STEM program challenges students in math, science

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Reynoldsburg school officials are working to implement a program they say will help students get a leg up in the real world.

School officials are looking at incorporating a program called STEM in which students are provided with a more challenging educational experience that focuses on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Reynoldsburg school officials are researching similar programs across the country, including Columbus’ Metro High School, which serves about 400 students from Franklin County, including five from Reynoldsburg.

The school’s rigorous curriculum focuses on preparing students for a connected world where math, science and technology are important.

"One of the things we hope to do is learn from their experience," Reynoldsburg Assistant Superintendent Dan Hoffman said.

Hoffman, who helped develop Metro High School, hopes to see Reynoldsburg students take advantage of the same opportunities and learning experiences students have at Metro High School.

Incorporating a STEM program is one component of the school district’s overall initiative called Reynoldsburg Reach.

The community outreach project was designed to gather input from residents about how the district should use its new school buildings. In March, voters approved a $56-million bond issue, which when paired with $56 million in matching funds from the state, will pay pay for a new high school and elementary school, as well as renovations to other buildings.

After collecting input from teachers, students and community members through a series of meetings, Superintendent Steve Dackin presented recommendations to the Board of Education this month.

Those recommendations included keeping Reynoldsburg a one high school town, as well as putting together a core planning team to look into ways to incorporate the STEM program into Reynoldsburg curriculum by the 2010-2011 school year.

The goal, Dackin said, is to increase the number of students interested in taking courses or majoring in science, mathematics and technology fields, and to give Reynoldsburg students an extra edge in a competitive world.

"Reynoldsburg has had the reputation for the past 15 to 20 years of being out front," Dackin said. "Our board said we want to continue the tradition and be out front in doing things for the benefit of the kids."

Dackin wants students’ performances to measure up to those of international students around the world, where several countries are excelling in science and mathematics.

"It makes the case that our economy our kids are growing up in is very different than the economy I grew up in," he said.

At schools like Metro High School, students in 9th and 10th grades are exposed to an advanced basic curriculum in which most of their high school credits are completed and they receive a core base of knowledge in science, social studies, language arts, match and a foreign language in the first two years of high school. It is during this time when students discover how they learn best, learn to work independently and in teams, and engage in real-world problem solving.

Students’ junior and senior years are spent preparing students for college and the real world, participating in a series of hands-on learning experiences outside the traditional classroom.

Some students enroll in classes at Ohio State University, while others might work in on-going learning centers at Battelle, COSI, the Columbus Museum of Art, the Wexner Center for the Arts or other locations connected with the school.

Whereas Metro’s program is offered to high school students, Dackin said Reynoldsburg school officials are looking at ways to incorporate the program to all grade levels.

Funding for the program will come from within the district and through pursuits of grants in Ohio, Hoffman said.

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