MCCTC academies provide real-world experience
Posted on Oct 11, 2016
It’s not your grandfather’s math class. It isn’t even your father’s engineering course.
Two pilot academies opened this year within Mahoning County Career and Technical Center: The Machine Team and the Academy of the Arts.
“Next year, our entire school will be academies,” said Jessica Cene, an MCCTC spokeswoman.
The Machine Team includes precision machining, welding, engineering, truck and diesel, and auto collision. The arts academy includes culinary, creative arts and design, and cosmetology.
The concept involves teachers of the lab courses such as engineering and creative arts and design, and those of core subjects such as math and science, working together.
The educators coordinate their lessons to complement one another. The coordination allow students to see how what they’re learning in the academic courses relates to the industry they want to enter.
More time in the lab allows students to go more in-depth with their studies.
Students are in their labs for 21/2 days per week and the academic courses the remainder of the week.
Walter Baber, engineering and Project Lead the Way instructor, said that schedule allows more focus on projects, allowing the school days to more closely approximate a workday.
“It’s more real world,” he said.
Ezra Lazar, 17, a senior from Austintown Fitch High School, likes the academy approach to learning. It allows him to spend full school days in the lab focusing on engineering.
The engineering students are preparing for a Vex Robotics competition later this month. Last year, an MCCTC team won the state contest.
For this year’s contest, student teams create a robot that will pick up objects, move them and drop them on the other side of a net.
“What I really like about this is it’s all student-driven,” Baber said. “The students design it, they build it and they program it.”
Ezra said the robot teams keep working on their creations throughout the competition season.
“After we see how effective the ’bot is, we usually change it” to improve it, he said.
Dustin Cramer, a math teacher at MCCTC, said some of the academic and industry classes fit together naturally.
“Engineering is easy,” he said. “They’re doing math already.”
It may just be a matter of helping the students make the connection. Although they use math skills in their trade courses, they may not realize it.
It’s a concept that – at least from early indicators – works.
“The students are more engaged, and attendance is up,” Cene said, adding that the attendance increase is sustained on both academic and lab days.
Teachers volunteered for the pilot academies and spent some of the summer trying to develop how it would work.
Melissa Hackett, creative arts and design instructor, and Nate Wilson, a science teacher, were among those who signed up.
Hackett said academy students are given more autonomy.
“It’s like a college campus,” she said. “Students are not on a bell schedule. They’re told they have a half-hour for lunch – and before a half-hour, they’re waiting at the door, saying, ‘We don’t want to be late.’”
The students have risen to the occasion, Hackett said.
Teachers meet daily to collaborate.
Wilson said sometimes science fits naturally with the industry courses. Other times, he’s had to get more creative, but he believes it’s made him a better teacher.
“I’ve had to be more creative,” Wilson said.
To incorporate creative arts and design and science, students are sculpting words, naming the bones of the body. The sculptures bear the shape and size of the bones they identify.
Having students who are interested in the same field in the same class allows Wilson and his colleagues to gear instruction for students.
Cheyene Finney, 17, of Western Reserve High School, and Ilmir Stefanides, 17, of Canfield, both seniors in MCCTC’s creative arts and design program, like the academy approach.
“You can get more involved” in projects, Cheyene said.
“We get real-world experience,” he said.
Originally published by the Vindicator, here.