How Hudson Middle School is Engaging its Students in STEM and Working to Reduce the Gender Gap

Christoper Deleon is a PLTW Gateway teacher who connects engineering to real-world problems and whose students have won over $60,000 in awards and honors.

Each year, the Wisconsin Technology Education Association (WTEA) honors education and industry professionals who have demonstrated outstanding service and commitment to technology education. This year, Hudson Middle School’s PLTW Gateway program earned the WTEA Middle School Program of the Year award – and here’s why.

The WTEA awards committee was particularly impressed with the student-centered approach that not only provides students with the opportunity to learn so much about technology and engineering, but also allows them to demonstrate their learning in real-world settings. 

Hudson Middle School has made it a goal to provide students with authentic experiences in which they can apply the engineering knowledge that they gain from our PLTW classes in real-world settings. We want students to see the connection between what they are learning in class and their life outside of school.

One of the ways we do this is by providing all of our eighth grade PLTW students the opportunity to compete in groups of three or four in various STEM competitions. Students who choose to compete then find a problem and solve it.

As they work on their projects, they use all of the steps in the design process that they learned in their PLTW classes. Once they are done, they submit their project and report to the STEM competition for review.

Since we became a Project Lead The Way school in 2009, our students have entered competitions sponsored by NASA, the U.S. Army, Siemens Foundation, and the National Sleep Foundation – and they have achieved great success. Students have won an estimated $60,000 in awards and honors during this time frame.

What is really exciting, though, is that all of these teams (except for one) comprise girls only. Learn more about one of the team’s projects by watching their video presentation or reading this blog post.

We’re committed to reducing the gender gap in our STEM classes. One way we do this is by hosting the Hudson School District's annual Women in STEM night. We invite girls of all ages from every school in the district as well as the surrounding schools in western Wisconsin and Minnesota to come to Hudson Middle School to meet successful women in STEM and to interact with over 60 booths and hands-on exhibits.

Last year, we hosted more than 70 women in STEM who showcased to students what they do. This event attracted more than 550 girls!

Another way we reach out to all students to engage them in STEM is by hosting an annual summer STEM Camp, which is open to students in grades three through eight. In this camp, students participate in fun hands-on STEM activities and projects.

As a result of these efforts and others, the boy-girl ratio in our PLTW classes has shrunk to 2-1 and the number of students overall who are participating in PLTW Gateway has dramatically increased to 548 students in just our eighth grade elective classes. (All students in sixth and seventh grade take two six-week PLTW Gateway classes as part of our exploratory rotations.)

The WTEA awards committee noted the Women in STEM night as well as students’ accomplishments as reasons why Hudson Middle School deserved the Middle School Program of the Year award.

Winning the award really means the world to all of us at Hudson Middle School. It validates all the hard work that we have done and the long hours that we, as PLTW teachers, put in to provide our students with the best STEM education possible.

It also shows that not only do members of our school community see the amazing things our students are capable of doing, but that the investment the community makes in our PLTW program is really benefiting students. Plus, it shows that people outside of our school recognize the amazing PLTW program we offer.

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