DAYTON — With new technology available and a focus on developing students for jobs needed in the future, local school districts are balancing innovations in gadgets and tools with traditional techniques in their classrooms.
STEM topics (science, technology, engineering and math) have become increasingly prevalent in schools over the last decade. Some school officials say they are a gateway to jobs for students.
“We focus on a rigorous curriculum that includes skills beyond application, including analysis, evaluation, and creation which are all considered skills for the 21st century workforce,” said Springboro Schools spokesperson Scott Marshall.
According to the Ohio Department of Education, seven schools in Montgomery County had an official STEM designation in 2017-18: Stebbins High School, Dayton Regional Stem School, Southdale Elementary in Kettering, Mad River Middle School, Thurgood Marshall High School and the Dayton Early College Academy High School and Prep.
Schools without official designations may still offer STEM coursework, such as in Springboro. Project-based learning is used in several local districts, including Xenia and Bellbrook.
Sabrina Woodruff, the director of instructional services at Xenia, said older topics are being removed and changed as new topics are introduced.
“As the state continues to add standards that relate to 21st century skills, older standards are being removed and courses are refined to offer components of the outdated courses,” Woodruff said. “At Xenia we still offer Food and Consumer Sciences courses, and shop and construction are offered, they just look different.”
Tom Ash, the director of government affairs at the Buckeye Association of School Administrators, said the introduction of STEM topics doesn’t meant traditional topics like the arts are being pushed out.
“It’s really a question of emphasis,” Ash said.
Ash said a new designation, STEAM, which includes the arts, has been appearing lately. This allows students more opportunity for interdisciplinary study in school.
“We focus on integrating STEM principles into all subject areas, including humanities and art, while offering students the opportunity to deep-dive into in-demand fields through our Engineering and Information Technology Career Pathways,” Dayton Regional STEM School spokesperson Stephanie Adams said.
“Furthermore, our robust career exploration program allows each student to professionally engage with local business partners through the College and Career Fair, Job Shadow Days, and Internships.”
Literature is one of the subjects balanced against STEM focus in local schools. At Northmont, for instance, three literacy coaches were hired using grant funds, spokesperson Jenny Wood said.
Traditional topics are still being pushed at the state level. The Ohio House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would provide cursive curriculum to schools, although it would not be required.
Some local schools still teach cursive, citing its developmental benefits, but incorporate modern topics alongside it.
“Oakwood chose to never quit cursive writing instruction because we appreciated the developmental benefits,” said Kimbe Lange, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment for Oakwood. “In addition to cursive writing, we also teach keyboarding, beginning with first grade. Teaching both skills from the early grades is just one example of the balance that is necessary to meet the needs of all of our learners.”
The introduction of technology has also become commonplace in some schools. In Newton, Bellbrook and Fairborn, students have access to Google Chromebooks. In Northmont, iPads are assigned to students as early as kindergarten as part of the school’s expanding One-2-One initiative.
Marshall said Springboro partners with companies to provide technology to students.
“We work closely with professional organizations to collaborate on the latest offerings, including technology, that our students have become accustomed to utilizing,” Marshall said.
Administrators and school officials say that by introducing new types of learning, like project-based learning, and incorporating technology into the classroom, they can better prepare students for the future.
“It is of utmost importance that we teach students skills that are necessary for their success while in school, and preparing for careers and post-secondary institutions of learning,” Marshall said.