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STEM SCHOOL ROAD TRIP


Introduction

If you don’t work in a STEM school, you may only know STEM as an acronym that pops up from time to time in the news: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Those of us who live and breathe STEM know that these four subjects don’t quite express all that we do. It is so much more. I think of STEM as “Strategies That Engage Minds.” On a daily basis across Ohio, students are challenged to collaborate across disciplines to complete project, solving complex problems, not just rote assignments. That’s the essence of STEM. Our students and staff know all of this, but it can be difficult to communicate all that sets these schools apart. Students are pushed to be innovative, to forge their own paths, and to be engaged in their own education. Inside, you won’t find stories of facts and memorization. You’ll find students, teachers, and administrators alike who talk about “our” school, sharing a sense of ownership in the exceptional educational experience together. You’ll find schools with cultures of creativity, carefully built by students and teachers alike. You’ll find a window into the real world of STEM education. Take this as a chance to read the stories behind the stats. You can read one, all, or skip around. In each account, you’ll find examples of what makes the schools of the Ohio STEM Learning Network shine. I have no doubt that these students and leaders will continue to innovate for years to come, ensuring STEM is always more than an acronym.

Sincerely, Aimee Kennedy Vice-President of Education, STEM Learning and Philanthropy at Battelle and President of Battelle Education

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At the end of the last school year, we took a road trip to a few Ohio schools. Each school is a state-designated member of the Ohio STEM Learning Network. Visit OSLN.org to learn more about these schools, the other schools in the network and STEM training centers across Ohio. This report is sponsored by Battelle, the world’s largest independent research and development organization. Battelle founded Battelle Education, a non-profit focused on STEM education. Battelle Education manages STEM programs and networks, including the Ohio STEM Learning Network.

The Ohio STEM Learning Network is a coalition of more than 30 schools, regional STEM training centers, the State of Ohio, and Battelle.

Table of Contents

STEM 8

11

SCHOOLS VISITED 23 4

4

Bio-Med Science Academy

5

Dayton Early College Academy

6

Dayton Regional STEM School

8 Geauga iSTEM Early College High School

9 12 5

15 14

9 Marysville STEM Early College High School

18 20

11 MC2 STEM High School 12 Metro Early College High School

6 17

14 Metro Early College Middle School 15 Metro Institute of Technology 17 New Hope Christian Academy 18 STEM Middle at Baldwin Road Junior High School 20 Reynoldsburg eSTEM Academy 23 Valley STEM+ME2 Academy

Other STEM Schools

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Bio-Med Science Academy

“I taught biology for 17 years, and then probably by year ten I started thinking about how we could do it differently.” I sit across from Stephanie Lammlein, Chief Administrative Officer at Bio-Med Science Academy in Rootstown, Ohio. Four years in, the school is a handful of days away from celebrating its first graduation. Lammlein tells how she first saw STEM as a way to change her career. “I started using my personal days and summer vacation to do research and learn about what it was.” STEM seemed to be a way to do school differently. “So then I created this school in a book – kind of sketched it out a little bit. I pitched the concept to NEOMED’s President Dr. Jay Gershen, and here we are.” The school is on the third floor of the NEOMED building on the campus of the Northeast Ohio Medical University. The walls are lined with student projects ranging from cute to incredibly complicated. “We have 15 total classroom spaces that are flexible, fluid. Kids work in the halls, kids work in the Commons, the quiet study.” The Commons in particular stands out as she walks me through the school. Students work in small groups on laptops, or claim a desk and chair to concentrate. Though buzzing with activity, it’s quieter than one might expect. We have no trouble walking along the outskirts, passing a graduation countdown poster displaying two numbers. The first factors in weekends, the other only school days.

