Marysville Early College High School Takes STEM Approach to Learning
As industries change, educational leaders are building new pathways for students to prepare for the workforce. For Ohio’s STEM schools, that means a focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, as well as an educational approach that extends experiences outside of school walls and creates habits of mind that facilitate personal growth.
Marysville Early College High School (MECHS) is a local example. The school started in 2014 as an alternative to the city’s traditional high school. Through a partnership with Honda of America, Columbus State Community College (CSCC), Union County Chamber of Commerce, Ohio Hi-Point and EDworks, the school was established to offer three distinct tracks that revolve around STEM and reflect the needs of the local industry.
For Marysville and Union County, that meant tracks in advanced manufacturing, health sciences, and information technology. Middle school students with interest or talent in technical subjects, or who want to pursue careers that would merely benefit from a STEM background, are encouraged to attend the Early College High School.
Once there, students have access to learning opportunities that extend beyond the classroom. Through their partnerships, STEM schools have the ability to bring mentorship to students, and these partners often provide hands-on experience in subjects by way of school- or county-wide design challenges. Internships take the learning experience all the way into the real world, where students can see the lessons they learn applied in the jobs they’ll eventually seek.
And, to prepare students for work life, STEM schools — and the Ohio STEM Learning Network (OSLN), to which they belong — have established “habits of mind,” or strategies of learning and doing work in a more engaged and effective way.
“We really emphasize the fact that you should be self-sufficient and resilient, and be able to communicate and collaborate with people,” said MECHS Principal Kathy McKinnis, “so I think when we hit them that way, and they see they need them outside of school, it’s even more powerful.”
OSLN, created and managed by Battelle, connects and provides resources to each of the state’s STEM schools. Through the network, each school can see another’s effective practices and tools, and implement them locally. In fact, how MECHS got started had a lot to do with the function and operation of the Metro Early College High School in Columbus, the first Ohio STEM school. When applying for STEM school designation, McKinnis utilized OSLN to connect to schools that focus on project-based learning, and was subsequently led to Metro, as well as others such as the Reynoldsburg eSTEM Academy, the Dayton Regional STEM School and the Bio-Med Science Academy in Rootstown.
So, why can’t all schools in Ohio be STEM schools that offer these opportunities? First, many hold the misconception that STEM means the elimination of the arts and humanities. And second, “The funding model in Ohio is tough,” said Aimee Kennedy, Battelle’s Senior Vice President for Education, STEM Learning and Philanthropy.
“It’s not a model that provides a lot of opportunity for schools to try something new, experiment, make significant change.”
Through corporate funders, the network and its partners are able to offer learning experiences that aren’t available at many traditional high schools because of these limitations of revenues and expenses.
With the freedom they have, STEM schools can remain flexible and alter programs and tracks based on the changing needs of the local and regional industries. Kennedy foresees automation to be a focus of the future, for example.
“The goal of the network is to elevate the status of our state to be one where education that is provided for kids prepares them for economies of tomorrow,” Kennedy said. “But at the more micro level, I think the goal of the network is to incubate and sustain and support innovative educational environments that give kids the opportunities to explore career and college in a really meaningful way.”
For more information on Battelle’s STEM Learning Networks, visit battelle.org.
For more information on MECHS, visit marysville.k12.oh.us.
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