BARNESVILLE, Ohio Olney Friends School is paving the way for the next generation of American innovators.
After 177 years of educating young men and women, the school is reinventing itself in an effort to help students meet the demands of a global economy. Beginning with the 2014-15 school year, Olney is adding STEM education to its traditional, college-preparatory program of integrated Humanities courses and its farm-based learning opportunities.
STEM science, technology, engineering and math has become a national priority, even drawing attention from President Barack Obama during his recent State of the Union address.
Olney Friends School seniors Zewdie Alamerewu, left, and Majo Chavez collaborate on a project. The school’s move toward STEM education in 2014-15 will provide even more opportunities for students to cooperate on project-based learning assignments.
"Teachers and principals in schools from Tennessee to Washington, D.C., are making big strides in preparing students with the skills for the new economy problem solving, critical thinking, science, technology, engineering, math ," the president said. "We're working to redesign high schools and partner them with colleges and employers that offer the real-world education and hands-on training that can lead directly to a job and career."
Educators and legislators at the local, state and national levels have come to realize that America's work force must be prepared for the jobs of the future. Demand for biomedical engineers, computer systems analysts, graphic designers, architects and environmental educators is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years, and a STEM education provides the necessary foundation for these and many other careers.
At Olney, STEM education will take on some characteristics that will be unique among such programs. For decades, Olney was a school that served local Quaker families. That has changed, as today the school educates students of all faiths from across the nation and around the world.
From its Quaker roots that date back to 1837, Olney has developed a long tradition of stewardship and a strong connection to the land and the environment. That heritage will play a prominent role in the rigorous new STEM program, with courses that supplement the standard biology, chemistry and physics.
In addition to those classes, a STEM education at Olney will include courses in Environmental Science, Agriscience and Introduction to Engineering. Designed to encourage collaboration, innovation, curiosity, critical thinking and social responsibility, these classes will equip students to become analytical problem-solvers and ethical leaders of their communities and our changing world.
"While other schools are incorporating STEM, Olney will offer a unique program that uses and expands our expertise on environmental issues," said Academic Dean Cindy Rogers, co-director of the school's STEM program. "We are providing opportunities and tools for students to make changes in their own communities and the world. By integrating our curriculum across the content areas, we will better equip students to make wise decisions and possibly even spark their interest in a STEM career."
The school's 350-acre campus functions as a laboratory where students in grades 9-12 can gain connections to natural resources and learn to make healthy choices for themselves and the environment. The new Agriscience class will provide lessons about the organic practices used on the school's farm to help renew the land and to produce crops that are shared regularly at school meals. That same class will offer opportunities to learn practical life skills, as well as financial literacy.
In addition, future partnerships with players in the booming gas and oil industries will provide students numerous opportunities to examine potential careers. Lessons learned from these activities have global implications.
And as part of the STEM initiative, students will participate in project-based learning giving them the chance to conduct original research and the potential to work with "fab lab" fabrication equipment to see their designs become reality.
Olney Friends School is a co-educational high school. Students from throughout the local area are welcome to commute to classes daily, but the school also offers room and board for those who choose to live on campus.
For more information, visit www.olneyfriends.org or call 740-425-3655. To schedule a visit to the campus, email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow Olney's activities at facebook.com/olneyfriends.