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Sacred Heart Schools Opens New Campus

Teachers say the new space in Atherton will foster global problem solving skills.

Students at the start class in new spaces this week that were designed to have long-term impacts on the way they think.

“We don’t want people who are just plugged in,” said Kelly Liestikow, first-year band teacher.  

“We want creative thinkers making and building connections in their mind between the science and the arts,” she said, while classical music streamed from her iPod to the speakers mounted on the wall.  She pointed out the video camera and projection system in the band room.  This school year she will use those to video tape students while they rehearse and then play the footage back in the presence of their classmates. 

The idea is to collaboratively critique student performances.

“They can get instant feedback, as they see themselves on the screen,” she said.  She plans to use these new tools to help students track their musical goals.  As the students discuss the performance together, they will learn how to socialize and collaborate.

Liestikow’s band room was one of the 32 new teaching spaces built with money raised during the Living our Mission, Building our Future campaign.

“It was the largest fundraising effort the Sacred Heart has embarked on in its 114-year history,” said Millie Lee, Sacred Heart Schools, Atherton spokesperson.

Philanthropists in the Menlo Park and Atherton community raised more than $95 million to modernize the existing buildings and build new ones that would encourage a child to develop ",” according to Sacred Heart's website.  

During the expansion, Sacred Heart Schools in Atherton added a library, a new administration building, a performing arts building, a lower school, and middle school.  The new buildings are two stories high, with timeless brick facades, open air breezeways, and views of ancient trees growing in the middle of meditation spaces. 

Seventh grade English teacher Jennifer Vaida said the space was designed to promote appreciation for the environment.

“It helps foster the understanding that this is our world and we have this natural world that we’re responsible for,” Vaida said, as she pointed to the trees visible through every glass pane in her classroom.  Her classroom also has a view of a nun prayer space, which she hopes will inspire students during the poetry section of her class.

Much of the work that will be done in her class will take place on the electronic tablets that each students are given.  The advanced technology will not lead her lesson plans, she said.  It will fuel it.

“If I’m wondering if there are still influences of Mao on China today, we can google it in class, and follow that intellectual curiosity,” she said, her sky blue eyes glowing with enthusiasm.  Each student's tablet is synced with her computer and the classroom's video projection system.

"It's good for the ones who get lost, the ones who don’t like to read or take notes; they’re the ones who are usually the googlers,” she said, pulling from her nine years of experience teaching at  

The difference in the new space versus the old one is more than just structural, she said.  The new spaces are enabling the creation of global problem solvers.  If the students want to gain perspective on an issue, they can skype someone on the other side of the globe for a consultation, she said. 

The idea for the campus expansion arose seven years ago, said Richard A. Dioli, director of schools at Sacred Heart Schools, Atherton.  This week, the school opens its doors for the 2012-2013 academic year, with new buildings and fresh inspiration.

"It is truly amazing to see this new campus finally come to fruition for our Lower and Middle school students and faculty," Dioli said.  "It's through the dedication of our community whose commitment to educational excellence has made this a reality for our students of today and for many generations to come," he added. 

Sacred Heart Schools is a private school in Atherton for students in preschool through 12th grade.

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Stacie Chan (Editor) August 28, 2012 at 05:02 PM
Wow, what a beautiful campus. I'm sure there will be plenty of outside the box, creative learning taking place!
Richard Delali Affrim August 28, 2012 at 06:41 PM
Sacred Heart Schools, Atherton. Hearty Congratulations for your awesome new campus. Outstanding and spectacular future awaits you. Not the sky but outer space is the limit to your achievements. Blessings on your generous sponsors, donors and well- wishers. You have a great vision. ( Msgr. Richard Del Affrim)

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