“Not all kids learn the same ways. That’s been proven time and time again, and schools need to start changing.” In her search for a new place to teach, she ended up providing the students of N.E. Ohio a groundbreaking educational opportunity. A medical campus offers sizeable opportunities in the field. Just this past year, six upperclassmen worked with four college professors, doing college level medical research, still in their teens. They impressed the professors, exceeding expectations and paving the way for future students. I compliment Lammelin on getting university faculty on board with the idea, but she stops me. “I didn’t do it – the kids did.” Despite the location, medicine isn’t necessarily the main draw for prospective students. “For a lot of them, it’s the sense of community, not the academics, that they appreciate the most.” There are kids at Bio-Med for STEM, and other because they have a different learning style. Some are here for the school’s openness, other because their parents simply insist. They come from a wide variety of backgrounds and interests, so how did the graduating class turn out? “They all look different. If they look the same, we’ve done something wrong… Our kids graduate feeling confident with who they are and what their abilities are at their best potential.” They are primed to be innovators and risk takers. “Our kids are going to be ok with not always being perfect.” Without her dedicated team of teachers and administrators, she admits it would be impossible. “We all agree to do something incredibly risky with our careers, and incredibly hard. And I think that makes us unique. But I think that’s a good thing.” Interview and tour took place on Thursday, June 9th, 2016.

Photo credit: Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory BATTELLE Education

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Dayton Early College Academy “Be smart, be a leader, don’t be a follower, take the high road, don’t take the easy way out.” On his last day of high school, Malachi Ross-Barnes rattles off some of the lessons he learned at the Dayton Early College Academy. He will double major in Engineering and Business at the University of Cincinnati in the coming fall, one of the 33 percent of graduates earning STEM honors distinction.

dedicated to celebrating the accomplishments of graduates and reminding current students of life after high school. Their portraits set an example of excellence that perpetuates a culture of the same. Even on the Seniors’ last day, Martz recounts an interaction with a soon-to-be-graduate, eager to help the younger ones with a STEM activity.

While younger students have a ways to go, they are always reminded of their goal. Pennants, diplomas, and pictures of students in caps line the halls as they work through their challenging courses. Tracy Martz, Director of STEM Initiatives, details the DECA mindset.

“Miss Martz, are you making cotton candy tomorrow with the little kids? Can we come over and help you?”

“It’s not if you’re going to college, it’s when you’re going to college.”

The next morning, that’s where they’ll be.

“It’s your first day off school and you want to come help DECA Prep?” thinks Martz, “Sure, be there at 8:15.”

A living example of the collegiate life to come. 2015-16 marks the first year that DECA and DECA PREP operated at full capacity, from kindergarten through high school. Both freshly STEM designated, they are rooted in the first early college in the state. This year, they complete their collegiate pipeline. College is the goal from five years old, later illustrated by visits to Central State University in 3rd grade, and Ohio State in 6th.

Interview and tour took place on Tuesday, May 24th, 2016.

STEM education and exposure also begins at the elementary level. “I’m not saying they have to be scientists,” says Martz, “but they’re seeing it’s ok to make mistakes.” Fostering creativity and curiosity in early grades lays the groundwork for the rest of their education before, and during, college. All of DECA’s class of 2015 are college-bound or serving in the military, but they never abandon the school. Students are invited to paint a brick on a wall if they make academic honor roll, marking their accomplishment on the wall for their younger peers to add to. Every inch of wall space is

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Dayton Regional STEM School

The Dayton Regional STEM School (DRSS) was founded in 2009, using temporary space for the first two years until it found its unlikely home at a defunct Value City. After renovations, its high ceilings and glass walls project an image of openness and innovation. “When we moved over here, it was basically all these cubicle walls.” Community Outreach Director Arch Grieve details the school’s history. The school now has a combination of full and partial walls, bearing no resemblance to the former big-box store. The vast expanses of walls provide wide-open spaces for student projects to be displayed. At times, it feels like a gallery space, focusing on big projects of interdisciplinary collaboration. We stop at a huge watercolor mural of a coral reef, one piece of a larger project in partnership with the Newport Aquarium. “This is a collaboration with biology, language arts, art, and multimedia… this was one of the murals they created to show the effects of coral bleaching.” Surrounded by similar examples of collaboration, this kind of project is not unique at DRSS. “The humanities have always been integrated into the units and lessons.” Grieve is a former social studies teacher, now finishing his first year after transitioning to administration. “When I was teaching economics we had a school store out front. It was cool. We had Boston Stoker and everything…. I realized I was running basically like a volunteer coffee shop. It got to be a little bit too much.” With their robust partnerships, the school provides its students with exceptional educational opportunities from guest speakers from the university, as well as the community

