From Springfield News-Sun | By Katie Wedell
SPRINGFIELD —The Global Impact STEM Academy hosted a delegation of Idaho lawmakers and educators who were interested in bringing back GISA’s learning model to their home state.
The delegation Friday included representatives from both the Idaho House and Senate, the governor’s office and one of the state’s largest school districts.
GISA Director Joshua Jennings, former Springfield City Schools Superintendent David Estrop, Ohio Sen. Chris Widener and GISA staff answered the group’s questions about the school’s student-centered philosophy, curriculum and partnerships with the community.
“It’s the same story everywhere … What are we going to do to train the future workforce for prosperity and economic development?” Idaho Sen. Bob Nonini said.
He’s among a group of leaders touring schools in numerous states looking for ideas they can bring back and implement through the newly created Idaho STEM Action Center.
The group was alerted to GISA’s success by Terry Ryan, formerly of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.
He called Springfield’s academy a leader in the nation and thought the school’s food science theme would resonate with Idaho leaders.
“This is so relevant to Idaho because of the similarities in agribusiness,” Ryan said. “It’s the largest portion of the state’s economy.”
At least one school district, Nampa to the west of Boise, is excited about possibly applying GISA’s model in their schools.
“Our community is very similar. Although we are urban, we’re in the middle of agriculture, so it feels very rural,” said Nampa Assistant Superintendent Nicole MacTavish. “I think the theme would appeal very highly to our kids.”
She and others were most impressed, though, with the way students and teachers interact at GISA, and the way students are given more freedom to explore their interests and learn at their own pace.
“For me it’s student engagement, it’s motivation, it’s student independence,” said Angela Hemingway, executive director of the Idaho STEM Action Center.
Leaders in Idaho are feeling the same pull as here in Ohio, the need to deliver a highly trained workforce in order to create bright futures for students, meet the demands of industry and attract new economic investment, Widener said.
“We hear all the time what (businesses) want and what they need we just have nothing to deliver to them,” Idaho Rep. Judy Boyle said. “We have nothing like this. That’s why we want to get started.”
GISA, currently in its third year of operation and its first being housed at the Springfield Center for Innovation: The Dome, has grown to 260 students and plans to expand to include seventh- and eighth-grade students in the near future.