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State board member's view of Springmill STEM Elementary: 'Just outstanding'

First-graders in Raymel Early’s classroom display the banner recognizing Springmill STEM Elementary that was presented by Lisa Woods, standing center, a member of the State Board of Education.

   A member of the State Board of Education described Springmill STEM Elementary as “an amazing hands-on learning environment” during a tour of the building on Tuesday.

   Lisa Woods, District 5 representative on the board, visited the school to present a banner which officially designates Springmill as an Ohio STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) school.

   “This is quite an honor. There are only 44 STEM-designated schools in the state,” said Woods.

   She talked with Superintendent Brian Garverick, Principal David Gilbert and Chief Academic Officer Stephen Rizzo on a tour led by Meg Strong, Springmill STEM Elementary’s math teacher leader.

   “You are being innovative. That’s what I find most interesting.” Woods said. “We can’t have a cookie-cutter policy. Every school should be unique, just as children are unique.”

   Garverick explained that Springmill STEM opened with kindergarten classes last year and added first grade this year. He said the district plans to add second grade in 2018-29 and third grade the following year, making the school a complete K-3 building. The district’s pre-kindergarten program also is located there.

   Springmill earned the official STEM designation in March after the Ohio Department of Education determined that Mansfield City Schools showed evidence that Springmill “will offer a rigorous, diverse, integrated and project-based curriculum while “emphasizing the role of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”

   Springmill, which has approximately 80 students in the two kindergarten classes and two first-grade classes, follows the same core curriculum as the district’s other elementaries but incorporates scientific inquiry and emphasizes personalized learning and teamwork skills.

   Gilbert said students this week were completing a study of the sun.

   Woods visited the elementary classrooms then joined Strong for the tour of the science and mathematics galleries in the adjacent Springmill Learning Center wing. Kindergarten and first-grade students utilize the galleries as part of their studies.

   Woods had a spontaneous reaction when she stepped into the CSI (crime scene investigation) gallery which Strong described as a math activity room.

   “Wow! How cool is this? The colors are great. It’s so inviting,” Woods said, as she moved around the room taking pictures with her phone.

   Outside the Gadget Gallery Strong introduced Woods to Terri Bucci, associate professor of teaching and learning in the Education Department of Ohio State University-Mansfield.

   “Ohio State University has a really strong bond with Mansfield City Schools,” Bucci said, explaining that she, other OSU-M staff and student education majors interact at Springmill regularly.

   On Tuesday Bucci was conducting a training session in one of Springmill’s large meeting rooms for teachers from other districts in Richland County.

   Woods continued on, exploring the Alternative Energy Gallery, the Gears, Levers and Pulleys Gallery and each of the other rooms the length of the hallway.

   “Just outstanding and so exciting,” she said. “If I were a kid I would want to come to school here every day.”

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