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at large. For a past unit on conflict and genocide, Grieve challenged his students to write a letter to their members of congress about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It would serve as their final assessment. “I would bring in guest speakers. So I’d have a Palestinian speaker, and a speaker from the Dayton Jewish Federation that would come in. Then I’d have some of my professors from Wright State’s political science department come in too, and give the foreign policy perspective of the U.S.” By approaching difficult subjects from many perspectives, students must stretch their critical thinking skills to the limit. Students are also challenged by “STEMmersion” in the final weeks of the school year. To close out the year, students spend their days in a single, intensive class. “It’s almost like camp within school. It’s really a lot of fun.” Topics abound, including gourmet cooking and roller coaster construction, even Harry Potter. Grieve talks about the roller coaster engineering group as an example. “They got to go to King’s Island and then folks from the Air Force Research Laboratory came in and helped them design what their roller coasters were going to look like.” Other programs had similar outings. Dayton Regional STEM School has a potential for expansion in the near future. However, the open space seems to only invite classes to work together, creating interdisciplinary projects with real-world applications. The students will keep working, churning out projects to fill every inch of wall space. Good thing they’ve got high ceilings. Tour and interview took place on Friday, June 10th, 2016.


“They got to go to King’s Island and then folks from the Air Force Research Laboratory came in and helped them design what their roller coasters were going to look like.”

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Geauga iSTEM Early College High School

“Thank you iSTEM for the best freshman year I could ask for. So many memories, so many friends.” Dr. Linden-Warren shows off a recent tweet from one of the 41 pilot students at Geauga iSTEM Early College High School. She glows behind her desk, “These guys weren’t friends before!” As the interim superintendent, Linden-Warren led the charge for an innovative high school in the newly renovated wing of the Auburn Career Center. Funded through a Straight-A grant awarded by the State of Ohio, iSTEM just finished its first year of instruction. It would have been impossible without the help of their community or Career Center partners. “The building was donated to us by Maggie Lynch, the superintendent of Auburn. This used to be her board office area. She said, ‘It’s too much space. You guys reconfigure it and make it for kids.’” So they did. The rooms are furnished with rolling tables and chairs, and robustly outfitted with technology. By design, the new spaces cater directly to the students, ready to be manipulated and rearranged however they see fit. “One day, they asked if they could take furniture and move it and do architectural design and decide what goes where.” Her response? “Yes! Go!” Linden-Warren’s teaching philosophy emphasizes student autonomy. “In the Finnish schools, they learn through play,” she says. She takes every opportunity to capitalize on what

her students are interested in, allowing them to direct their own learning experience. This inspired a young director-to-be to take on a challenge: pulling together a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. “They did this in total Shakespeare, on their own time, during lunch, sometimes after school, made their own tickets, made their own everything. The only thing I did was say, ‘Yep, you can have it on those days.’” These kids learning the Bard’s English are the same ones learning the fundamentals of engineering. The kids have full access to a well-furnished Fab Lab thanks to a partnership with Auburn Career Center. Fearless and headstrong, they dive into the unknown, excited to learn along the way. “The students learned how to use the equipment before the teachers, then wrote the manuals.” She hands me the simplified manual for their 3D printers, a proud attribution at the bottom of the cover: “created by iSTEM Student: Alex Logarusic.” After one year, the pilot class is excited about the future. The school plans to have a capacity to serve 400 students in three years, then begin to expand into a complete middle school by 2022. For now, Linden-Warren is planting the school culture, preparing to hand the reins off to the 41 iSTEM students. “We build foundations of ownership and teach them how to learn... Not teach them to memorize.” Editor’s note: Tamee Haines Tucker is the current head of school for iSTEM as the school’s Chief Academic Officer. Interview and tour took place on Friday, May 27th, 2016.

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Marysville STEM Early College High School Two years in, Marysville STEM Early College High School has brought an abandoned building back to its roots. Originally a high school, the building was constructed in 1960 and later used as a middle school. More recently, the building sat vacant for five years before being converted back to its original purpose.

emphasizing the students’ independence prepares students for the years beyond high school, be that in college or the workforce.

It would be difficult to tell. The facilities offer a striking interpretation of future education, bereft of any identifiable history, resembling more of a small college than a high school. Hallways stretch wide across the campus, connecting immaculate glass classrooms to state of the art machinery standing at attention, eager for an estimated 420 students by in the coming fall.

Everywhere I walk, there are students in groups of three or four typing on their laptops, finishing up the school year. “If you say to kids, ‘We expect you to behave…’ our expectation is that they’re going to do what they’re supposed to do.” Principal McKinnis believes that the current students overwhelmingly rise to the occasion.

