By Jeff Harrison
Noble Local School District
The Noble Local School District has another feather in its cap…and we’re as proud as a peacock!
At its yearly STEM Designation meeting, the Ohio STEM Committee voted to designate Shenandoah Elementary and Shenandoah High School as STEM schools.
What is a STEM school?
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, but it is more than an acronym. While originally designed to encourage students to pursue careers in these areas, STEM education has evolved into a unique approach to teaching and learning that fosters creativity and innovative thinking in all students.
“We are honored to receive the official STEM designation on behalf of our students, families and future employers in the NLSD and surrounding area,” Noble Local Superintendent Dan Leffingwell said. “This designation solidifies our commitment to preparing ‘future ready Zeps’ for their career of choice, 90-plus percent of which will be STEM-related.
“STEM designation, first and foremost, demonstrates our commitment to our students,” he continued, “and our efforts to prepare them for the world they will grow up in, rather the world in which we grew up.
“This designation clearly sets our district apart from others in our region,” Leffingwell added, “and highlights our commitment to preparing our students with skills necessary for their future success.”
NLSD Technology Coordinator Philip Theobald echoed Leffingwell’s excitement.
“The designation is a result of several years of district-wide transition and team commitment for the school district,” said Theobald. “The goal is to be a center of creativity and innovation that provides challenging, student-centered, inquiry-based educational experiences that are cross-disciplinary in nature and relevant to the real world.
“Unlike traditional school experiences in which different subject areas are treated as separate ‘silos,’” he continued, “STEM education emphasizes the technological design process and integrates subjects in ways that emphasize connections across disciplines. In a STEM classroom, students develop analytical and creative skills through investigation and problem solving. STEM moves beyond an emphasis on simple test performance and focuses instead on developing higher-level thinking skills.
“STEM education is a direct response to the realization that Ohio’s future will be built on its capacity for innovation, invention and creative problem solving,” Theobald added. “STEM education produces exactly the kind of thinkers, innovators and problem solvers our world demands.
The Noble Local School District is excited for the continued and expanding opportunities for its school community. STEM education is about developing globally competent talent. As such, STEM education is a key strategy for Ohio’s economic success – for stimulating economic development in our state and creating economic opportunity for our citizens. A STEM-literate workforce will attract investment and jobs, and good jobs and economic opportunity will attract and retain world-class talent. More specifically, the continued expansion of the Ohio Stem Learning Network (OSLN) – created in 2008 with five schools by has grown to 79 as of 2020 – is driven by, and linked to, regional economic strengths and workforce needs. Business, informal education and community partners play a vital role in helping to ensure that STEM learning experiences develop the highly skilled workers that local and regional employers need to compete globally.
“When we started this journey, we started with the question of why,” said Theobald. “Why STEM? Why PBL? We want to prepare our students to be future ready, and as we have seen recently, the ability to adapt and envision a brighter vision for the future makes a huge difference in our community.
“We know that STEM allows our students to think critically and be problem solvers,” he added. “Developing those 21st century skills engages OUR students in deeper levels of learning through authentic and complex problem solving experiences.”
The NLSD curriculum is guided by career pathways, and our pathways are guided by our business and industry partners.
Our pathways are: Medical/Health; Manufacturing and Engineering; and Agricultural and Energy.
“Noble Local is faced with the challenge and opportunity of 101,000-plus new oil and gas jobs,” said Theobald. “Our business and industry partners are our customers. We are properly preparing our students for future careers in our community, 90 percent-plus percent of which are believed to be STEM related is our primary focus.
“We believe Noble Local is the leader and STEM model in the region and Appalachia,” he continued. “A model that small rural schools can provide access, hope and opportunity for ALL students.”
OSLN is more than a network that only assists in starting up STEM schools. OSLN has evolved to a network that leverages existing STEM schools and programs to spread effective practices and tools across the state and the nation.
OSLN supports the growth and quality of STEM education in Ohio by:
Connecting the best STEM schools, teachers and administrators to each other and to national resources
Assisting schools and communities that want to create new STEM schools and programs
Driving STEM innovations through a network approach
Leffingwell pointed out that achieving the STEM designation resulted from a collaborative effort district-wide and beyond.
“I’m so thankful and appreciative of our staff who’ve worked tirelessly to better serve our students in preparation for their/our future,” he said. “Their willingness to grow, evolve, and work collaboratively to better align our instruction and curriculum to better meet student needs is to be commended. I am so proud and appreciative of our team and their leadership!
“This designation is also a product of the work generated through great partnerships that have been instrumental in our ‘growth process,’” Leffingwell continued. “No partnership has been greater than the ones we have with Zane State College and our 55-member Business Advisory Council. Their support and guidance has given us great insight allowing us to re-align our curriculum to better prepare our students for their needs.
“The NLSD has quickly become a “destination district” of choice in our region,” said Leffingwell, “where students are being provided with hope, access, and opportunities for future success right here on our Sarahsville campus.”
In addition to SHS and SES, other schools receiving the STEM designation were Ashland Christiani School (private school), Bath Elementary (Revere Schools), Dorr Elementary (Springfield Schools), Fairview High School (Fairview Park City Schools), The Kinder Garden School, West Chester (private school), McKinley STEM Academy (Steubenville City Schools), McKinley STEMM Academy (Toledo City Schools), and Paul School-Salem (private school).