Riverside Catholic school wins grant for big science project

Riverside Catholic school wins grant for big science project

A Riverside Catholic school is giving students the science skills to save the environment in inventive ways.


Our Lady of Perpetual Help School was founded in 1959. The school of 215 preschool-through-eighth grade students offers a core curriculum that is complemented by programs in computer science, physical education and art.


It has a robust program in science, technology, engineering and math. Students begin learning to code in kindergarten. Its teachers look for new and creative ways to include STEM in their lessons.


Recently, teachers Shannon Flores and Patrick McCaw received a grant for a special project.



The mini-grant from the Environmental Educator’s Collaborative through The Community Foundation will support a small-group project to show the flow of energy through ecosystems.


“As a whole, if we can build awareness about the ecosystems not just in the world, but in Riverside, maybe it can spark something and we can conserve the land for generations to come,” Flores said.


Students will blend engineering design, art, paper circuitry, sewing circuitry, technology, science and computer science to create light-up T-shirts. The wearable science project will illuminate the food pyramid in specific ecosystems and highlight ways to help save them.


At the beginning of the project, third-, fourth-, sixth- and seventh-grade students will work together to research different ecosystems. The third- and fourth-grade students will create a food pyramid for their ecosystem and determine the placement of corresponding Chibitronics LEDs. Then partners in all grades will work together to research ways to preserve and protect these ecosystems.


Through their research they will design a T-shirt that promotes conservation of their ecosystem using LilyPad circuitry to enhance their design with LEDs. This will require that they write the appropriate code to control the lighting. Flores hopes this will help kids understand the way ecosystems are interconnected.


“Ultimately, we hope that our students make discoveries about electrical current systems and the environment and that they take these discoveries and apply them to everyday experiences,” Flores said. “Kids are underestimated a lot of time, but they can do circuitry and coding. They have the power as long as we give them the knowledge.”


In 2016, the school’s STEM teachers were accepted into The University of Notre Dame Trustey STEM Fellowship. Through the fellowship they built a program with the goal of providing STEM lessons to all students, at every grade level.


Recently, the school’s two coding teams took first place in the international coding competition through Code Monkey. The campus also has partnered with others in the community, including California Baptist University, General Atomics and Bourns Engineering. However, the school is not exclusive.


“We have a high Title 1 population at our school,” Flores said. “There might be a misconception about being a private school and therefore being elite, but we accept everyone and anyone. We want to foster giving back to the community.”



According to the school, many students test above their grades and staff works to prepare students for future academics. Their goal is for students to excel in high school and college and make a positive impact in the world. Several past students are attending Cal Baptist with STEM majors.


“We are like the little diamond in the rough that no one knows about,” Principal Ann Meier said. “Every kid can dream, investigate and have exposure to these opportunities and they don’t have to try out to get in.”


Information: 951-689-2125, olphriverside.com.


The Community Foundation’s mission is to strengthen Inland Southern California through philanthropy.