None of this would exist without the sizeable grant they were awarded in 2013. Marysville received a hefty sum of $12.4 million from the Ohio Department of Education’s Straight A Fund to help launch creative new ideas in education, establishing the early college model in the community. “The bulk of the money went into renovating,” says McKinniss, formerly in the same role at Bunsold Middle School. But Marysville STEM Early College High School’s facilities boast more than pleasing aesthetics; they’re intentionally rooted in teaching philosophy. Each hallway boasts myriad study spots, cozy furniture and tables for independent study or group work. Students are invited to take ownership of the space while working on their online college courses, or even for classroom group work. The thoughtful architecture implicitly promotes the school’s stated habits of mind: flexibility, outside-the-box thinking, resilience, self-sufficiency, and collaboration. McKinniss believes that

“There’s hardly a time when you walk through that kids aren’t out collaborating in the open spaces,” observes McKinnis.

By giving students space to direct their own study, she’s allowed a cohort to develop immense personal pride in their work. Founding students Danielle George, Hannah Fluharty, Keely Mankins, and Addy Miller-Brown don’t shy away from their accomplishments as a class. “I think our class built a culture here. So I think when we leave, a lot of people are worrying about how the culture’s gonna change.” What kind of culture? “We’re all just like really weird and nerdy.” Laughing with the rest, she adds, “and we’re all really close.” Their actions speak louder; they huddle together at a single table, each working independently, supporting each other when needed. The other tables wait patiently for the coming fall. Interview and tour took place on Monday, May 16th, 2016.

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“We’re the first, and maybe still only, school that exists on a

FORTUNE 500 COMPANY CAMPUS in the world. Our building was Thomas Edison’s original office.”

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MC2 STEM High Shool Photo credit: Global Impact STEM Academy

“I say over and over again, space is overrated.” I sit with Feowyn Mackinnon, Head of School for Cleveland’s MC2 STEM High School. We are on the 9th grade campus, the ground floor of the Great Lakes Science Center. “I don’t think you really need space to exist. When I was a teacher we had that experience where you just find a space and you teach, and if you’re a good teacher you don’t really need to be at the front of a classroom or delivering anything, you’re just coaching the kids as they’re engaging in these experiences, which you can do anywhere.” The center is sandwiched between the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Browns’ home stadium. Through the windows, Lake Erie stretches out into the distance, while joggers putter through the wharf in ones and twos. Inside is much different, with sounds of interactive displays above and occasional excited shouts of the students. The rooms on the ground floor function as high school for 120 9th graders. “So this is the loud, noisy, kid-friendly one of my campuses. At GE, it’s a lot more buttoned-up.” After freshman year, 10th grade students relocate to the GE offices at NELA Park – a far cry from the rambunctious science center. “We’re the first, and maybe still only, school that exists on a Fortune 500 company campus in the world. Our building was Thomas Edison’s original office.” There, they work alongside professional engineers who offer a window into the working world. Each student gets a mentor for their entire sophomore year.

“The 10th grade year is really a growing year for the kids. They learn a lot about code switching, and how to be yourself at home versus how to be the person you need to be in the business world versus not losing your identity.” For 11th and 12th grade, students go to school on Cleveland State University’s campus, most taking college classes to get a head start on higher education. Beyond the educational advantage, they continue to grow socially by leaps and bounds. “They’re not only comparing themselves to the seniors, but they’re on a college campus and ultimately 17-year-olds want to be cool and fit in. They do not want to draw too much attention to themselves compared to the kids on the college campus who are taking classes.” When asked about desired outcomes for her graduating seniors, Mackinnon answers simply. “I want kids to leave being good human beings.” “Ultimately, it would be great if everyone went to college, or it would be great if everybody went into a career. But I want the kids to leave knowing how to be a good person and how to function in society and how to be a contributing member of society. And they learn to do that by being able to make appropriate decisions and critically think to solve a problem.” “But, you know, I can tell you all of those 21st century skill buzzwords and all that, but I want them to be good humans.” Split across three sites, MC2 STEM High School seems to be doing just that. Interview and tour took place on Friday, May 27th, 2016.

