Project Lead the Way (PLTW) is another new curriculum made possible at St. Anne's by the Open Hearts, Open Minds Capital Campaign, now used in Kindergarten through Third Grade. Lower School STEM teacher Kerry Wilson explains this program's approach and how we are using it at St. Anne's:
PLTW is activity-based content learning, which leads to the development of a project, and culminates with a real-world problem that the students have to solve. The students use the knowledge they have been constructing throughout the unit of study to come up with a unique solution. They work through the design process to solve the problem collaboratively as a group.
This process involves the students defining the question, exploring ways to solve the problem from what they have learned, modeling their ideas in drawings and prototypes, evaluating their solution through testing, and explaining their outcome. Throughout the process, they are developing important 21st-century skills of collaboration, and communication, while gaining important subject matter knowledge. Once they have the knowledge they can think critically about the problem, be creative in their solution, and gain confidence as a learner.
PLTW has proven to be more engaging for the students and has allowed my role as teacher to shift from the knowledge holder to the facilitator of learning by providing me more opportunities to question and help them to think critically about the problem. The students are coming up with solutions independently instead of looking to me to provide the answers for them."
One of the most exciting aspects of the students' answers is that they are based on the application of knowledge where there are many possible correct solutions to the problem. It's really dynamic!
For example, over the winter, second-grade students did a unit on properties of matter, looking at form and function of plants. The unit concluded with a problem to create a seed dispersal tool that mimics how animals and plants disperse seeds in nature. PLTW suggests taping off a section of the classroom for testing. We are fortunate enough to be able to utilize our campus, and we just happened to be preparing for seeding our pollinator meadow at the same time we were studying this unit.
The students were able to test and evaluate their models with scientists from United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Delaware Forest Service in a real-world situation. Students saw the variety of seeds that USFWS supplied first hand. They were also able to learn about how the hydraulic drill Delaware Fish and Wildlife supplied was engineered and how the tractor Delaware Forest Service ran for us worked together with the drill to plant our seeds. Student learning was significantly enhanced due to this real-world application of their work.
The formation of our pollinator meadow supports a number of units in our school curriculum and has reduced mowing by about three acres. Utilizing our natural resources really makes a difference when evaluating designs intended to be used in nature. Next year, elements of the PLTW curriculum will be added in 4th and 5th grade as we continue to align our K-8 curriculum with Next Generation Science Standards.
St. Anne's Investment in PLTW program is made possible by the Open Hearts, Open Minds Capital Campaign. We are investing in our teachers, in new tools, spaces, and approaches to learning, increased after school programming, and in our endowment and financial aid. Our goal is to raise $2.3 million dollars by June 30th and we are already 86% of the way there! Help us ensure continued excellence at St. Anne's with your pledge, which may be paid out over five years. Thank you.