From Uncertainty to Overwhelming Enthusiasm

Jen Peck is a teacher in a first through third grade multi-age classroom at Chippewa Valley Montessori in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Jen has also taught science at the high school level. Jen loves the creativity, energy, and enthusiasm that kids bring to learning and is passionate about giving even the youngest learners opportunities to do great things.

This school year was our first year as a PLTW Launch school. We are a Montessori public charter school with multi-age classrooms, grades PK-5th. We were not sure how PLTW would fit with our unique school. We started with three classrooms piloting the modules in grades 1-3.

In my classroom, PLTW immediately increased student engagement in science; many of my students now enthusiastically declare science as their favorite subject. Parents were impressed by the rigor of the content and project-based nature of the modules. The teachers involved in the pilot were pleased with the modules, materials, and support from PLTW.

After seeing the PLTW Launch modules in action and hearing from teachers, students, and parents about how PLTW was so successful in the pilot classrooms, our staff and governance board wholeheartedly agreed that PLTW was a great fit for our school, and we voted to adopt PLTW in all classrooms beginning in the 2017-18 school year.

One outcome of using PLTW in my classroom that I could not have predicted was the enthusiastic response I have had from parents of my students. My students loved the PLTW modules. They truly related to the stories that start each module and took to heart the problems faced by Mylo, Suzi, and Angelina. They enthusiastically tackled the activities and projects, and could use the content knowledge they gained along the way to come up with creative solutions. Of course, they carried this enthusiasm home and regaled their parents with stories of the cool things they built and how they worked (or didn't!). I received a great deal of feedback from happy parents who loved their child's new-found passion for science and engineering. The comments I was most pleased to hear, however, were less about how their kids loved science and more about how important the work was.

During our computer science module, Animated Storytelling, one parent commented that the coding skills the kids were learning in the module would be applicable at her business and went beyond what the typical job applicant might possess in the current employment market. Most employees are coming in with little or no coding experience and must be trained on the job, and we were learning it in first grade. Beyond the encouraging comments, I also had an increase in direct parent involvement in the classroom. PLTW projects are not only engaging for kids, but adults also want to get involved too!

One of my moms is the managing engineer for a local firm. She loved coming in during science time and helping out. When the kids found out she was a REAL engineer, they wanted to hear more about her “cool” job. No introduction I could have given her as a guest speaker could ever build that kind of excitement. She willingly obliged the students' questions and became not only a champion of their classroom engineering, but also a role model of a real-life engineer.

I am so excited to bring PLTW to every student in my school this coming year. It was clear to those of us involved in the pilot that this would be a game-changer for our school. And best of all, when I shared with my students that every kid at our school would get to do PLTW science this year, they actually cheered. Yay science!

PLTW’s blog is intended to serve as a forum for ideas and perspectives from across our network. The opinions expressed are those of this guest author.