Carroll County, Ohio has struggled in recent years to offer new, high-paying jobs, forcing high school graduates to leave the community. This is common in rural communities across the state and country. However, Carroll County is in a unique position for its future—the county is at the heart of the Utica Shale boom in Ohio.
Carroll County has more wells than any other Ohio county, and more than the next five largest-producing Ohio counties combined. Recognizing Carroll County’s unprecedented growth in the oil and gas industries and the connection between a strong education system and improved economic/workforce development conditions, Carrollton Exempted Village School District (CEVSD) created the POWER (Providing Opportunities With Extraordinary Results) initiative. Through POWER, the district is creating partnerships with Carroll County energy and agricultural industries and others to provide more college preparatory and job training opportunities for students. In 2013, CEVSD was awarded a Straight A grant from the Ohio Department of Education to support this work.
CEVSD partnered with Battelle for Kids to develop and implement a comprehensive marketing and communications plan to support the launch of the POWER initiative—centered around three primary goals:
- GOAL 1: Build awareness, understanding, and commitment for the district’s POWER initiative to improve student opportunities and achievement through partnerships with energy and agricultural businesses and others
- GOAL 2: Build awareness, understanding, commitment, and participation for project-based learning and STEM education, through Project Lead the Way and other resources, to prepare all students for college- and career-readiness in the engineering, agriculture, and safety fields
- GOAL 3: Support the district’s efforts to build capacity among teachers and staff for project-based learning and STEM education through marketing and communicating professional learning opportunities
To support the implementation of POWER, we worked with the district to develop:
- A brand identity, templates, and framework visuals
- Website featuring messaging, fact sheets, timelines, and opportunities for learning
- Stakeholder engagement strategies and resources
In the 2014–2015 school year, CEVSD began integrating more project-based learning opportunities for students K–12 and expanded its STEM offerings. Here’s a quick look at the impact in just one year:
STEM in Action
Laura Deehr, the high school agricultural teacher and FFA advisor at CEVSD, is integrating STEM principles and project-based learning opportunities in her classes. “Through this approach, my students are given the chance to discover and learn on their own, using critical thinking skills. I rarely lecture on a subject anymore or show presentations. Instead, my students are given a problem or project, and they can choose the direction they would like to take,” Deehr said.
“A project-based example from this year is when I had students design and build their hydroponics system in plant science. They had the opportunity to raise 90 tilapia in our new 500-gallon tank. Rather than reading about hydroponics in a text book or watching a video, my students got first-hand experience. When they had the chance to get their hands on something and test things out, I noticed that they became more engaged in their learning.”
“The POWER initiative has been an incredible blessing for my students. I love the fact that they have had so many new opportunities and have been involved with everything from planning and growing plants for the district plant sale to planting hardwood trees to create forest test plots for forestry demonstrations. I want my students to connect what they’re learning in my class to the real world and these projects enable those connections.”
It’s Not Easy, But It’s Worth It
“Being more intentional about integrating STEM and project-based learning was difficult for me at first, and I put in a lot of hard work into planning,” Ms. Deehr explained. “But, I can honestly say that it was all worth it. This year, my students have become so much more excited to try things and experiment with new ideas. It’s been inspiring to see them take initiative and apply what they know to solve problems.”
The grant also enabled the district to build a new 21st century training and outdoor learning center, and purchase new computers and mechatronics equipment for the ‘fab lab.’
Next year, Carrollton students will have access to state-of-the art tools and technology designed to support mechanical principles in the areas of pneumatics, hydraulics, welding, metal fabrication, structural engineering, plumbing, and carpentry. Laura is excited to work with other teachers to promote cross-curricular instructional planning and use of this new equipment to provide students with hands-on, practical learning experiences.
Engaging the community and industry partners is paving the way to new pathways to student success in Carrollton.
Battelle for Kids earned a 2015 award for the POWER marketing and communications plan on Carrollton Exempted Village Schools’ behalf from the Ohio School Public Relations Association. Learn more at www.CarrolltonPOWER.org.