CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) - Hamilton County students returned to the classroom Monday. It's a new beginning in several ways for one school. The new STEM High School in Hamilton County is up and running.

It's the first of its kind in our region and it's dedicated to taking a new approach to learning. It's something the students already appreciate.

"I think there's a lot of energy behind what we're doing," Principal Tony Donen says.

The very first freshman class at STEM High spent the majority of their first day getting acquainted with their new iPads.

"The kids, they don't know a world without an Internet," Principal Donen says.

"I'm really excited because it's definitely not a traditional high school. All the books are on the iPad and the classrooms, it's not just a teacher teaching. You're really learning from experience," student Emily Duncan says.

"The device they have in their hand has all the curriculum on it," Principal Donen says.

Principal Donen says while the teaching focuses on science, technology, engineering and math, the real goal is to encourage the students to be self-taught, critical-thinkers and to use classroom time for hands-on learning.

"We're excited, the fact of having kids work on things at their own pace in terms of direct instructional items, so that when they come in to school, it's like work. Now we're going to get down to the nitty gritty and we're going to get our hands on things. We're going to get projects done," Principal Donen says.

"They don't have a teacher directing them to go and find the answer, they actually can go and find that on their own and think that's something that many businesses would look for," math teacher Stacy Hill says.

For teachers like Stacy Hill, it's a chance to prepare the students for today's workforce all while having a little fun too.

"I hope that they leave here knowing that they can conquer any situation in front of them because they've experienced that challenge and success through the four years here at the school," Hill says.

"I think it's really going to give us skills for the real world more than anything," Duncan says.