By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
When you tell students to think outside the box, all sorts of interesting things happen!
A model for an underwater military base, a baseball diamond made out of candy and a Coney Island scene, complete with the Cyclone and Nathan’s Famous, constructed out of recyclable materials were all on display Wednesday morning at the Aquinas Expo, a fair designed to allow students from the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn to present their ideas for a better world.
Organized by the Diocesan Aquinas Society, a group named after Saint Thomas Aquinas, the patron saint of students, the expo took place in the gymnasium at Holy Angels Catholic Academy in Bay Ridge and featured projects created by hundreds of students from more than a dozen schools.
The theme for the Aquinas Expo was “Passport to Learning.”
The schools taking part in the expo included: Holy Angels, Midwood Academy, Queen of the Rosary, Saint Agatha, Saint Athanasius, Saint Bernadette, Saint Catherine, Saint Ephrem, Saint Francis de Sales, Saint Francis Xavier, Saint Joseph the Worker, Saint Patrick, Saint Peter, Saint Rose of Lima and Saint Saviour.
A team of students from Holy Angels created “Camo Cove,” a secret, underwater military base. The kids built a model for the base and placed it at the bottom of a fish tank. Floating on top of the water in the tank were two tropical islands made of Styrofoam. “We covered it with islands so that the enemy wouldn’t detect it,” student Mia Sanabria told the Brooklyn Eagle.
The Holy Angels students also printed up brochures to describe “Camo Cove,” as well as business cards.
And, as if that isn’t enough of a display of “outside the box” thinking, the youngsters also came up with a plan to turn “Camo Cove” into a hotel during times when the U.S. was not at war.
The students who worked on the "Camo Cove" project included: Mia Sanabrio, Ian Thirlow, Jonathan Cangelosi, Kimberly Itronec, Taryn Frizalone, Jasmine Lau, Michaelle Liang, Nick Casamassino, Machenzie Nasta, Conor Friedle, Michael Moran, Steven Marquez, Lauren Shea and Jaclyn Gonzalez.
Children from Saint Bernadette School used Tootsie Rolls as Legos, building a tower to illustrate their detailed history of the famous candy. The kids also built a baseball diamond out of candy.
Over at the Saint Francis Xavier table, students were explaining how hurricanes and tornadoes are formed and how much damage they can cause. The project included a board displaying facts and figures about major storms under the title, “Did You Know?”
Ask students from Saint Saviour Catholic Academy any question about Brooklyn, its history and the changes the borough has gone through and they will have a ready answer. “My Brooklyn” was the name of their project and it featured storyboards, photos, a website created by students just for the expo, a term paper and a model of Coney Island beach constructed using cans and other recyclable materials.
Other projects included “Exploring 9/11,” a moving Sept. 11 study by students from Saint Peter Catholic Academy, who looked into the attack and its aftermath. There was also table devoted to “Debunking Conspiracy Theories-Separating Fact from Fiction” made by students from Saint Joseph the Worker Catholic Academy.
“We wanted the students to show a willingness to work above and beyond the curriculum,” Anthony Biscione, senior deputy schools superintendent for the diocese, told the Eagle. “These projects show the students’ creativity, collaboration efforts, and communications skills.”
The idea is to have the kids meet to display their “think tank” projects and share ideas with each other, Biscione said. The Aquinas program exists to promote excellence in education by providing intellectually engaging experiences for students who are academically capable of advanced work.
Aquinas teams are formed at each school with students who have been recommended by their peers as being academically exceptional and having the ability to think out of the box.
Each school represented at the expo had a team of students who had helped organize and execute the project. Patie Ventre, the technology coordinator for Holy Angels Catholic Academy, said that the students not only had to think outside the box, but also have the ability to explain the essence of the project to visitors. “Every student has to know every aspect of the project,” she said.