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Schools earn national STEM certification

Oakwood was only junior high/middle school in Ohio recognized by Project Lead the Way.

Nine schools in the Miami Valley recently earned certification from Project Lead the Way, a national nonprofit program that provides science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curricula to schools across the country.

Oakwood Junior High School, the only non-high school on the local certified list, also was the only junior high/middle school in Ohio and one of just 17 in the U.S. to achieve this recognition.

“It’s our instructors that make this happen because they’re willing to go through the training,” said Kimbe Lange, Oakwood City Schools’ curriculum director, referring to teachers Scott Zipperian and Tony Rainsberger. “The junior high program really is a gateway into the high school program.”

Project Lead the Way (PLTW) has three programs: Gateway to Technology, which is designed to spark STEM interest in sixth- through eighth-graders; Pathway to Engineering, which is intended to complement traditional math and science courses for ninth- through 12th-grade students; and the Biomedical Sciences Program, which teaches a range of biomedical topics to high-schoolers.

To receive certification in any of these programs, schools have to adhere to strict requirements that include effective implementation of the curriculum and exams, work with local businesses and a clear path to post-secondary education. Certification also can provide opportunities for college credits for eligible students.

The eight regional high schools that earned certification for these programs were Bellbrook High School for engineering; Centerville High School, engineering; Chaminade Julienne High School, engineering and biomedical sciences; Oakwood High School, engineering; Fairborn High School, engineering and biomedical sciences; Kettering Fairmont High School, engineering; Springfield High School, engineering; and Xenia High School, engineering.

More than 40 schools in the nine-county Miami Valley region are among the 5,200 across the country that participate in PLTW, which was launched in 1997 and was designed to address the shortage of engineering students at the college level.

“If you think about the needs of our students, it’s where the jobs are going to be,” Lange said of STEM education. “The future of our country will rely on students being experts in science, technology, engineering and math.”

There are 10 local districts that offer PLTW programs at the middle school and high school levels.

In addition to Oakwood, Anna, Fairborn, Huber Heights, Kettering, Southeastern, Clark Shawnee, Springfield, Mississinawa Valley and West Liberty-Salem school districts have employed these STEM programs in middle school and continued them through high school.

“The districts that have middle school and high school programs really benefit the students,” said Jennifer Cahill, director of communications for PLTW and an Alter High School graduate. “Studies show that students who are in STEM classes early are much more likely to stay with it in college and their career.”

Cahill said the organization is working on developing an elementary school program, as well.

There also are just five local schools that offer both the engineering and biomedical sciences programs through PLTW — Bellbrook, CJ, the Dayton Regional STEM School, Fairborn, Wayne and Springfield.

CJ, which offers both high school programs, recently broke ground on its $4 million STEMM Center. The center, which adds medicine education to the traditional STEM acronym, reportedly will support and enhance the PLTW curriculum.

CJ was the only local Catholic school to attain certification in engineering and biomedical sciences for 2012, and was the only Catholic high school in the U.S. to earn that dual certification in 2011.

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