Things are changing
in the way elementary students are being introduced to the world of science in
the School District of Pickens County.
"I have taught for 16 years and have
never implemented such a rigorous program as PLTW," said Debra Harris, a
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) teacher at West End Elementary
PLTW stands for
"Project Lead The Way," a curriculum that provides K-12 students with
hands-on learning opportunities to learn real-world skills. SDPC has laid the
foundation for STEM success across the district with the expansion of Project
Lead the Way Launch to all
elementary schools in 2016. The elementary program, Launch, and the middle
school program, Gateway, prepare students for rigorous courses in computer
science, engineering, and biomedical science in high school.
in learning begins with students as early as second grade. "My second
graders are working on the Materials Science: Properties of Matter PLTW
module," said Stacy Bullard, STEM teacher at Forest Acres Elementary.
"They are learning about matter, properties, reversible and irreversible
changes. Their final project is a prototype that keeps a frozen popsicle cold.
They will apply what they have learned during heat conduction testing when
designing and creating their own products."
is a word that comes up often in PTLW lessons, as projects encourage students
to focus on how the things they create could be useful to a business or a
"These are the
kinds of lessons that our business community is begging for," said Dr.
Brian Richard, Coordinator of Career & Technical Education for SDPC.
"It's so important for our students to see how what they learn not only
connects to a test they take at school, but how it connects to the job they
dream about getting when they grow up."
The Robotics and
Automation module for fifth grade students is a perfect example of connecting
learning to the real world. Students are required to create a toy using VEX
robotics equipment, but the lesson goes far beyond design. Students also have
to create a commercial presentation to sell their products to an audience of
their classmates. The final design
problem gives students an opportunity to apply the robotic skills learned
throughout the unit to solve a problem related to environmental disaster
Some of the most
enjoyable lessons for students also integrate into industries--such as
aeronautics--that create jobs here in South Carolina. Third grade students
learn about the laws of physics by creating gliders in the Science of Flight
module. Even before students begin to design their gliders, they learn the
basic scientific principles with hands-on activities.
students create a teeter-totter system with a ruler, binder, and paper clips,
and they add forces to the system in order to explore the causes of motion and
stability," said Jennifer Pace, a teacher at Clemson Elementary.
step, students not only have to find designs that work, but they also learn how
to explain in writing what makes them work. "I love that PLTW designs
their modules in a way to incorporate not only science, technology,
engineering, and math, but also reading, writing, and creative thinking.
PLTW allows for such rich learning opportunities in my classroom," Pace
"PLTW and STEM
teaching is not about teaching more, it is teaching differently," Bullard
said. "I love guiding students as a facilitator. Questioning students more
and allowing them to become fully engaged in their learning is both exciting
and rewarding as a teacher. Collaboration is key in a PLTW classroom."
With Project Lead
The Way Launch in place at every SDPC elementary school, Pickens County
students are ready to soar.