STEM education has become such a vital part of secondary education that at least one local school district has introduced it into its core curriculum for some grade levels.
Greenon Local Schools this year rolled STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) classes into its seventh- and eighth-grade core subjects. The district also is offering courses as an elective for high school freshman.
“STEM education is a critical component to prepare students for the global economy and today’s most in-demand jobs,” Superintendent Daniel Bennett said in a statement. “At Greenon, we are committed to providing a 21st Century education to our students and offering STEM to all seventh- and eighth-graders is an important step in that process.”
Greenon partnered last school year with the Dayton Regional STEM Center to develop its new STEM curriculum, according to Megan Anthony, spokeswoman for the district.
Eighth-grade STEM teacher Tom Jenkins then split his time at the district and the STEM center during development, during which part of his salary was paid by Greenon and part by the center, Anthony said.
And he worked with teachers at every grade level to enhance STEM education in the classroom.
“No longer can an education based on rote memorization and independent learning provide the necessary tools for a student to obtain entrance into a quality post-secondary learning institution or equip him or her for a decent job,” Jenkins said.
“Students need to have the ability to research, problem solve, and collaborate on a daily basis, as this is what they will see in the vast majority of modern day work environments,” he said.
Over the last five years, Greenon’s STEM education program has developed from 40 part-time students to 300 students, due to high interest from parents and students who’ve seen the programs value, according to the district.
Originally a program for Greenon students identified as “gifted,” STEM was also offered to students for remediation in math and science in 2012-13.
“While all students demonstrated added proficiency in both math and science, the students that partook as part of the remediation group showed the most growth from the STEM experiences, which allowed for application and interaction,” Jenkins said.
He and seventh-grade STEM teacher Megan Jackson will coordinate with other teachers to tailor STEM units to support the state’s new Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards, he said.
Like Greenon, Northwestern Local Schools added STEM-like hands-on learning to its agricultural education programs.
And the district is in discussion with Springfield-Clark Career Technology Center to expand the district’s ag programs to include STEM education, Superintendent Tony Orr said.
The district dedicated a portion of its new Junior/Senior High School to agricultural educational and is now teaching topics like hydroponics, Orr said.
Erica Hillard, a CTC agricultural education instructor who teaches exclusively at Northwestern, said the program is dabbling more in STEM-like education now than it did before.
The new space, while losing some square footage, was designed so that it kept traditional hands-on learning like wood- and metal-working opportunities but added new controlled plant growth and hydroponics chambers.
The chambers allow for environmental manipulation in plant-growth experiments in a controlled environment.
“So we kind of took the old concept and we scaled it down a little bit so that I can still teach that skill that all of the community members and parents want us to have, but we have different space in the shop to do more advanced things,” Hillard said.
CTC Superintendent Rick Smith said the talks with Northwestern to add STEM-specific education could in the future provide more opportunities for students and could serve as a vehicle for more partnerships.
The CTC provides off-campus programming to several other partner school districts as well, Smith said.
“We provide the instructor, (Northwestern) provides the educational facilities, and as long as the need is there we are excited to partner with our districts and be able to offer career technical programming and (career technical education) opportunities to students at their home schools,” Smith said.