Innovation at Marist

Since 1963 Marist High School has been guided, in part, by its tagline “education for time and eternity.” Despite the passing of time, that promise continues to help shape the school, while taking on new meaning in terms of space, curriculum, and technology.

“The Marist Brothers may not have been able to foresee how technology and education would change when they opened the doors of the school,” said Principal Larry Tucker ’79, “but clearly they understood the need to balance the core of challenging curriculum while embracing the vetted trends and tools of the day.” Tucker has spearheaded an innovative educational plan for the school that embraces current technology and the needs of today’s students, while honoring Marist’s reputation for challenging academics.

It starts with space. Where students learn impacts how they learn. To that end, Marist has created new modern spaces throughout the school, with more on the docket following a strategic planning process led by Marist President Br. Hank Hammer. In the past two years, an entrepreneurial room was added that mimics the very best corporate space, and includes small team workspaces and flexible technology for personal use and group display. A classroom was transformed into a journalism lab for the school’s award-winning newspaper staff.

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A new digital design studio opened featuring trending design software, modern furniture, an engaging display space and work stations. Its current use focuses on web design, digital photography, and graphic design. “The students can sense the significance of the room. It inspires them to explore their ideas, work on projects, and collaborate with each other,” explained visual arts teacher and curriculum coordinator Rita Ator.  Just next door, a broadcast studio will open for the 2016-2017 school year. Students will learn all aspects of video and news production in a state-of-the-art facility with a custom anchor desk, editing bay and more.

Once in the space, it is Marist’s experienced and dedicated teachers-more than 30 alumni among them-who bring a wealth of know-how, creativity, and professional development with them to create real world learning opportunities. Marist students participate in hands-on projects that encourage problem solving, and where even failure brings insight and develops curiosity. This year students participated in forensic science labs by building and testing their own lie detector tests, and worked to solve crimes by collecting evidence at pseudo crime scenes set up at the school. In personal finance classes, students invested real money in the stock market, and watched real-time stock news on the ticker installed in the school’s cafeteria. Students made a nearly fifty percent return on their picks. With business being the number one college major among recent Marist graduates, today’s students enrolled in Innovative Design for Entrepreneurial Applications (IDEA) work through the process of ideation, market research, and business plan development to bring a new service or product to market.

Teachers also help to break down the walls of the traditional classrooms by expanding students’ worlds. Students participate in virtual classroom exchanges via Skype and other programs. Marist offers four international exchange trips allowing the traditional classroom to expand beyond all borders. Students learn about language, culture, and shared Marist charism. There are also unique field trips to bring lessons to life, including viewing a live open heart surgery, exploring Frank Lloyd Wright homes in person, and taking in performances of Shakespeare plays. Teachers have also implemented new teaching and learning tools including flipped classrooms, game-based and problem-based learning.

The space and curriculum are enhanced, but not defined, by meaningful technology.  “The tools will change over time,” explained Tucker, “but the adaptability of students to use those tools and have comfort and confidence with technology is a lifelong attribute.” To that end, Marist introduced a one to one iPad program that will be fully integrated at all four grade levels starting this August. The iPad is complemented by web resources and apps. Robotics building and drone use is also a part of the curriculum, giving students the chance to create and test. This year’s technology club built a gaming station from scratch and raffled it off among the student body. Drafting classes use 3D printing to bring designs to life.

The elements of space, curriculum, and technology are bolstered by leadership opportunities. With the launch of the school’s Explore program, students have access to industry professionals through a series of speaking appearances, job shadowing, and mentorships. College tours across the country are also offered.

All of this is done within the mission of making Jesus Christ known and loved, as Marist students are encouraged to use their gifts and talents to be the light of Christ in the world.

Improvements to all aspects of student life at Marist are ongoing, with new spaces, courses, and technological resources constantly being evaluated and integrated.