Catholic Essay School Week

Here is another great collection of Catholic schools week ideas and activities by Jennifer Dees and Meghann Robinson, both employees of the Alliance for Catholic Education program at the University of Notre Dame. This year’s Catholic Schools Week theme is A+ for America and I think they have come up with a great list of ideas and activities that you will find very helpful.

Catholic Schools Week: January 30 – February 5, 2011

This year the Catholic Schools Week theme highlights the gift that Catholic Schools are to our nation. Below are some ideas for how the theme can translate into meaningful activities during the week. Activities are sorted by subject for organizational purposes, although many activities are cross-curricular so make sure you read them all.

Please feel free to share any additional ideas you have planned by posting in the comments below or email them to us using the contact page.

The following ideas are organized by these subjects:

  1. Religion
  2. Math
  3. Social Studies/History
  4. Language Arts
  5. Science
  6. Art
  7. Music
  8. Faculty

Religion Ideas and Activities for Catholic Schools Week

  • Begin or end the week with a school Mass. Have the students plan the liturgy, and make sure students are involved as lectors, gift-bearers, servers, etc. Dress the altar with symbols of our country and Catholic education in the offertory procession, incorporating patriotic songs. Invite families and volunteers and hosting a short reception after Mass.
  • Have a prayer service celebration with the theme of the week.
  • Study saints that were influential in the creation of the American Catholic School System. For example, John Neumann, Catherine Drexel, and Elizabeth Ann Seton.
  • Research the founding order of the school and its charism. Brainstorm ideas about how the school could celebrate this charism with the students or faculty.
  • Have each class participate in a service project. This allows students to put their faith into action by giving to their communities.
  • Read the parable of the Good Samaritan. Discuss what this parable teaches about how students should behave when they grow up and become active citizens in America.
  • Create prayer partners. Pair classes/students and have them pray for one another.
  • Create a prayer chain using red, white, and blue strips. Have every student write an intention on a piece of paper to make a chain that wraps around the gym.

Social Studies/History Ideas and Activities

  • Help children see that they are part of a large network of schools by creating and displaying a map of the Catholic schools across the country.
  • Compare God’s Law and civil law. Click on this link for a fantastic lesson on the 10 Commandments. Connect this lesson to topics being covered in your history or social studies class.
  • Symbols are an important part of every culture. In America, the flag, the bald eagle, and many other symbols are signs of our patriotism. Compare these national symbols associated with our country to symbols that are important to our faith such as the Eucharist, the crucifix, and the Rosary. Discuss why symbols are important and what they tell us about a group of people.
  • Hold an intellectual competition such as a Geography Bee. Visit the official website for more details:

Math Ideas and Activities

Explore data with your students about how students benefit from their experience in Catholic schools.  As shown in this Catholic Schools fact sheet compiled by Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education, there is a proven “Catholic school advantage!”  Share some of these facts with students and conduct a class poll about the benefits of a Catholic education. What do students think are the most important reasons their parents send them to Catholic schools? Try these follow-up activities:

  • Studying percents or ratios, or need to brush up before the Spring standardized tests? The poll results will provide great numbers for problem-creation! Make up some questions for students to answer using the data they collected, and challenge them to create their own questions for each other.
  • Display poll results using appropriate graphs and tables, and prepare posters or brochures to share with the wider school community or even prospective families!
  • Looking for more published figures about Catholic education? Visit the NCEA website for loads of Catholic school census data, collected annually, as well as comparisons of Catholic school and public school testing results on the Nation’s Report Card.  Or share this promising nugget of research from a USCCB News Release.  Use these figures to practice number-and-operation skills like comparing large numbers, reading decimals, to modeling percents on hundreds grids, to creating and solving story problems.
  • An algebra exploration for middle school and high school students:  Discuss the value that parents at your school get for their tuition dollar, and then explore the exponential function associated with the recommended annual tuition increase of 5% a year.  At that rate, what will tuition be in 5 years?  10 years?  Discuss the elements of your school that make it worth the sacrifice, and have students brainstorm policies that could help make a Catholic education more accessible to families.

