By Susan Bromley
– Full STEAM ahead.
At their April 17 meeting, the board of education approved by a 6-0 vote full implementation of “Project Lead the Way” for grades K-5 for the 2017-18 school year, with plans to continue with the program for at least the next five years.
Debbie Braugher, currently the director of the Brandon Academy of Art and Science, will take the reins on Project Lead the Way, which she explains is STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education, with an A added to focus on the arts. Project Lead the Way’s STEM approach will be a supplement to the Next Generation Science Standards curriculum in the district.
“Science is my thing— I’m all about hands-on problem solving and troubleshooting and learning from that,” said Braugher. “I’m most excited that (PLTW) really gives students and opportunity to discuss real world problems and gives them the opportunity to try something, improve it, reflect and problem solve.”
A STEM Academy has existed at the high school since 2009, with 150-200 students participating each year in the integrated approach to learning science, technology, engineering and math concepts. This year, Braugher led a STEM pilot program for young BAAS students with positive results.
In a presentation to the board prior to the vote, Superintendent Matt Outlaw explained that with the adoption of Project Lead the Way, all K-5 students will participate in two grade-level modules during the course of a year, with each module including 10 one-hour sessions with students working collaboratively on a variety of projects and challenges, with units including animals and algorithms in kindergarten; Light: sun/moon/star in first grade; properties of matter in second grade; science of flight in third grade; energy and computer systems in fourth grade; and robotic automation in fifth grade.
Project Lead the Way has a start-up cost of $15,000 for student kits and a recurring cost of $50,000-$55,000 for the Project Lead the Way teacher, who had undergone professional development training. Additionally, there is a fee of $750 per year to remain a PLTW district.
“(PLTW) excites me because it builds risk-taking students who are motivated and confident and they don’t see failed design as a failure, it motivates them to try again,” said Braugher. “We want them to be persistent and tenacious and kids are naturally motivated because they are doing projects and engaged in active learning.”