STEM middle school is dedicated


It’s a success story six years in the making.

On Thursday, Sept. 2, when the National Inventors Hall of Fame School…Center for STEM Learning, dedicated its new building, The University of Akron, Akron Public Schools, the City of Akron, Greater Akron Chamber and Akron Tomorrow celebrated with the community the opening of its permanent home and one of the nation’s first STEM middle schools.

In 2004, UA and the five other partners from the public and private sectors began planning an Akron middle school that focuses on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM.

Why a middle school? Because “that’s when students start falling out of the pipeline for those subjects,” said Dr. Sajit Zachariah, associate dean of administration and strategic initiatives in UA’s College of Education. “We are now at a point where only 10 percent of U.S. students pursue degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Comparable numbers in other countries are much higher. For example, 60 percent of students in China and India pursue STEM degrees.”

Fast forward to July 10, 2010. In an article titled “The Creativity Crisis,” Newsweek magazine lauded the National Inventors Hall of Fame School…Center for STEM Learning (NIHF-STEM) as a shining example of how problem-based learning can achieve mandated academic standards and more.

“…in its first year, the school has already become one of the top three schools in Akron, despite having open enrollment by lottery and 42 percent of its students living in poverty,” Newsweek reported.

Empowering Learners to Succeed in a Global Society

In addition to UA, the NIHF-STEM middle school is the result of a pioneering partnership comprising the Akron Public Schools (APS), the city of Akron, the National Inventors Hall of Fame Foundation, Akron Tomorrow and the Greater Akron Chamber. This fall, NIHF-STEM is at a full capacity of 300 fifth, sixth and seventh graders at its new downtown Akron location on the grounds of the former National Inventors Hall of Fame, which underwent a $14 million renovation and addition.

University faculty and students have had an active presence in the school. UA administrators were instrumental in its establishment, and University faculty and students are frequent participants in the educational process there, said Maryann Wolowiec, project manager for the NIHF-STEM middle school. For example, University courses on math methods and on implementation were taught on-site in spring 2010, and UA students helped out with afterschool activities. Wolowiec said she’s particularly pleased that in addition to College of Education faculty and students, other UA professors and students have participated in the school’s programs.

Although the school emphasizes STEM disciplines, it also incorporates all the required Ohio Content Standards, such as English language arts and physical education. The school also is noteworthy for its emphasis on project-based learning. Teachers are “coaches” who guide students in solving problems that can range from how to reduce noise levels in a room to restoring wetlands that had been drained for farming.

“We hope by increasing the number of middle school students who are interested in math and science, that the NIHF-STEM middle school will, in fact, create a pathway for students to enroll in STEM programs once they’re ready for college,” said Zachariah, who added, “…at The University of Akron, of course.”

Media contact: Laura M. Massie, 330-972-6476 or