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Ohio superintendent visits Hull Prairie Intermediate to celebrate STEM

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    Paolo DeMaria, left, Tess Elsoff, and students of Hull Prairie Intermediate School with the just-presented STEM banner. This designation is in recognition of the unique educational experience that HPI provides.

    The Blade/Jetta Fraser
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    Students in the new Hull Prairie Intermediate School in Perrysburg before it opened in August. The school was visited by state Superintendent Paolo DeMaria today.

    THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT
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The classrooms at Hull Prairie Intermediate School might be a bit noisier than expected for fifth and sixth grade students, and that is just fine.

The school, designated as the area's first STEM school by the Ohio Department of Education, got a visit Thursday from state superintendent Paolo DeMaria. He, along with state school board president Tess Elshoff, unfurled a banner proclaiming the school's designation.

"Sometimes we think about school as being horribly dull, but it's not here," Mr. DeMaria said to the students of Hull Prairie. "This idea of STEM, it sounds kind of technical ... but they're exciting, and when you bring them all together into projects, that's what I love most."

The STEM curriculum focuses on project-based learning across all classes, not just the science, technology, engineering, and math classes that comprise the acronym. Students are encouraged to work together on projects and problem solving, instead of sitting silently in rows, creating far more noise than district superintendent Tom Hosler could have gotten away with as a fifth grade student. 

"For too long subjects have been taught in silos ... that's been the model for decades," Mr. Hosler said. "What this process has allowed us to do is break down those silos and have students look at life and the world around them through a lens where they're incorporating all of those things all at the same time."

He said the STEM designation fit well with what the district wanted from its newest school building. For now, Hull Prairie is the only STEM school in the district.

“We’ve created a little bit of a problem. We have students that are coming from this background and they’re moving into the junior high very soon,” Mr. Hosler said. “These kids are going to want to continue what they’re experiencing here. We’re already having conversations about how we match that with what we’re doing.”

The STEM designation is part of a statewide push to find ways to make learning more engaging for students, though STEM schools are not the only way for a district to accomplish that goal.

“A lot of people are understanding that we can make learning exciting and understand its relevancy. STEM is one way to do that and we see a lot of schools adopt that kind of model, but there are other ways too,” Mr. DeMaria said, adding that STEM requires teacher buy-in to be successful.

Hull Prairie has that teacher investment, Mr. Hosler said. 

“We have a staff that we trust and we empower them and they do great things,” he said. “I’m really proud of our staff.”

Contact Zack Lemon at zlemon@theblade.com419-724-6282, or on Twitter @zack_lemon.

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