building) confidence in their answers,” said Larimore.

Admittedly, establishing and operating the lab “takes a lot of energy,” she said, but she is grateful for how supportive the parents have been.

This includes donations of recyclable materials, which provide a lot of the supplies for the lab.

A fifth-grade student looks through a pair of recycled paper towel tubes while working on a project in the STREAM lab at St. Joseph Interparochial School in Bowling Green on Sept. 8, 2021. ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD | WKC

On Sept. 9, for instance, the activity was to divide up in small groups and build something pre-assigned with nothing more than cardboard and masking tape.

“You can do a musical instrument… you can design and build a simple one-hole mini golf game… you can make a car with cardboard wheels,” Larimore explained to the class, which sat on a multicolored carpet with their eyes focused on their teacher.

After receiving their instructions, the groups scattered to different corners of the lab amid a loud but happy chatter of creativity.

(Sometimes, if a group finishes early and needs something to remain occupied before the timer goes off, Larimore said she tells them to “write a story about what they built.”)

Near the end of the class period, Larimore led the students to visit one project at a time so that each group could display their efforts, talk about what worked and did not work, and “learn from our mistakes.”

“We always have, at the end of each class, a time when we show what we made,” she told the WKC. “They love to show what they’ve made.”

Larimore said she plans to introduce the students to coding after fall break, which may even involve stop-motion videos: “It’s still evolving.”

No matter what they learn with “Ms. Larimore,” the students have been enjoying the lab.

“There is no pressure here,” she said. “This isn’t recess, but a place to learn and place for having fun.”

Originally printed in the October 2021 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.


Current Issue

Publisher |  Bishop William F. Medley
Editor |  Elizabeth Wong Barnstead
Contributors |  Riley Greif, Rachel Hall
Layout |  Rachel Hall
Send change of address requests to [email protected]