Catholic Schools Week Activities for Language Arts

  • Become pen pals with students at another Catholic school. Exchange letters about how you/they celebrate Catholic Schools Week.
  • Have a school wide essay contest. Share the top three essays and present an award to the winner at an assembly on Friday.  Include the little ones by having them participate in a drawing contest. (These drawings make great bulletin boards!) Topics might include:
  1. Draw yourself in 20 years being a good American because of what you have learned at your Catholic School
  2. If we have faith, hope, and love how does it make us better people for the future?
  3. What has my school taught me to do for my country?
  • Have a discussion with your students about the importance of being good readers and writers. Ask them why these skills are important both socially and spiritually.  Help them to see that by using these skills we can become more aware of the needs of others in the world and communicate these needs in a way that compels people to care for one another.
  • Hold an intellectual competition such as a Spelling Bee. Visit the official website for more details:

Science Activities for Catholic Schools Week

  • Discuss ways that students encounter God in science, particularly in nature.
  • Discuss clean energy and other ways that we can be responsible stewards of creation. Make connections to the creation stories and the fact that we are given the privilege and responsibility of caring for creation.

Art Activities for Catholic Schools Weeks

  • Create posters that advertise how Catholic schools produce good citizens.
  • Study American artists’ and their works. Thank God for their talents and for providing the inspiration for their work (nature, cities, etc.). One great example is Ansel Adams.

Catholic Schools Week and Music Classes

  • Sing patriotic songs.  Older students may be able to make connections between these songs and religious songs.

Ideas for Involving Faculty in Catholic Schools Week

  • Catholic Schools Week should be an inspirational time for teachers and administrators who give so generously of themselves to make Catholic education available. Take time as a faculty to reflect on the gift of Catholic education and what you do every day to change the lives of the children you teach.
  • Create prayer partners among the faculty members.
  • Reflect on the questions below individually or as part of a mini faculty retreat:
  1. How does your subject area play a part in the revelation? How does what you teach reveal God to you and your students? What do kids come to know about God from being in your class?
  2. How do you see Christ in your coworkers?  How do you make Christ visible to them?

Have a wonderful Catholic Schools Week!

P.S. If you like what you see here, sign-up to receive a free copy of The Religion Teacher’s Guide to Lesson Planning, which includes descriptions of 250 activities and teaching strategies that teachers of all subjects will find useful.

Filed Under: Activities, January ResourcesTagged With: catholic schools week, guest post, jennifer dees, meghann robinson

WIN CASH PRIZES … AND TEACH HISTORY TOO — Catholic school students in grades 5 – 12 are invited to enter our annual essay contest.  The contest is open to all students in Catholic schools – parochial, private and homeschool…. Here are the rules and details… We hope teachers and parents will incorporate this essay contest into their lesson plans and encourage We hope teachers and parents will incorporate this essay contest into their lesson plans and encourage their students to participate.  

There are eight divisions:

  • For Catholic schools:
    • 5th grade Catholic school students
    • 6th grade Catholic school students
    • 7th/8th grade Catholic school students
    • High school Catholic school students
  • For Catholic homeschools:
    • 5th grade Catholic homeschoolers
    • 6th grade Catholic homeschoolers
    • 7th/8th grade Catholic homeschoolers
    • High school Catholic homeschoolers


5th Grade Students:

Choose a Catholic historical character (born before 1950) from North America (Canada, U.S., Mexico). Write about his or her life and work and why he or she was important to the Church and country. Students may choose a person who was born outside of North America, but who did their important work in North America.

6th Grade Students:

Choose a country other than your home country, that you would like to visit. Research that country’s history and write about two places of historical interest that you would like to visit if you traveled there and why.

