I taught 7th grade Science for many years when our beloved Home Arts teacher was ready to retire. The Director of Curriculum came to me in 2009 and asked if I would be willing to teach a STEM class to replace the Home Arts. The district had received a STEM grant and would build a STEM lab. Without hesitation I answered, “I will do it!”
After a few months of looking at different curriculum, my Curriculum Director suggested Project Lead the Way (PLTW). I looked it up on line and learned about the organization.
Project Lead the Way is a national organization committed to teaching engineering and STEM concepts. It was started in 1986 by a technology director for a school district in New York. By 1998, seventy-nine teachers were trained. In the year 2000 the middle school program began.
My curriculum director and I looked at several STEM curriculum options. I wanted to find the best fit so I e-mailed the teachers in Illinois that were currently teaching the PLTW modules. I heard the same message over and over. “This is GREAT! You will love it!”
With those recommendations, we decided to commit to PLTW.
It is exactly what the teachers said it would be.
I was trained in the summer of 2010. There are three core training modules. Design and Modeling covers basic engineering curriculum including orthographic, isometric drawings, and precise dimensioning. AutoDesk Inventor Pro is the software paired with the module. Students learn about engineers, how they do their job, and the process of design. There are opportunities to integrate math and science as students create original designs and defend their designs using math and science.
The Robotics module uses VEX Robotics and RobotC software. The purpose is to explore gears, build mechanisms, and program robots. The final project is building and programming robots. Students explain how their designs can be used to make the world a better place.
The final module is Energy and Environment. This unit integrates several science concepts including heat transfer and Law of Conservation of Energy. Using the Autodesk Inventor Pro software, student design air foils. They build and test airfoils in wind turbine models. There is also an AeroSpace module I refer to when teaching. This unit allows me to pair my pilot training with my STEM training.
PLTW does a wonderful job offering training for teachers and one of my favorite components is the forum. This is an on-line presence of middle school teachers with questions and problems. We share our problems as well as our successes. We use one another’s ideas to do a better job. I have friends in states all over the nation, none of whom I have met, but many who have helped me.
The curriculum is hands-on and there are many opportunities to practice reading and writing literacy. I’m having a great time teaching the curriculum and my students LOVE what they are learning.
PLTW introduced a new unit called “Green Architecture”. I signed up immediately for summer training. I am so excited to pair my STEM training with my architecture training. It will be so fun!