It’s wintertime. The first bell rings at Owsley County High School (OCHS) as the sun rises over the foggy hills of Appalachia. Our students pour in from the cold to the one high school that serves our 386 students in grades 6-12, arriving on buses from every corner of the county’s 184 square miles. Owsley County is home to 4,435 residents, with a population that recently reported the lowest national average income per household in the United States. Many of our students live on remote or unpaved roads easily impacted by winter weather, and we experience an average of 20 snow days per year. The journey to school can be long for some students, but once inside, they travel much further. Despite the challenges of our rural and economic environment, OCHS students have the ability to journey to places and opportunities around the world from inside our school building.
OCHS is information-rich, thanks to the dedication and persistence of teachers intent on creating engaging opportunities for students to learn about career pathways and places of interest. Thanks to their inventiveness, our students have been able to talk to marine life experts in Alaska, solve a case of food poisoning with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, and discuss and determine the cause of death from an actual autopsy with a pathology resident, all without leaving the school. Through national partnership opportunities and inventive uses of space and technology, all OCHS students have opportunities to connect with a virtual experience or professional outside of their community each semester.
During the 2017-2018 school year, Owsley County High School designed and implemented a virtual learning lab where students could explore the world. The lab offers virtual reality, augmented reality, and a video conference center to students that provides access to a wide range of learning opportunities unavailable to them in person. In that school year, OCHS students participated in video conferences in science, math, social studies, ELA, and Spanish subject areas.
Owsley can utilize the tools to remove geographic barriers by providing immersive learning experiences to students beyond county lines.