Virtual Academy connects Appalachian students to STEM activities hosted by Voinovich School

Published: February 22, 2022 Author: Staff reports

The region’s K-12 students now have access to a variety of online STEM educational activities thanks to Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service, which recently launched the Appalachian STEM Enrichment Academy, a web-based platform that brings together a mix of STEM topics and activities into a central online location.

The Academy is one of several Voinovich School projects focused on STEM education and outreach that promotes Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

Building on topics of interest and relevance to students in southeast Ohio, the Voinovich School has developed online lessons across six “tracks” including water, energy, engineering, technology, remediation, and sustainability. The tracks also align with areas of expertise from the Voinovich School’s more than 40 years of research and engagement in regional issues. The online lessons are free and accessible to the public.

The Academy meets a growing need for virtual content and hands-on activities that can be utilized inside or outside of the formal classroom. Organized into grade bands, the lessons include videos, interactive online activities, and non-screen activity suggestions to appeal to the learning styles of different age groups.

“The Academy will appeal to K-12 students, formal and informal educators, and families providing a variety of activities delivered in a learning model where students gain knowledge through their experiences,” said Jen Bowman, Director of the Voinovich School’s Environmental Program. “The activities are place-based in that they provide an experience for students to apply what they have learned to a familiar, local environment on the topics of water, energy, engineering, technology, remediation, and sustainability.”

Funding from the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management Portsmouth/Paducah Project Office (DOE EM PPPO) PORTSfuture Program, the AEP Ohio Foundation, and Ohio University are making the Academy possible. Supplemental grant funding and partnerships across the region, such as the Ohio STEM Learning Network Southeast Hub and the Ohio University Museum Complex, are enabling additional growth in the number of lessons and topics delivered through the Academy.

“DOE is extremely pleased to continue supporting the communities in our region through academic enrichment opportunities,” said Joel Bradburne, Portsmouth Paducah Project Office Manager. “Ohio University’s Voinovich School has been an excellent partner in developing and sharing resources that educate students and encourage them into future STEM careers.”

Through the Voinovich School, Ohio University is in its 12th year of an ongoing grant with DOE EM PPPO to perform activities related to community engagement, STEM outreach, and informing cleanup and repurposing of public assets at the DOE PORTS facility near Piketon, Ohio.

“For more than a decade, DOE EM PPPO has provided vital resources for the PORTSfuture Program to launch and grow STEM outreach offerings to regional students and teachers,” said Stephanie Howe, PORTSfuture Program Director. “In addition to the online academy, these resources currently support a wide array of initiatives including: in-classroom instruction through our student ASER summary project and other class presentations; expanding the Voinovich School’s support to students for district, state, and international Science Fairs competitions; hands-on Summer STEM Days at county fairs; participating in DOE’s annual Science Alliance; and expanding our collaborations with partners, including site contractors, to support their student engagement activities.”

Since 2004, ongoing support from the AEP Foundation and AEP Ohio Foundation has enabled Voinovich School programs that blend applied research in watershed restoration and renewable energy in the region with STEM training for the next generation of environmental scientists, emphasizing training citizen scientists, making data accessible, and designing environmental education for K-12 classrooms.

Plans are underway for direct engagement with area classrooms later this spring. To learn more about the Appalachian STEM Enrichment Academy and access the online materials, visit www.appalachianstemacademy.org.