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Metro Early College High School

“I think it’s really a shift in mindset in coming here. We say we do what’s best for kids, and then we actually do it.” Meka Pace, Executive Director of the Metro network, has been at Metro since the beginning. Though her role has shifted from her teaching days, she continues to push for the same basic skills, especially collaboration. “We know that’s one of the skills that makes a good student, a good college student, and then someone in the world of work.” Metro’s architecture emphasizes these aims. Desks and chairs are on wheels, and rolling barn doors allow them to roll out into open spaces. “We figure that every space in our classroom building is actually a collaborative workspace… so you’ve got children from all different classes kind of comingling here, independently working on what they need to work on to get finished.” Facilitating effective collaboration can be a delicate balancing act. “When you put them back in that natural space, they want to work together,” says Pace, “but you have to facilitate the skills that are necessary for them to work together effectively.” Metro instills these values in students as early as middle school as part of their Metro Habits and school wide culture. The lower grades share the same roof, located in a different wing. The classrooms’ glass walls also implicitly reinforce the school philosophy. “There’s also this element of transparency that we want all of our teachers to have. It should be ok for people to walk in and see what’s going on in your classroom. Because you want them to come in and see what’s going on.” Especially when there are demonstrations or presentations, kids engage before they even walk through the door.

When thinking about the interplay between the middle and high schools, Pace believes that the advantages far outweigh the challenges. “Middle schoolers close gaps so much faster than high schoolers do. They haven’t really solidified in their mind what they’re good and not good at.” Those thoughts are frequently misguided even when solidified, especially in the high school years. Metro offers high school classes to middle school students who quickly master middle school material. They tailor accelerated courses tuned to the student’s aptitude in specific content areas. “They’re getting to high school prepared, understanding what mastery learning looks like, understanding the systems that we use here in the building. So we spend less time establishing the culture because they’re already within the culture and they understand it.” Metro also sits on Ohio State’s main campus, allowing students to take college courses while learning the interpersonal aspects of higher education. “It gives them exposure to the rigor of what a college course is, but there are so many other things that make up the college experience, which I think also kids need to learn about before they actually experience it.” From early grades through high school, students are given the autonomy to invest in their own success. Through collaborative spaces and opportunities for college credit, Metro offers students the tools for a bright future. “We’re about supporting you, where you are, to lift you up so that you can achieve the goals that you’ve set for yourself.” Tour and interview took place on Tuesday, June 21st, 2016.

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“We’re about supporting you, where you are, to lift you up so that you can achieve the

GOALS that you’ve set for yourself.”

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Metro Early College Middle School

The Metro Early College Middle School opened three years ago to serve as a stepping-stone to the Metro Early College High School. They share a roof, with a lobby separating the two. A left turn leads to the middle school, a right to the high school. I take a left as the entrance buzzes with iambic intensity; small groups are rehearsing Shakespeare this morning. In the middle school wing, Principal Krista Miller shares some growing pains with me. “It felt like it was a high school model, started for middle schoolers. While there were elements of that that could be fine, middle schoolers are just fundamentally not high school students.”

“I probably have 25 to 30 kids who have high school classes as well. So they’re bridging two different schedules, and it’s not always pretty.” When students have a short gap in their schedule, they sit in the common space, expected to work on classwork. The independence expected in high school work can be challenging for middle schoolers. The challenge offers a huge growing opportunity for the hardworking 8th graders, in step with Miller’s thoughts on middle school learning. “You should have a little bit of autonomy. You should have opportunities to fail in an environment where you can learn and grow.”

They adjusted a few aspects after the first year, but a gathering space of high top tables outside of the classrooms still evokes a high school mentality. Eighth graders Annika Hout and Jevon Diawara glow with pride as they introduce me to the school they’ve invested their time in. After rattling off some nuanced observations on mastery learning, they launch into the advantages of being so close to The Ohio State University.

While not every student is ready for a heavy dose of self-direction, a taste every once in a while prepares them for the migration across the lobby.

“It gives us a lot of opportunities,” says Annika, an aspiring pediatrician. “I took a field trip to the nursing school and we got to look at some of the cool stuff there.”

She speaks just as much about herself and her teaching staff as she does her students. She readily admits, “We are not people who feel like we always have it figured out.” Metro Middle takes advantage of the flexibility this affords. “If the system doesn’t work, you change the system.”

