When school opens this year in the Shawnee Mission School District, all 33 elementary schools will have new access to a program that brings STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning to elementary students.
The district is expanding the Project Lead The Way program across all of the district’s schools by instituting PLTW Launch in each of the elementaries. Seven of the district elementary schools already have the program and the other 26 will start this fall. The district also offers PLTW in its middle schools and high schools.
“The expansion of the Project Lead the Way curriculum to our youngest learners provides incredible opportunities for high impact STEM learning experiences across all grades,” said Superintendent Dr. Jim Hinson.
PLTW is a nonprofit organization that provides a transformative learning experience for K- 12 students and teachers across the U.S., through pathways in computer science, engineering and biomedical science, as well as intensive teacher professional development. This marks one of the largest expansions of the program in the United States, the district said in a release.
“We have seen a tremendous interest and high level of engagement from our learners when we’ve introduced opportunities for engineering exploration in the curriculum,” said Dr. Christy Ziegler, assistant superintendent for innovation and performance. “From lessons on coding in kindergarten to infection detection in fifth grade, learners have continued to thrive in highly engaging learning opportunities presented to us by our involvement in PLTW.”
In addition to curriculum, PLTW provides high-quality professional development training that provides teachers with the support and resources they need to devote more time to inspiring students. Teachers from each Shawnee Mission elementary school attended training this summer to prepare to teach PLTW Launch in the upcoming school year.
The district first offered the engineering strand of PLTW in 2007 as part of a pre-engineering signature program for high school students. The district has since expanded its offerings to include providing access to the first two courses in the engineering program at each high school and implementing the middle school component at all five middle schools. Additionally, in 2014-2015, the district piloted PLTW Launch at three elementary schools. The district expanded the Launch pilot sites in 2015-2016 to include seven elementary schools. In addition to expanding PLTW Launch to all elementary schools, the district will pilot the second course in the computer science strand of PLTW in 2016-2017.
“Shawnee Mission is one of the exemplary school districts in the Kansas City Region. They exemplify high expectations for all students and focus on academic success for students,” said Robin Schott, PLTW west central vice president. “This vision is obvious in their goal for implementation of PLTW Launch at every elementary school. The results that they will realize through implementing this rigorous STEM program for all elementary teachers and students will be transformative and compelling.”