Schools in Ohio are going above and beyond the minimum. Although each school district meets standards set by school boards, educators will often look to enhance their students’ learning past traditional expectations. These schools meet in Columbus every year to celebrate their success at the Ohio School Board Association’s Student Achievement Fair.
“We have a variety of submissions, and we’re searching for unique things we can highlight,” Fair Coordinator Gwen Samet said. “It’s interesting seeing what different schools in the state come up with.”
Career centers give students an opportunity to pursue their future early, learning skills not found in a typical classroom. Eastland Career Center has an award-winning culinary program that often results in student employment in the culinary field, according to Director Andrew Borenstein.
“We’re trying to get students trained [for] college or [to go] directly into the workforce. Our program is two years, [and] we do everything from fundamentals, to baking and pastry arts, to restaurant management so they can be a well rounded individual going into the workforce,” Borenstein said.
At Coshocton County Career Center, students interested in criminal justice get the chance to prepare for their future. Junior Brianna Dorsey said that though the field she is pursuing doesn’t allow her to go directly into the workforce, her experiences will give her an edge on the competition once she starts her career.
“We patrol the school and make sure the building is [secure]; we also do book work to prepare us for difficult situations,” Dorsey said. “We go through physical training, which gets us ready for the police academy after college. The experience has shown us what our futures can be like.”
Students often have opportunities to concentrate on their passions within their own schools. One such program is the STEM program in Olentangy Local Schools, where students get the chance to focus their education on STEM subjects. Sophomore Izzy Volpe said the program prepares students for their field.
“For the first two years, you work on engineering and engineering principles; your junior and senior year, you focus on a biomedical or an engineering pathway,” Volpe said. “It’s an interactive way to learn your core classes and expand your knowledge on what you’re passionate about. Students can focus on whatever they want – there’s a lot of variety in the projects people choose to work on.”
At East Muskingum Local Schools, students are able to gain entrepreneurial experience through a “Shark Tank” where students come up with a product, and then pitch it to “investors”. Senior Logan Morrow said that the event has helped him practice relevant skills.
“I’ve developed critical thinking and public speaking skills,” Morrow said. “It kept you on your toes; you were always working to come up with something new. It’s given me business experience since I created a company from scratch and opened my mind to new possibilities.”
Other programs turn required standards into something exciting for students. Mentor Public Schools uses the app Aurasma to allow students to interact with their art by playing a recording of a student’s commentary when it sees a specific piece.
“I have little kids tell me two things they like about their artwork and one thing they wish they could improve. The older kids really have to nail home specifics, like if they learned about value they tell me how they created it,” art teacher Jacqui Spetrino said.
Clubs and extracurricular activities give students a chance to take their learning outside the classroom. At Lordstown High School’s political club, students get the chance to learn about politics and travel to experience rallies for candidates.
“We go to rallies for local and national politicians on both sides of the political spectrum to get the experience and understand more about party beliefs. We got to attend events as big as the Iowa Caucus and the Trump inauguration. It’s a great way to explore what you believe and understand others’ views,” club co-president Emma Crissman said.
The fair coordinator said that the event is always rewarding.
“Seeing the kids and their reactions to getting a chance to be somewhere and present their work, it’s amazing,” Samet said. “It’s always wonderful to see their passion.”