Jevon adds that they also visited the planetarium for one of his classes on outer space: “To Infinity and Beyond.” He refers to the tables around us and the open space bordered by classrooms hugging the outer wall. “This is a common area. It’s literally used for anything. We can move these tables away and we’ll have presentations here.” They take me to a conference room where Principal Miller elaborates.

“There’s always room to change and grow and improve. That’s sometimes messy and ugly and difficult, but I think we are much better for it.”

“I think it’s about providing that opportunity and enabling that access. If a kid does not want to go to college, that’s up to them. But god forbid I don’t provide them that opportunity or that choice.” Annika and Jevon will take their next steps in the fall, turning right in the lobby, to high school and beyond. Interview and tour took place on Monday, May 23rd,2016.

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Metro Institute of Technology “He just took a piece of plywood, a tarp, and a leafblower and made his own hovercraft!”

handful of months spent together. Ryley, 14 years old and a member of Student Council, agrees.

Andy Allmandinger enthusiastically brags about his first class of students at Metro Institute of Technology, the newest school affiliated with Columbus’ Metro Early College High School and Metro Early College Middle School.

“We immediately found connections and found friends. It’s cool because we’re coming from all these different districts, some people are coming from different countries.”

“What he found is that the more you weigh the better it floats. So when I went to push off the wall my feet went out from underneath me and I almost went down.”

But there’s more than just friendship at MIT. The students have the opportunity to earn an associates degree in the five year high school program, taking college classes through Franklin University and Columbus State.

The Columbus’s MIT takes up the second floor of Franklin University’s Philips Hall, filling a modest four classrooms with its first cohort of high schoolers He greets me warmly, inviting me out to the lobby. Cushy chairs line a wall opposite a wall of small cubes. “We don’t have any lockers, so we use cubbies instead.” He mentions offhand that they don’t seem to have trouble without locks. He opens the door to a large, collegiate-style lecture hall. “This is where we start our day.” Each morning, the students of MIT gather for announcements and community. For now, it’s big enough to fit the 72 students. “It’ll start getting a little tight in here.” Regardless, Principal Allmandinger sees the benefit of building the community. “We’ll still start out with our morning meeting, even when we get to our full capacity.” Looking around, he adds, “It might not be in this room anymore.” Few high schools may prioritize this, but it speaks wonders of community that 72 ninth-graders have developed over the

This is the main draw for Elea, a 15-year-old aspiring computer hardware engineer and fellow Student Council member. When thinking about what makes MIT stand out, his eyes are never far from the prize. “For me it’s making sure I get some type of certification or an associate’s degree. The end goal is what stands out.” Elea and Ryley, also share the difficulties of drafting a constitution for MIT, a task they were charged with. “Our size is so small right now, but we had to also take into account that we are going to be growing exponentially next year and the year after that.” Looking back, Allmandinger is satisfied with what they achieved, and optimistic for the future. “This year has gone as smooth as I could have asked for. We’ll be keeping students moving forward and helping them come together.” With open minds. And open cubbies. Interview and tour took place on Wednesday, May 11th.

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Today, the graduating class of 2017 marks the first cohort that moved through the entire pathway, entering as kindergarteners and exiting college-bound.

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New Hope Christian Academy “In ’93, I believe it was just a preschool and a kindergarten.” Initially intended for childcare in the local Circleville community, New Hope Christian Academy began expanding yearly. They became an elementary, then after some deliberation, a middle school. Kim Shepherd, Academic Dean, touched on the hesitance of making the leap to high school. “Can the community really support a Christian high school in this area?” she remembers people asking. They thought so, and pulled the trigger. Today, the graduating class of 2017 marks the first cohort that moved through the entire pathway, entering as kindergarteners and exiting college-bound. It’s a far cry from the simple childcare role they played for the church years ago. “The church has been really good. They allow us to use almost every aspect of the building,” says Principal Julie Baumgardner. “They look at us as a mission, which is great.” With both a growing congregation and school body, the shared facilities were renovated to expand both spaces. A hallway bearing student art bridges a classroom wing to the church lobby, showcasing student talent to the church community.

edge curriculum. Teachers introduce coding at an early age to demystify everyday technology, emphasizing the learning and engineering process. Sherry Taylor leads the charge for their K-12 robotics program. “From kindergarten up, they are learning to program. You’ve got to get them more process-oriented, even in the classes that I teach like robotics, which is nothing more than a ploy to get them to learn coding.” She uses First Lego League activities to challenge her students of all ages, but has to be a bit inventive in order to keep costs low. The computer lab boasts two standard challenge tables for robotics activities, homemade by and for the community. “One of the family members made the tops, my husband and son made the bottoms, and this summer, we’re going to enclose it so I have more storage space.” Examples of community collaboration abound at New Hope, all to prepare young kids for a bright future. “I think programming is something kids of the future really need to get a handle on, so that they’re not just blind consumers of stuff, and realize that they can do that,” says Taylor. “It’s not rocket science.” Maybe not, but it’s not far off.

