Catholic Schools Week at St. Paul School

Community invited to learn, have fun during week of family oriented activities

St. Paul School third graders Chaya Murray, left, and Emery Sell, both 8, practice a video presentation in front of a green screen in a classroom at the Salem parochial school which kicked off Catholic Schools Week Friday with Family Night Out at a Youngstown Phantoms hockey game. Tonight there’s a school carnival with games, prizes and food from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m at the school on East State Street, plus activities throughout the week, culminating with a spaghetti dinner from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Feb. 1. (Salem News photo by Mary Ann Greier)

SALEM–St. Paul School students and families are inviting the public for some fun, hands-on games at the school carnival from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. today.

For the pre-K though sixth grade parochial school that’s been around since 1904, the hands-on, project-based and problem-based learning approach resonates in the classroom and at play, throughout the year and during Catholic Schools Week from now through Feb. 1.

“We put the kids at the center of the learning experience, not the teachers. That’s what we do that makes us different,” Principal David Pancurak said.

This is the week the school takes center stage, focusing on the attributes of a Catholic school education, inviting the public to see what’s being offered and take part in some fun activities like the carnival. The carnival features all kinds of games like pop a balloon, football toss, ring toss, and even potty toss where the objective is to toss a roll of toilet paper into a toilet. Attendees purchase tickets for games and carnival food just like a typical carnival. There’s a prize wheel, too.

On Monday, the focus is literacy with students reading together and kicking off the Wishtree book activity. “Wishtree” is a book by Katherine Applegate that Pancurak said delivers a message of how to treat others. It’s about a tree where people put tags with their wishes on it. A “tree” will be built within the school where students can place their wishes.

Daisy, a certified therapy dog owned by Principal David Pancurak, interacts with kindergarten students at St. Paul School in Salem. (Submitted photo)

On Tuesday, students will work on STEM boxes. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math and the school earned the coveted Governor’s Thomas Edison Award for Excellence in STEM Education and Student Research in August as recognition for accomplishments the previous year, most notably sending three students to the state science fair after having six qualify for the regional in Youngstown.

St. Paul takes the STEM concept a couple of steps further by focusing on STREAM (science, technology, religion, engineering, art and math), combining the hands-on problem solving and teamwork with real-world experiences outside the walls of the school on East State Street.

“That gives students a true learning experience that they will not forget. They’re learning collaboration, critical thinking, all the skills they need to be leaders in society,” Pancurak said.

The theme of Catholic Schools Week is “Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed.” That theme goes hand-in-hand with the mission of St. Paul School to shape the mind, body and spirit of the students. The school accomplishes that mission both in and out of the classroom, through the teachers, guest educators and people from the community who share their experiences.

Dr. Jacqueline Mumford, a professor of education at Walsh University, works with the students during STREAM class in a partnership with the school. Every spring, the students leave the classroom for businesses throughout Salem to learn about different careers and vocations through mini courses. They also take field trips and this school year’s focus is agriculture, starting with a trip to the Canfield Fair. One set of field trips sent some students to an apple orchard, some to a grain farm and some to a dairy farm. The students returned to school with apples, milk and grains and combined the three in a schoolwide project to make apple crisp and homemade ice cream. Next up they’re looking at eggs, the different kinds and what happens when eggs hatch.

St. Paul School students play hockey with members of the Youngstown Phantoms team who came for a visit and donated equipment to the school for gym class. (Submitted photo)

For technology, the school has a dedicated Maker Space in the computer lab that includes 3-D printers, an embroidery machine, CNC router, robotics kits, snap circuit kits, robots for coding, new Lego WeDo 2.0 kits, hex bug sets, 3-D augmented reality books, virtual reality goggles, tinker boxes, a video conferencing set-up and green screen. Every student has access to Chromebooks, iPads and computers.

Wednesday’s activities focus on vocations and another community activity, Winter STREAM Night from 6 to 7:30 p.m., where the public can go to various stations for some fun STREAM time that deals with winter, such as how animals stay warm in the cold.

Pancurak explained that vocations aren’t just about religious life or the priesthood but about “the call to each person from God,” whether that’s married life, single life, motherhood or a vocation of service such as law enforcement, firefighting, the military, teaching or any number of careers. Students will recognize vocations and on Thursday, they’ll write letters to people in vocations.

The students recently learned about a vocation in sports after a visit from the Youngstown Phantoms hockey team, who donated some hockey equipment for use in gym class, spoke with students about working hard at school and at home, making healthy choices and about sportsmanship. They taught them about hockey and played with them in the gym.

On Friday, the students wrap up their activities at school with an ice cream social provided by St. Paul Home and School Association and the annual faculty vs. students volleyball game.

Students gather in the gym at St. Paul School for an advent assembly. (Submitted photo)

On Saturday, Feb. 1, the annual spaghetti dinner cooked by Frank Zamarelli, family and friends will be held from 5 to 7:30 p.m. The cost is $8 for adults, $5 for children 10 and under, with carryouts available.

Pancurak said any child can come to St. Paul School and pointed out that 38 percent of the students aren’t Catholic. Scholarships are available from a number of sources, including EdChoice, both traditional and expansion. He said EdChoice expansion is based on income. The traditional has been in the news lately because more public schools have been added to the list, making students at those schools eligible for EdChoice voucher scholarships for use at private or parochial schools. Pancurak said the scholarships give families a choice of where to enroll their students.

The school staff includes two preschool teachers, seven teachers for kindergarten through sixth grade, plus four specialty instructors, a guidance counselor, secretary, school aide, school cook, cafeteria manager, maintenance person and Daisy, a certified therapy dog who’s Pancurak’s English yellow lab.

Anyone interested in scheduling a tour or learning more about St. Paul School can call 330-337-3451.

St. Paul School Catholic Schools Week


— Student greeters 4:30 p.m. Mass

— School Carnival, 5:30-7:30 p.m., games, food, prizes, all welcome


— Kick-off Wishtree Book activity

— Reading, older students with younger students


— STEM boxes (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)


— Mass 9 a.m.

— Vocation activity in religion class

— Winter STREAM Night, 6-7:30 p.m., Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Art and Math activities for families, all welcome


— Students writing letters of thanks to members of religious vocations in religion class


— Ice cream social by St. Paul Home and School Association

— Faculty vs. Students volleyball game, 2 p.m.

Saturday (Feb. 1):

— Mass 4:30 p.m.

— Annual spaghetti dinner, 5-7:30 p.m., $8 adults, $5 children 10 and under, carryouts available


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