Hoban offers six academic centers to provide students with specialized learning.
Academic centers are open to students during junior and senior year and provide opportunities to explore topics of interest and examine ideas and concepts. Each center includes a culminating presentation or project in which students present new knowledge or a synthesis of current information.
Academic centers are the pinnacle of student-directed learning. With the added workload and time commitment comes a level of autonomy in their learning that is not typical in high school classroom settings.
Candy Bates, Science Teacher
- INTERNATIONAL POLITICS
- EXERCISE SCIENCE
- FINE ARTS
- INDEPENDENT RESEARCH IN SOCIAL STUDIES
With zeal, Jason Anderson, Ph.D., chair of the social studies department, teaches archaeology, a senior-level course designed to introduce students to the careers in archaeology, as well as deepen their understanding and appreciation of historical events.
Beginning in 2012 Anderson has led groups of students on a school-sponsored trip to Mount Vernon, Va., to work alongside the team of professional archaeologists at the estate of George Washington and get hands-on experience that one would only expect in an advanced-level college course.
“Hoban is the only school in the area, and possibly the state, to offer a course on archaeology,” Anderson said. “And we are the only high school in the world to have the privilege of working at Mount Vernon.”
More recently, Hoban has also been invited to dig at the William Pierce plantation in historic Jamestown, Va.
The selected students who travel to Virginia are those who choose to take a deeper dive into the course. This enhanced course is called the Center for Archaeological Studies, and the requirements are set to ensure they are capable and ready for the Virginia trip.
“Students in the Center for Archaeological Studies take on a lot of extra work in the class,” Anderson said. “They have to maintain an A in the course, complete a lengthy research paper, interview a professional archaeologist and attend additional lectures at the University of Akron. Based on their performance, they can be eligible for the trip to Virginia.”
All students in the course have the opportunity to have hands-on experience working with professional-grade excavation equipment. For his class, Anderson has created a replica of a 1760s military encampment on Hoban’s campus to allow everyone the opportunity to excavate artificial bones and other materials.
A highlight for students who do visit Virginia is working with the team of professional archaeologists. With the teleconferencing equipment in the Hoban Innovation Center, Anderson has also made this available to his entire class. Mount Vernon archaeologist Joe Downer video conferenced with the class and gave them insight about his education and profession.
Science Teacher Candy Bates piloted the Center for Sustainability during the 2021-22 academic year. Students explore areas related to environmental science, bioethics and public health.
"Students research topics that I would never dream of," Bates said. "That is the beauty. Students learn through the lens of their experience. Giving them the freedom to figure out their interests, problem-solve, make mistakes, create processes and solutions and develop a final product...that's learning in the real world."
Students in the Center for Sustainability visit Cuyahoga Valley National Park each month during the school year to learn along side the park's professionals. During their visits, they explore the park, learn about nature and provide services such as planting native plants and habitat restoration.
"Throughout each project, students develop critical-thinking and problem-solving skills and gain real-life experience," Bates said. "Most of what we do as adults is project based. Very few people are hired for a position and given step-by-step instruction. It's necessary to learn how to work within a larger process and figure it out."
"I love the Center for Sustainability because it really is one of the only truly immersive courses I have taken at Hoban," Lukas Cinko ’23 said. "Going on our monthly field trips to Cuyahoga Valley National Park has been the most fun. Our van ride to and from the park are always filled with laughs, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world!"
Social Studies Teacher Margaret Reed teaches international politics I and II and developed the Center for International Politics so students can explore topics with other students. They ultimately present their research at Kent State University, Stark Campus to a panel of faculty members in May.
"Based on students' interests, they are placed in groups with other domestic and international students. Together, they create a project proposal that is approved by KSU and they work throughout the second semester to complete the project."
Those selected projects are often comparative and cross cultural.
"I enjoyed talking and learning about different parts of the world and their history," Roland Sturgill ’23 said. "We had debates about what to do about issues that the U.S. faces, and how to best resolve them."
Reed's international politics courses challenge students to analyze world affairs from varied perspectives. Themes include war vs. peace, human rights, nationalism, ethnic and religious extremism, democracy and authoritarianism, immigration, women, electoral systems, developing nations and the various international relations paradigms. The goal is to build an understanding of world events that allows students to develop reasoned solutions to complicated scenarios.
Reed also invites several guest speakers to her classroom to help build upon classroom instruction. Pacifique Niyonzima presented about the genocide in Rwanda against the Tutsi and the restoration of the country, centered around Umuganda, the practice and culture of communities collaborating and serving each other to help one another rebuild.
Health and Physical Education Educator Mitch Wagner teaches an introduction to exercise science course. Students interested in exploring the field further are able to participate in the Center for Exercise Science. The course introduces students to the concepts and principles of exercise for lifelong fitness. With an emphasis on practical application, students learn about and interpret exercise measurements in the fitness components of cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility and body composition.
"Understanding exercise science allows us to understand our bodies and how to take care of ourselves as we age," Wagner said. "I am thrilled to be able to introduce this technology to our students to help them learn how to make exercise and nutrition a valuable part of their lives. This is a fantastic opportunity for any student with aspirations to be in the exercise science and medical fields," Wagner said. "This course is a great precursor to a lot of the material and information they will study in college."
In the first semester, students learned how to conduct metabolic tests using clinical lab equipment called PNOĒ. Wagner was able to secure grant funding to purchase the equipment by which each of the students were tested to analyze their cardiovascular and lung health, and determine how effectively they utilize oxygen and burn fat as a source of fuel.
Fine Arts Department Chair Zach Feador moderates the Center for Fine Arts, helping students bring their artistic vision to life.
Sam Mazzola ’24 created athletic trading cards for Hoban alumni who have competed at the professional level.
"I am titling the set “The Gold Standard” because they performed at the highest level and because gold is a prominent color in Hoban’s branding," Mazzola said. "Throughout the year, I have most enjoyed being able to have free reign over all the decisions effecting the project. Being able to have complete freedom has allowed me to expand my creativity while also learning to keep track of deadlines to make sure I finish the project."
Chair of the Social Studies Department Jason Anderson, Ph.D., assisted by Social Studies Teacher Rob Yanko ’66, has created the Center for Independent Research in Social Studies, which allows students to complete independent research on any topic related to social studies.
Students use the first semester to complete academic research on their chosen topic, outline their research paper, create a list of professionals in the field and learn how to complete a scholarly book review.
"When students leave Hoban after completing a center, they will be able to write any academic paper assigned at the collegiate level," Anderson said. "The newly created Archives and Research Library at Hoban offers a perfect space for students in our academic centers to complete work around their class schedule."
Anderson and Yanko meet monthly with students to discuss their progress and help them problem solve any challenges they may be having in their research. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of each student to complete the work without a formal class or schedule.
Throughout the second semester, students interview the professionals in the field and choose an internship location based on their topic.