Formally designated as a STEM school just last year, New Hope melds a Christian education with the rigors of a cutting Interview and tour took place on Tuesday, May 31st, 2016.

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STEM Middle at Baldwin Road Junior High School Midway through the school tour, Principal Michelle Watts opens a door to a room with tarps strewn across the floor. Kristopher Turner climbs down a ladder speckled with paint to turn off his podcast. He waves his paint speckled hand hello and tells me about the space. “We are going to make it a computer science/computer programming classroom. But also we bought some tools to do 360 degree photography. We are going to make our own virtual reality, Google Cardboard type content.” He quickly sets up their camera to give a quick demonstration. Watts elaborates. “We can’t take the whole school to the statehouse, but we could take eight of his kids and we could get them actually on the floor, and they could videotape the things in process. And then they’ll be able to edit the film with narration or information about what the kids are seeing!” Students act as the tour guides, bringing virtual experiences to their peers and other. This example illustrates the overarching theme of STEM Middle at Baldwin Road Junior High School: innovative spaces on a budget. This is only possible due to hundreds of volunteer hours. Turner, the painter, is actually a teacher, special ed. by trade. I visited in summer, after teacher professional development had wrapped up. Still, there he is, happily painting and prepping for the next year. “As far as innovating instruction, we have been looking specifically at how we use space and how we use content,” says Watts. “We started on this road of informal ed, making everywhere a learning space.” Turner’s VR room is one example, but another is “The Foundry,” a well-equipped, mid-level maker space. “This was a 1990’s, ‘Saved by the Bell’ library a year ago.”

Projects are everywhere and equipment lines the walls. A 3D printer, shop bot, and vinyl cutter are just a few of the tools at their disposal. “This time last year, at any given moment, there would have been two, three, four, five people volunteering in this room.” Again, they were able to pull through and make it happen for everyone at the school to benefit. “Classrooms use this space. life science rooms, English rooms, and then also there’s an Art of Math class that happens in here.” We walk over to the newly founded “Literacy Lounge.” “The vision of this space is not a library; it’s a 21st century library.” Watts wants to harken back to the original purpose of libraries, not as a resting place for books, but a way to provide equal access to knowledge. They kept their fiction and some nonfiction, but don’t need to house many nonfiction books that have become redundant or irrelevant. It has become a space to share ideas, as well as serve other communityfocused aims. “There is still something that happens person to person that doesn’t happen on the internet.” Watts designed the space to be a combination of a Barnes & Nobel and a college coffeeshop, complete with cozy mismatched furniture and small performance area. “We have a stage. We do poetry slams, we do open mic nights.” Their ingenuity shines through as she acknowledges a spiral stack of outdated textbooks fashioned into a quirky piece of furniture. “It’s a fantastic end table.”

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STEM Middle looks forward to ushering in an innovative year with their inventive collaborative spaces.


“The vision of this space is not a library; it’s a 21st century library.”

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Reynoldsburg eSTEM Academy “I’ve been trying to get all my friends to come here!” Students are excitedly distributing pizza as I arrive around lunchtime. School is out for summer, but students are assisting with the teacher interview process. They are more than thrilled to stick around and lead a tour. Reynoldsburg eSTEM Academy is one of four specialized high schools in the Reynoldsburg school district. The diversification is six years removed from the traditional high school system, splitting one high school into four based on subject areas. My student tour guides gush about their school, hurriedly finishing their pizza to show me “everything.” As we walk to the greenhouse, they emphasize the “e” in eSTEM, standing for environmental science. “Last year, our seniors grew all the stuff that we made our salads with, and nobody told us until the end of the school year!” Tyler, whose grin is plastered across the mobile FabLab parked outside, says they were “pretty good.” My other guides agree, though admittedly were caught off guard. eSTEM doesn’t only excel in environmental endeavors. Just this past year, their FIRST robotics team, “Technical Difficulties,” competed in a worldwide competition. Members of the team take me back into the Robotics Lounge: essentially a large closet housing their “family” of past robots. A team leader fills in some of the details.

