Springfield Local Introduces STEM and Carpentry Curricula

NEW MIDDLETOWN, Ohio — Two new curricula at the Springfield Local School District are supporting career readiness and exploration for students.

This school year, the district restructured its seventh grade science curriculum to focus more on STEM – science, technology, engineering, mathematics – allowing students to get hands-on working with robots, according to a release. It also introduced a Robotics Club where students can put their new skills into practice.

Additionally, a carpentry pre-apprenticeship program introduced in the fall for high school juniors and seniors gives students the skills they need to pursue an apprenticeship program and career in the trades after graduation.

“The goal of our district is to provide the greatest opportunity for success in our students; the path to success looks different for everyone and we want to ignite and explore interest in alternate areas of education and life skills,” Superintendent Tom Yazvac said in the release.

Watch videos for the STEM curriculum/Robotics Club and Carpentry Apprenticeship I and II.

Springfield Intermediate students building their Vex robot. (Image: Springfield Local School District)

Jim Pluchinsky, seventh grade science/STEM teacher and adviser for the Robotics Club, recalls focusing on the core curricula of math, science, language arts and social studies when he was in school, and primarily reading from text books.

“Now, it’s more about getting them to critically think and solve problems,” Pluchinsky said. “Schools are implementing STEM into the curriculum because we see the implications of real-world applications.”

In the STEM class, students worked as a class to build a Vex Moby Robot. In December 2021, the Robotics Club entered the robot into a Vex Tipping Point robotics competition held at the Columbiana County Career and Technical Center in Lisbon, where they had to program it to perform tasks.

It was the club’s first ever competition. The club placed first in the first round qualifier, but was beat out by one point during the finals held at Crestview High School on Feb. 5.

Students say the lessons transcend the class itself by developing skills like teamwork and problem-solving. The hands-on education also helps when it’s time to take a test.

“We learned that different gear-ratios on gear can add torque or speed onto your robot and now taking a test on it makes more sense now that we are building the robot,” said student Marco Gentile.

“I learned that to you have to do trial and error; you can’t just follow the instructions exactly. You have to improvise a little bit sometimes,” added Ally Guerriero.

Carpentry students who complete both Carpentry I and II in their junior and senior years can advance to an apprenticeship with local trades unions. Springfield is one of 10 area high schools participating in the program that’s offered through a partnership with the Indiana Kentucky Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters, The Builders Association of Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania and the Educational Service Center of Eastern Ohio.

Springfield High School carpentry students building wooden toolboxes. (Image: ESC of Eastern Ohio)

Students learn to use basic tools – such as operating circular saws, jigsaws, miter saws and table saws – and learn relevant skills, including creativity and reading a plan, said Sean Guerriero, instructor for the Carpentry Apprenticeship I and II classes.

“They can apply this to a future career in the trades or even just to perform home projects,” Guerriero said.

The year started with students painting their classroom, building their workbenches/tables and supply shelves. They built on that experience by making home items, such as cutting boards and pallet Christmas trees.

The final project for the year is to build an entire work shed/structure, according to the release.

In addition to the classroom work, Springfield High School is bringing in local tradesmen and contractors to speak with the students, thus increasing their exposure to potential careers in their respective fields, Guerriero said.

“We are trying to bring in different people from the community that are in the trades whether that’s carpenters, plumbers, welders – things that the kids could actually make a career out of one day,” he said.

The students see value in the skills they’re learning, whether they plan to pursue a career in the trades – like seniors Bo Snyder and Joe Sandine, who aspire to be a lineman – or have never used a tool in their lives and see value in those skills.

“It’s just helping us work with the tools that we’ve never worked with before,” say seniors Kaila Lamorticella and Lina Sandine. “It’s helping keep our options open for after we graduate.”

Pictured at top: Springfield Intermediate students compete in the VEX Robotics tournament in Columbiana County. (Image: Springfield Local School District.)

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.