By Brad HoggattNew Program at UC Allows for Hands-On Learning Opportunities
The start of a new school year always brings about exciting, new challenges for both students and staff in any school corporation. This is definitely true for everyone at Randolph Eastern, where the implementation of the student-empowering program, Project Lead The Way, is taking off.
At the end of the 2017-2018 school year, it was announced that the corporation received a Digital Learning Grant worth $75,000 that specified being used for Technology and STEM Education. The corporation’s Guiding Coalition, made up of teachers and administrators, was originally presented this opportunity and felt it was an absolute must do. In this day and age, every student must become acclimated to knowing and using technology appropriately and educationally while developing the necessary math, science, and engineering skills to be a productive citizen. Neal Adams, assistant principal at UCJSHS, having seen the benefits of Project Lead The Way (PLTW) first hand, encouraged the coalition to consider this opportunity as a way to best use these available finances, and the group agreed.
Once the news of receipt came to the school, and once the idea was pitched, it became evident that this was going to create some fantastic opportunities for all students at RESC, Kindergarten through 12th Grade. A team of teachers was created, one whose members were willing to participate in various training events throughout the summer and able to share this information with their colleagues. The RESC PLTW Team consists, from North Side, of Kerry Hinkle, Tammy Brouse, Clorinda Culy, Treva Gough, Lori Clevenger, Nate Cash, and Phil Lynch. The Jr High/ High School is being represented, currently, by Brooke Bissell, with plans to expand this team in the future.
Prior to any training, the mentioned team had to participate in roughly two hours of online coursework. Two hours may not seem like a large amount of time, but when you consider the work a teacher does during the day, coming up with a block of time that can be dedicated to this is difficult. Plus, with the work required, the two-hour block grew into a 3 to 4-hour block. Nonetheless, the team completed this work and was able to go through the mandatory training. Most elementary sessions were two-day events, while the jr. high/ high school sessions lasted a week. The teachers aren’t left alone upon completion of this training; instead, online support is available to them throughout the year, as lessons are taught and classroom experiences had.What is PLTW?
**The following information is taken directly from the PLTW website. Please, visit www.pltw.org for more information.**
Imagine a classroom filled with engaged students who are collaborating with classmates on solving real-world problems, like programming electronic devices or devising how to clean up an oil spill. Imagine a teacher supporting student inquiry and learning as a coach and facilitator, rather than a lecturer. Imagine an environment where students are disappointed to hear the bell ring because they are intent on solving a medical mystery. Imagine PreK-12 students who are already making a difference today and will go on to change the world tomorrow. This is what happens every day for PLTW students and teachers at every grade level across the U.S.
Through PLTW’ s activity-, project-, and problem-based curriculum, students in pre-kindergarten through high school engage in true-to-life challenges like programming apps to solve problems for clients, cleaning up oil spills, and proposing methods to prevent the spread of illness. As they lead their own explorations, students are empowered to connect their learning to the real world, develop in-demand skills, and reimagine their potential.
PLTW empowers educators to lead relevant, hands-on learning experiences through an activity-, project-, and problem-based (APB) instructional approach. Whether challenging students to create animations from short stories or design prosthetic devices, PLTW teachers transform the classroom into collaboration spaces where interdisciplinary learning comes to life. In addition, PLTW teachers receive unparalleled support and comprehensive classroom resources that help them focus their time and attention on what they do best: engaging and inspiring students.What will PLTW Look Like at RESC?
In order to achieve success with this program, the teachers at RESC have decided to take small steps in hopes to ensure full information retention and participation. Each trained teacher will act as their grade’s facilitator, presenting the lessons and activities to all of the students. Nonetheless, PLTW will look very different throughout the corporation.
For example, for this school year, the students in kindergarten will be learning about the human body- bones, muscles, joints, etc. “The students will eventually be tasked with creating a cast for a broken arm that meets specific, given criteria”, says Kerry Hinkle, Kindergarten teacher. Clorinda Culy, 2nd Grade teacher, adds, “Second-grade students will be learning about states of matter. They will investigate and classify different kinds of materials. They will analyze data from the materials testing, then design an insulating cover for an ice pop to prevent melting.”
Students in grades 6, 7, and 8 will be learning from the Design and Modeling component. According to Brooke Bissell and Phil Lynch, “the students will learn the Design and Modeling process and develop an understanding of the influence of creativity and innovation in their lives. They are then challenged and empowered to use and apply what they’ve learned throughout the unit to design a therapeutic toy for a child who has cerebral palsy.”
The students at RESC are recognizing that hands-on learning can take on a real-world approach, and the teachers are thrilled that this opportunity has been given to them. This is a costly investment, each module that is purchased filled with supplies that will regularly need to be replaced. However, the corporation is behind this way of learning 100% and is anxious to see how it affects the future of Union City, the state of Indiana, and the country.
If you’d like more information on Project Lead The Way, you can visit www.pltw.org or you can set up a time to see it in action at Randolph Eastern. North Side Elementary School and UCJSHS are two of only 650 schools in the state of Indiana (over 1900 schools exist) offering this opportunity to their students. Great things are certainly happening in Union City!