NILES - Some teachers were a little overwhelmed by the vast amount of information available in the new Defined STEM program.
Madelyn McGhee, a seventh-grade teacher at Girard Junior High School, said she liked the look of the new program and its creative elements likely would appeal to her artistic students.
Teachers were introduced to the new curriculum during half-day training sessions Wednesday at the Trumbull County Educational Service Center, where BP America's director of government and public affairs Curtis Thomas presented a $50,000 check to school administrators.
Tribune Chronicle photos / Bonnie L. Hazen
Lordstown High School math teacher Randy Fee explores the Defined STEM program on Wednesday during teacher training at the Trumbull County Educational Service Center in Niles.
In the web-based program, teachers have access to activities in a variety of subjects, including math, science, social studies, language arts, engineering, technology, career clusters and visual arts.
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The subjects in the STEM program are presented in a way to reinforce critical thinking as well as highlight their relevance to students with regard to career paths, said Defined STEM trainer Dave Reese.
"I believe this has value for kids," he said, explaining he also comes from a teaching background.
Reese said, in his experience, if you hand kids worksheets, they will fall asleep. With project-based learning, they learn and adapt, which increases motivation.
He outlined several ways the program can be utilized in classrooms, including project-based learning and student engagement.
The subjects are presented in four ways: video connections, student products, performance tasks and literacy tasks.
An example of a performance task involves the type of baseball bats used by baseball teams. Students are given parameters such as budget constraints and told to design and present the best bat for the team. Students must consider things such as the bat's length, weight, material and location of "sweet spot."
An example of a literacy task presents a question to students, such as whether 13- to 15-year-old baseball players should be able to use metal and composite bats in league games. Through research, students must take a position on the issue while considering things such as safety and performance as well as rules set by baseball leagues.
Rubrics are included, along with videos and how each task relates to the Common Core standards.
Math teacher Randy Fee said he likes to implement videos in his classroom at Lordstown High, but sometimes they are too long to keep students' attention. The ones provided by Define STEM, however, are only a few minutes long, many of which are specific clips.
"I'm definitely excited about it," he said, explaining he will be able to show how math relates to the bigger picture.
Other teachers, such as Leslie Konerth and Bethany Delgarbino of Baker Elementary, see the program as a springboard to integrate team teaching across all levels of education.
Reese said Defined STEM is fully customizable, with teachers able to delete and add content that the students will be able to access from home as well as school.
If no computer access is available, tasks can be printed out as handouts.
Defined STEM will affect 20,000 students in grades 4 through 12 in Trumbull County's public school districts and involves a partnership between BP, TCESC and the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber. It was launched with assistance from the Eastern Ohio P-16 (Partnership for Education) Initiative and funded by BP's investment.
BP will have no influence on the curriculum and there are no hidden motives for its involvement, said Reese, who called it a seamless pipeline to their line of work.
At the end of the day, it is up to teachers to decide if the program will make a difference in their classrooms, Reese said.