Our Infamous Past and Unknown Success:
The infamous burning of the Cuyahoga River in 1969 sparked a revolution in scientific studies, math and technological applications, and engineering innovations that has made the Cuyahoga an international model for river restoration (White, 2006). Around the globe people know the Cuyahoga because of the fire. Unfortunately, the river is not known for its miraculous recovery. Its ongoing rejuvenation is based on the collaboration of individuals trained primarily in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields.
An Institute Based on Collaboration in Curriculum Design
The ISLS academy is modeled on this successful collaboration, bringing together the most academically capable high school students from the lower, middle, and upper Cuyahoga Watershed to work with the best science teachers from these districts and undergraduates from Hiram, Kent, and Akron dedicated to improving both student learning and our own environment by sparking the next clean-up of the Cuyahoga River through improved science education in the Cuyahoga watershed. The ISLS academy is dedicated to attracting high school students to careers in teaching STEM subjects by immersing students, their teachers, and an undergraduate mentor in a year long STEM academy launched by an intensive summer institute. The program utilizes best practices in science education while igniting interest and commitment through extension of these practices to successful local examples of STEM applications in the miraculous recovery of the Cuyahoga River. The future of this river, and our planet from every microsystem to every biome, is dependent upon the education of the next generation of students trained in STEM majors.
Learning Communities as Incubators for Exciting Science Courses
The summer institute of the ISLS Academy is also modeled on successful undergraduate initiatives to increase student learning in STEM subjects through learning communities (LC) fostered through the Ohio Learning Network - Learning Community Initiative
(OLN-LCI). Our learning communities have high school curriculum development "peers" at their center, i.e. talented high school students called Academy Scholars. Seasoned LCI faculty, IT staff and undergraduate students from Hiram College, the University of Akron, and Kent State University, will work with small LCs of these high school students and their teachers from school districts within the Cuyahoga watershed. The LCs will also be mentored through collaboration with representatives from government agencies (OEPA
, Portage County Soil and Water
, Geauga Park District
, Portage Park District
), and private industries (Enviroscience
, Oxbow River & Stream Restoration
) that have partnered in previous educational programs with these K-16 districts. These groups will continue to play an important role in ongoing recovery efforts - organizations that hire STEM graduates and are dependent upon STEM educators for future success. In other words, our curriculum development teams are non-traditional, based on LCs in which all participants benefit while simultaneously enhancing science education in our region.