After introducing robots with names like Sir Lancebot, they lead me to their workspace, known as “The Pit.” The tables are full of tools and abandoned robot bits. White boards provide a backdrop, offering enough space for both technical planning and friendly doodles. The kids are comfortable and it shows; they all but run The Pit and adjacent FabLab. A team leader mentions in passing that she’s logged “like, 260 hours after school.” The robotic focus does not take away from the small “e” at the beginning of the acronym. Tricia Moore, Director of Partnerships and Shared Services for the district, walks me past the tennis courts to the edge of the school property. We find two yurts and a wetlands crawling with life. We search for a herd of baby toads but these prove elusive. Throughout the year, sharper eyed teachers take advantage of the biodiversity to help subjects come to life. Robots, toads, and salads aside, the academy system prepares students for life after high school, be that in medical school or technical college. Moore explains the sea change following the shift to the academy structure. “I bet we had 10-20 students taking a dual-enrollment course at any given time. And of our seniors that graduated last week, 60% of them have some college under their belt. That’s just a huge shift. And we’re really proud of that.” The kids are too. But like their students, school leadership can’t rest yet. “We’ve still got a lot of work left to do.”

“This was our fifth year as a team, so we have all of our robots in some shape or form.” Interview and tour took place on Friday, June 3rd, 2016.

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“Last year, our seniors

GREW

all the stuff that we made our salads with, and nobody told us until the end of the school year!”

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“We want them to be

CREATORS and

FREE ” THINKERS. BATTELLE Education


Valley STEM+ME2 Academy “The ME2 is manufacturing, energy, and entrepreneurship.” Principal Mara Banfield describes Valley STEM+ME2, newly founded in a renovated wing of the Mahoning County Career Tech Center. “This fall will be the first group of kids we have at the 9-10 level.” The school will start this fall, but the incoming class won’t be a unique presence in the building. The Career Tech Center has been serving students for over 40 years. Over the past months, the possibility arose for a new kind of school in the facility. “This used to be a power equipment lab, and it just all fell into place. So, in about December we confirmed it was going to come here, and we just got the ball rolling at about a million miles an hour.” The room in question is huge, quickly to be filled with roughly half a million dollars of equipment, thanks to the center helping with up-front costs. The Fab Lab is connected to a larger classroom by what Banfield describes as a “Google type of workspace.” A bar tabletop lines the corner of the hall, offering spaces for future students to use laptops provided by the school. Banfield is also the principal of the Career Tech Center, well versed in their wide variety of career tracks. “We just want to expose them to as much as possible so they can dabble in various careers and choose as they get older which way they want to pursue.”

The school is planning to welcome about 75 students in their pilot cohort this fall. Banfield has been very careful when narrowing down the student body. They don’t have admission requirements, but the process is deliberate and personal. “I interview every family that wants to be a part of the STEM school.” It is important to make sure that every student is on board with STEM pedagogy. Banfield notes that the conversations partly drive decision-making. “What we think they’re interested in and what they’re interested in are two totally different things.” They adjust accordingly. These adjustments fit into a larger puzzle for Banfield, who also factors in what industry is looking for in its workforce. “Employers tell us they want kids who can figure things out. We want them to use technology, but not at the expense of being able to figure things out.” As excited as she is for the coming fall, her aspirations for STEM go beyond the students. “We want to be the STEM hub of this county and provide professional development for teachers and other districts.” This parallels the educational aims of the Career Center, which offers classes to adults as well. Valley STEM+ME2 hopes to prove itself as an exemplary new STEM school in northeast Ohio, its sights set on a bright future for students and educators alike. “We want them to be creators and free thinkers.” They’ll have a good start at Mahoning. Tour and interview took place on Thursday, June 9th, 2016.

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QUALITY STEM EDUCATION PREPARES STUDENTS FOR COLLEGE AND CAREER.

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STEM School Road Trip  

At the end of the 2015-16 school here, one of staff members called out to our member schools. In the following weeks, he visited 13 differen...

STEM School Road Trip  

At the end of the 2015-16 school here, one of staff members called out to our member schools. In the following weeks, he visited 13 differen...

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