Students in STEM

Our country’s education is rapidly shifting towards the teaching of STEM. But what is STEM? STEM stands for Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics and integrates these disciplines into a cohesive learning paradigm based on real work applications.

The emphasis on STEM though does not aim at deemphasizing the humanities. Rather, it aims at helping students think critically and develop skills that can be employed across disciplines.

In order to increase the opportunities for students to engage into STEM, this year the math and science departments have been fused into one, the STEM Department. For the first time at Verbum Dei, students are engaging in a STEM fair through which they learn about and apply the Engineering Design Process. Engineering is the creative process of turning abstract ideas into some sorts of products or systems. What distinguishes engineers from poets, painters or sculptors is that engineers use their creativity to meet human needs or solve problems. Upon selecting a topic of interest and becoming experts on it, students generate multiple solutions to that need or problem. For example, in our science classrooms students are building more efficient water filters, safer helmets, faster computers, longer life batteries, etc. and they explain their work both verbally and in a written form. As you can imagine, this is a challenging project that requires students to think, plan, create a product, revise it or even consider a different solution. One of the lessons students learn in this project is to learn from their mistakes (engineers revise their model and products everyday!).

In parallel, the STEM Department continues to pair up with the Theology Department in encouraging students to reflect on important ethical issues. Topics such as prosthetics, stem cells, healthy vs. unhealthy food, and organic food have been object of discussion in biology so students will be equipped with a stronger scientific foundation before exploring these same topics with their theology teacher.

Last, sophomore students are about to engage in a cross-curricular project that was successfully initiated and implemented last year by the History Department. For this project, students are asked to collaborate, investigate a theme and make connections to all disciplines (including STEM!). Results will be presented at the end of the year in front of teachers and parents in a “science fair” set-up.

Our hope is that students will be able to use their knowledge and skills to get a better understanding of the world around them and become well-rounded citizens.


Caylin Moore – Rhodes Scholar

Caylin Moore Class of 2012 & 2016 Rhodes Scholar

I remember the first time I met Caylin Moore—he was a junior, here at Verbum Dei. Caylin was rather small, very talkative, confident, always with a football in hand, pen tucked behind his ear, quick to show respect, and just plain grateful for a vision of himself far into the future doing something great. He was an infrequent member of the Black Student Union, yet quick to remind us he was a member. And, when Caylin did show up, he was always very vocal, concerned, committed, and confident. His classmates liked and respected him and the feeling was mutual. Caylin was a team player with supreme confidence and he’d befriend anyone. Are you picking up a theme here? Some thought Caylin was a little too confident at times and that the world would set him straight. I was still undecided whether his confidence and his destiny would marry.

On Commitment Day, May 2012, when graduating seniors tell the entire Verbum Dei community which college they’ve selected to attend, Caylin, with the lots of fanfare and production, chose Marist College, in upstate New York. Packed and off he went on a full-ride football scholarship! Caylin was a standout high school quarterback, captain of the team, and garnered several other athletic accolades to his name.

Two years ago, I get a text from Caylin telling me he wants to transfer from Marist to Texas Christian University (TCU). I asked, “What…!?!…why do want to leave Marist?  You have a full ride and your grades are great (he made the Honor Roll every year). What’s the problem?” Caylin texted, simply, “I belong at TCU.” That’s when I started to have a doubt or two of Caylin’s confidence versus his vision of his destiny. After all, it’s determined a “no-no” to transfer from one four-year University to another. Yet, try and tell Caylin Moore he can’t do something. And, of course, he made it happen—he transferred to TCU both for athletics and academics.

Cejai Moore and son Caylin

Two years later, Friday, November 18, 2016, I ran into his mother on campus, Calynn (CeJai) Moore, who is one of the first high school female football coaches in California, who coaches at Verbum Dei—another amazing story. As usual, I asked about her sons, Chase Moore, class of 2015, is at College of the Holy Cross, fighting the good fight and Caylin. “They’re doing great,” smiled CeJai. Yet, her smile was a bit brighter than most times, but I was running to a meeting—late of course—and couldn’t stop to ask. The next morning, she texted me “Caylin Moore is a RHODES SCHOLAR WINNER!” I remember thinking, “this must be a scam or virus.” I checked the LA Times and guess what? Yes, a Rhodes Scholar! I couldn’t help but smile and shake my head at this young man’s determination, which was bolstered by his support system, yet, not in any small part by his confidence in himself. Or “The Rose that Grew from Concrete,” as he likes to quote Tupac Shakur.

So, here it is, a young man—a good kid, who I thought may have bitten off a little much and perhaps was just a little too confident in his abilities, was just awarded the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship! That’s right, or as Eric Sondheimer, of the Los Angeles Times puts it, “(Caylin) gets to study next fall at Oxford University in England. He has a 3.9 grade-point average. He represents the best in the student-athletes from Southern California.” Never doubt the power of Verb student’s dream. And, for goodness sakes, never doubt Caylin Moore!

So, I would like to take this moment to thank you, the donors of Verbum Dei. Because without your support, there is a strong possibility there would be no Caylin Moore or Chase Moore to read about in this glaringly bright and positive manner. Or in CeJai’s words “I am forever grateful to Verbum Dei and you, the supporters of Verb, in being such an important part of the formation of my sons. May God continue to Bless you as you’ve blessed the entire Verb community.”