7th and 8th Grade Students: (Choose one of these topics)

1. Choose a non-North American historical character (from Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia or South America) who lived between 300 A. D. and 1600 A.D. and relate how that person influenced the time and place in which they lived.

2. Choose an historical event that occurred between 300 A.D. and 1600 A.D. (This could be a war, a single battle in a war, a plague, the coronation of a king, the passage of a law or decree, an ecumenical council, a revolution, an invention, a birth or death, a marriage, etc. – but the event must be an historically important event). Describe the event, the key players, its outcome and how it changed history.

High School Students: (choose one of these topics)

1. The year 1618 was the beginning of the 30 Years War in Europe. Research this conflict, identify its causes, why it lasted so long and what were its results. Explain why it was such an important war in the history of Europe.

2. The year 1918 was the end of the World War I. Discuss how this war changed Europe. You may concentrate on one aspect of change – such as economics, politics, religion or culture.

3. Show how World War I lead to changes in the culture of the United States in the 1920s.

4. C. S. Lewis wrote: “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.” Explain this quotation, using examples from history.

5. C. S. Lewis wrote: “History isn’t just the story of bad people doing bad things. It’s quite as much a story of people trying to do good things. But somehow, something goes wrong.” Explain this quotation, using examples from history.

NEW GUIDELINE: Teachers may only submit 5 essays, per division, per school. While we want to have every student continue to participate and enjoy the opportunity to write and learn more about history, we are asking the teachers to select the best 5 essays for submission. We will continue to send a letter thanking every member of the class for participating. For further questions please email:


  • For Catholic schools and students:
    • 5th grade Catholic school – $100 to student and $400 gift certificate for the school student attends
    • 6th grade Catholic school – $100 to student and $400 gift certificate for the school student attends
    • 7th/8th grade Catholic school – $150 to student and $400 gift certificate for the school student attends
    • High school, Catholic school – $200 to student and $400 gift certificate for the school student attends
  • For Catholic homeschools and students:
    • 5th grade Catholic homeschoolers – $100 to student and choice of CTP book for student’s family
    • 6th grade Catholic homeschoolers – $100 to student and choice of CTP book for student’s family
    • 7th/8th grade Catholic homeschoolers – $150 to student and choice of CTP book for student’s family
    • High school, Catholic homeschoolers – $200 to student and choice of CTP book for student’s family
  • For all winners:Winning essays will be published on the CTP website and social media.


  • For the 5/6 divisions, essays should be at least 450 words, but no more than 1,000 words.
  • For the 7/8 divisions, essays should be at least 600 words, but no more than 1,500 words.
  • For the high school divisions, essays should be at least 800 words, but no more than 2,000 words.
  • Essays should be typed, double spaced, 11 pt in Times New Roman font.
  • If essays are e-mailed, they must be in PDF format.


  • Your writing should be in your own words. If you quote another author (either from a book or the internet), you must cite that author in a footnote or an endnote. Essays that are suspected of plagiarism will be disqualified.
  • Essays must include a bibliography or simple list of sources used.
  • Wikipediamay not be used as the primary reference material. Wikipedia is useful for an initial familiarization with a topic, but it is not considered a reliable source in academic circles. A Wikipedia article can be useful in providing reference to books and articles which can be used for further research.

An Entry Form must be filled out and attached to each essay.

Catholic School Entry Form (right-click and Save As to download)

Homeschool Entry Form (right-click and Save As to download)

Please choose from the links above to download your entry form. Download the form to your computer and then fill it out. Save the completed form and then send it by email to


All mailed essays must be postmarked by midnight, November 17, 2017.

All e-mailed essays must be received by midnight, November 17, 2017, EST.


Essays can be mailed via USPO to:

Catholic Textbook Project
Essay Contest
P.O. Box 266
Galena, OH 43021 

Or they may be sent via email, attached in PDF format to:

Each student’s essay must be e-mailed individually and not gathered into one file.

Please contact Katherine at with any of your questions.

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