by Dr. Stephanie Johnson
National Inventor’s Hall of Fame Middle School in Akron, Ohio
When I started visiting Ohio STEM schools in 2012, I didn’t know what to expect. What I saw certainly did not look like the school I taught in many years ago or the schools I attended growing up. In fact, in many cases, it looked like organized chaos. I wondered if students were actually learning anything.
In one classroom I visited, groups of students were working on their own to tackle various issues related to world population growth. In another, high school seniors were involved in a year-long project to solve real-world problems for a local business.
There were teachers facilitating a class of students working at different levels and giving personalized attention. And, students in one STEM building were creating a table and school supplies in a lab, saving their school thousands of dollars.
What I eventually discovered is that STEM education does not mean just adding more science, technology, engineering, or math classes. STEM is about pedagogy and a culture that gives students the opportunity to develop the 21st century skills they will need to be successful in their future college or career aspirations. It is a culture that meets students where they are but pushes them beyond their limits. A culture where every student can succeed. STEM is really just part of an education that all students should have access to; one I definitely want for my child.
Educators tour National Inventor’s Hall of Fame Middle School in Akron, Ohio. The Ohio STEM Learning Network (OSLN) leverages existing STEM schools and programs to spread effective practices and tools across Ohio and the nation. Over the past three years, more than 9,000 educators have taken advantage of professional learning opportunities through the OSLN training centers on topics such as problem-based learning, literacy design, digital literacy, and more.
Last month, nine OSLN training centers opened their doors for tours to highlight the great work of Ohio STEM schools and give educators the opportunity to see innovative practices in action. The schools hosting tours included BioMed Science Academy, Dayton Early College Academy Prep, Dayton Regional STEM School, Global Impact STEM Academy, Hughes STEM High School,Metro Early College High School, National Inventors Hall of Fame Middle School and High School, and Reynoldsburg eSTEM Academy. More than 50 educators from Ohio and Pennsylvania toured schools, talked to students, teachers, and administrators, and left with strategies to implement in their own schools. One educator who participated in the tours had this to say about their experience: “Several strategies will be used to integrate STEM within our school.” Another educator identified “the use of learning styles to help students progress with their strengths and weaknesses” as a key takeaway from the tours.
If you did not get the chance to visit a STEM school training center this fall, OSLN will offer another week of tours at the beginning of 2015. Visit www.osln.org to learn more.
Dr. Stephanie Johnson is the Relationship Manager for Education, STEM Learning & Philanthropy at Battelle.