Stepping up STEM: Poland adds to curriculum


By Jordyn Grzelewski

jgrzelewski@vindy.com

POLAND

The high-school science department is pushing for Poland schools to establish a “tradition of excellence” in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

That means some additions to the school’s curriculum.

Since last year, the department has added a 3-D printer, robotics and computer programming opportunities, and an Intro to STEM course. This fall, students will have two new course options: biotechnology and physical geology.

Science department head Beth Queen says these additions are long overdue and will prepare students for modern career options.

“We’re trying to stay competitive,” she said.

The one-semester biotechnology course will be taught in collaboration with Youngstown State University and will give students access to YSU laboratories.

“I think biotechnology will give a hands-on, problem-solving approach that hasn’t been reached in our traditional courses. Even in our traditional courses, we’re moving to a problem-solving approach,” she said.

Physical geology, also a one-semester class, will add to Poland’s College Credit Plus course offerings. College Credit Plus is the dual-enrollment program that allows students to simultaneously earn high school and college credit.

The science department also offers a CCP advanced chemistry course, and for the 2016-17 school year will add a CCP Advanced Placement Biology class.

“Geology is a piece that’s been missing at Poland for forever,” Queen said. “Offering geology ... will better prepare our kids for newly developing job opportunities in the Valley.”

Students already are benefiting from the department’s effort to incorporate STEM education into the curriculum.

“In an attempt to increase the STEM experience kids can have in-house, we are doing 3-D printing,” said Queen, who wrote a grant last year to get a printer for the school.

In a biology class Thursday, students printed DNA models.

“We’re learning about genetic functions,” freshman Marik Rogenski explained.

Marik, along with other students, recently took advantage of an opportunity Queen offered to take an online coding course.

“We made shooting stars, and rain falling, and a house,” said freshman Amelia D’Angelo.

“And a pig,” Marik added, as the two looked at their animations. “I think it’s fun.”

Students also are learning aspects of robotics such as “assembly, basic programming and task completion,” Queen said.

Students say these new opportunities are good preparation for future careers.

“I want to be an engineer,” Amelia said. Marik also plans to pursue a STEM field career.

Queen says the changes don’t have a downside.

“I think because of our staffing, we really needed to be creative with how we could add courses without adding staff,” she said. No one new was hired, and the additions are relatively low-cost, she said.

New opportunities were added “without losing any of the things we’ve always taught,” she said. “That doesn’t happen too often. Usually you have to dump something to add something new.”

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