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Frequently Asked Questions

What is STEM?

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, but it is more than an acronym. While originally designed to encourage students to pursue careers in these areas, STEM education has evolved into a unique approach to teaching and learning that fosters creativity and innovative thinking in all students.

How is STEM different from a traditional approach to education?

STEM education is a direct response to the realization that Ohio’s future will be built on its capacity for innovation, invention and creative problem solving. STEM education produces exactly the kind of thinkers, innovators and problem solvers our world demands.

STEM schools are centers of creativity and innovation that provide challenging, student-centered, inquiry-based educational experiences that are cross-disciplinary in nature and relevant to the real world. Unlike traditional school experiences in which different subject areas are treated as separate “silos,“ STEM education emphasizes the technological design process and integrates subjects in ways that emphasize connections across disciplines. In a STEM classroom, students develop analytical and creative skills through investigation and problem solving. STEM moves beyond an emphasis on simple test performance and focuses instead on developing higher-level thinking skills.

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STEM education typically features strong levels of collaboration among education, business and community partners to help develop relevant curriculum and provide internships, mentorships and co-operative education opportunities to help students connect classroom learning to the real world.

Is it true that STEM  is only for a select number of students interested in careers in math and science?

Not at all. While increasing the number of young people who choose careers in STEM fields is certainly one objective driving STEM education, it is only part of the story. STEM education develops skills that have a much broader application. STEM emphasizes collaboration, communication, research, problem solving, critical thinking and creativity – skills that all students need to be successful in today’s world, regardless of specific interests or career goals.

STEM education also places a strong emphasis on personalizing educational experiences to best suit students’ individual learning styles and interests, which means STEM education has something to offer to every student. We continually emphasizes the importance of “STEM for All.”

Why a network?

A network approach is an effective way to introduce key elements of systems thinking and knowledge management that allow for positive change within a rigid structure. We used the principles of systems engineering to design OSLN around a simple concept: small schools, big footprint. The approach is purposeful and designed to enhance the learning experience of students in and out of the network and to lead to transformative change in Ohio’s education system.

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A network-centric approach allows people and resources to be structurally mobilized in order to adapt to new realities. It provides an innovation and knowledge infrastructure to engage all Ohio’s formal and informal STEM educational assets – from preschool through college – to continuously improve STEM curriculum, instruction, assessment, teacher quality, leadership and community engagement.

How will students who do not attend designated STEM schools benefit from the state’s investment in STEM?

As Ohio’s STEM schools and their supporting hubs continue to grow, the benefits of STEM education will reach more and more students – whether they attend a STEM school or a traditional school. Through their open platform design, STEM schools are created to have a large footprint through the broad sharing of curriculum and teacher professional development. This sharing concept is magnified when schools and partners connect to OSLN and begin sharing state-wide.

How does STEM education benefit Ohio?

STEM education is about developing globally competent talent. As such, STEM education is a key strategy for Ohio’s economic success – for stimulating economic development in our state and creating economic opportunity for our citizens. A STEM-literate workforce will attract investment and jobs, and good jobs and economic opportunity will attract and retain world-class talent. More specifically, the continued expansion of OSLN is driven by, and linked to, regional economic strengths and workforce needs. Business, informal education and community partners play a vital role in helping to ensure that STEM learning experiences develop the highly skilled workers that local and regional employers need to compete globally.

Who can partner with OSLN?

Everyone is welcome to become a partner with OSLN. A broad base of dynamic regional and state partners is required for long-term success. Current partners include major business and community leaders, institutes of higher education, public school districts and many more.


OSLN works hand-in-hand with Ohio’s leaders and experts in research, policy and practice. From Regional Centers of Excellence, to the Ohio Mathematics and Science Coalition and the nationally recognized Ohio Resource Center, the state has worked to build a solid research, professional development and advocacy infrastructure to support STEM education. Likewise, the University System of Ohio, the Ohio Board of Regents and the Ohio Department of Education are working to create a connected and seamless education system from preschool through college and the workforce. These organizations are critical OSLN partners at the state-level.

If you are interested in partnering with OSLN, let us know and we will connect you to the STEM hub nearest you.


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