MORRIS TOWNSHIP, NJ - The culmination of virtually a year worth of work came to a close on Friday, May 29 when the preschool through grade two students at Saint Virgil Academy (SVA) hosted an “Endangered Animal Festival” for the school’s older students, parents and invited guests. 

The Morris Township school, which has been recognized for its innovative STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) curriculum, challenged its youngest students to thoroughly research some endangered species and find solutions to this serious issue. Following the school's STEM vision of identifying problems, researching and raising awareness, students found creative ways to learn and educate others on their findings. 

“Our students took a STEM approach with their work and researched such endangered animals as the bog turtle, the blue spotted salamander and the bald eagle,” explains Mrs. Debbie Duane, SVA Principal.  “However, it is our ability to incorporate our faith that makes this exercise so special,” continues Duane.  “These early childhood students discussed how some of God’s creatures are in trouble and what they could do, as caring global citizens, to help.” 

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Through play-filled learning, the children discovered many things about these animals, including their habitats, what they eat, who their predators are, how they live and why they are in trouble.  After this extensive research was done, it was time for the students to organize their work for others to see all they had learned. 

“This is where the real creative genius came out,” boasts Duane.  “Witnessing our students rolling up their sleeves, getting so hands-on and creating learning tools for others was just remarkable.” 

By the day of the festival, the students had made costumes, produced informational videos, assembled fun facts and trivia questions, invented games, replicated habitats and, of course, baked some delicious theme-appropriate treats for their guests to enjoy. 

“My child was just bursting to show off his work,” explained a proud parent of an SVA four year old.  “I cannot believe my preschooler helped put this all together,” she continued. 

The festival was a huge hit with the hosts and the guests alike.  The children developed some very impressive and creative ideas about how to help the endangered species they studied.  The older SVA students in the audience paid close attention to how things were done by their younger peers.  Next week, it is their turn to showcase a year-long project.  With a focus on health and nutrition, these students have a pretty tough act to follow.

Saint Virgil Academy is a co-educational Pre-K 3 through grade 8 school on the campus of Saint Virgil Parish in Morris Township.