Bradie Shrum Elementary School is introducing students to a new program thanks to Project Lead the Way. Third grade teacher Emily Johnson, who has been trained to teach PLTW, said it is a hands-on curriculum that focuses on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math). She and fellow third grade teacher Whitney Burris recently completed the training to lead the school in the program.
“We have both officially taught one unit in our classroom,” said Johnson, adding that the units are 10 hours long and take about five weeks to complete in the classroom.
Because both teachers have been trained, they are now able to train coworkers in order to grow the program at BSE. Johnson said teachers must complete 16 hours of training in order to teach PLTW programs. The goal is to implement PLTW with all third grade students next year and then keep growing the program so that eventually Bradie Shrum is PLTW certified K-5, with all students completing at least one module every school year.
So far, grant money has covered for Johnson and Burris to receive the training, as well as the price of purchasing five kits. She said they have a few kits at BSE and one at the high school. The cost for each kit ranges from $60 to $350. Teachers are able to share the kits and can reuse kits from year to year.
Johnson explained that the elementary kits focus on team work, critical thinking, and problem solving. Each module involves a story, that introduces the character and the problem they are facing. Then, students complete activities and experiments involving math, science, reading, and engineering, that help them to eventually solve the character’s problem. Each module follows the same guidelines.
Johnson said ideally, students will start with a module in kindergarten and then each year, the characters in the modules grow with the students. They get to know the characters and their interest grows so that the students want to learn more to be able to help the character succeed.
When the students enter the middle school, the difficulty of the units increases. The middle school kits build on the elementary kit ideas, with harder challenges. At the high school level, the kits follow career pathways: computer science, engineering and biomedical. Johnson said because the high school modules follow career pathways, businesses like Cook Medical will hire students straight out of high school upon their completion of the PLTW program.
Indiana is one the leading states in PLTW and Salem Community Schools hopes to continue to be a leading school in the area with the program.