Faith-based schools weave spiritual into broad curriculum

Third graders Maria Troxell, front, and Isabella Lorenzo lead early Wednesday morning a procession of girls from the Visitation Academy in Frederick to St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church next door to attend Mass. The Visitation Academy is the only area school where students attend Mass every day. Staff photo by Sam Yu

Ten faith-based schools in Frederick County will educate nearly 2,000 students this year in small independent schools that promote both academic rigor and spiritual and moral growth.

The schools, founded by Baptists, Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, Lutherans and Quakers, are open to students from other faith backgrounds. Their curricula incorporate technology, science, engineering and math, designed to foster critical thinking and offer a religious or spiritual view of each student’s place in the world.

This year is particularly exciting for the Visitation Academy, founded in 1846, because it has entered the candidacy phase of International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme, said Lynne Kirby, principal. At the end of the three- to five-year candidacy, Visitation could be the first all-girl middle school in the country to have a certified International Baccalaureate program, she said.

“We have a lot to be excited about,” Kirby said.

Visitation’s science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) program with the new IB program balances art, science, math and literature, Kirby said. Collaboration among faculty teams leads to deeper learning and more critical thinking, she said.

Kirby also put a high value on opportunities to work with outside experts: Among them, women in the defense industry and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory give the girls career insight, and a view of how their education can be applied in the world.

“You have to use that knowledge toward your future,” Kirby said.

The Trinity School of Frederick has also focused on real world applications since it was founded in 2000. This year it has new labs dedicated to math and science that allow increased practical learning, said Principal Carol Shabe.

Each teacher has a new laptop computer, and Judy Hagemann has just been hired to integrate the technology into the curriculum.

“We’re a rigorous program,” said Rebecca Layman, development director. “We teach to the top.”

With that in mind, the faculty also meet students where they are, Layman and Shabe said. Not every student will excel in everything, but each can excel at his or her own level, they said.

“Everybody’s lifted up here,” Layman said.

“We want to get to know them as people,” Shabe said. “Being able to individualize (instruction) … taking students where they are and moving them forward.”

Trinity has an active community service program that involves all grades in hands-on projects that help the poor and others in need.

Eighth graders serve a meal at the Frederick Rescue Mission once a month, under the guidance of Alison Cox, religion teacher and service learning coordinator. Cox’s goal is to have each class do a service project that requires use of all subject learning areas.

Trinity students have chapel weekly and take turns reading and discussing scripture.

“We welcome all faiths,” Shabe said, adding that the core principal is to teach good values.

Trinity’s mission aims to “produce leaders for good in the world,” she said.

St. Thomas More Academy has launched a new initiative that integrates different components of classical education through its STREAM program: science, technology, religion, engineering, art and math.

At the end of last school year, New Life Christian School opened its new science lab and modernized and replaced all of the computers in the computer lab. Those represent exciting changes for the year, said Angela Phillips, development director.

Frederick Christian Academy has more technology integration this year, too, said administrator Brad Parker.

Mother Seton School has a new head of school and several new teachers this year. The school strives to cherish the past while building for the future, said Lynn Tayler, marketing and communications specialist.

Prayers, Mass, religious services or moral teachings are a part of the 10 schools’ weekly routine.

“We live our faith every single day,” Kirby said.

Follow Patti S. Borda on Twitter: @FNP_Patti

(1) comment


I find that photo disturbing. All too indicative of Catholicism's view of each girl's place in the world.

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