Perry Township Schools is executing an intentional plan to offer real-world and hands-on learning to teachers and students – and it’s seeing a tremendous transformation as a result.
This plan started in the early 2000s when the district first introduced Project Lead The Way (PLTW) Engineering at its two high schools. Today, each high school also offers PLTW Computer Science, each middle school offers PLTW Gateway, and the district is committed to implementing PLTW Launch in every elementary school by the 2020-21 school year.
PLTW President and CEO Vince Bertram recently visited Rosa Parks Elementary School, Southport 6th Grade Academy, and Southport High School in Perry Township and met a few of the teachers who have experienced dramatic shifts in their classrooms and careers since teaching PLTW.
Joshua Madden, who is in his second year of teaching PLTW at Southport 6th Grade Academy, taught math and science for 15 years while searching for meaningful, hands-on, and practical experiences to accompany his content. He has found this in the activity-, project-, problem-based learning experience offered by PLTW’s Design and Modeling unit.
“These activities provide student experiences and ownership that greatly improve student engagement,” he said. “Having the ability to define a problem and create a solution increases interest tremendously. Additionally, having the ability to actually construct their solutions adds an element to this course that they do not typically get in other courses. Having the opportunity to focus on design solutions for patients with cerebral palsy also gives them much-needed character development.”
The ability to solve real-world problems is critical in developing skills that will serve students well no matter what career path they choose, and is part of the reason Perry Township Schools Superintendent Pat Mapes is committed to expanding the program.
“Project Lead The Way is a crucial component in Perry Township Schools' plan to provide innovative, quality education to all students,” Mapes said. “Our educators have embraced the project-based learning approach because its effectiveness has been proven. PLTW is laying the foundation that will allow our students to solve problems in the classroom and in life.”
Kristen Jordan is finishing her first semester teaching PLTW App Creators at Southport Middle School after teaching social studies for 10 years. She sees her students inspired, engaged, and persisting through challenges just like she is as she transitions into this new subject.
“In social studies, I would always look for ways to increase student engagement and excitement,” she said. “In App Creators, the engagement and excitement come naturally. Students are so motivated by their own success and failure that they look forward to coming to this class daily. PLTW has reignited my love for teaching. I feel like what I'm teaching is meaningful and something that students will truly use in their future, making each day a wonderful new adventure!”
For example, Jordan recently had two students who were working through an issue in a project. They worked for the majority of the class period and were so excited when they figured it out that they jumped out of their seats to run up and share their success. Jordan said these moments of excitement are common, especially as the course progresses.
During his visit, Bertram talked to students about how what they are learning is not just relevant in the workforce, but will provide them skills that are in high demand across industries.
“Companies are looking for people with the knowledge and skills you are learning here,” he said. “Don’t forget to thank your teachers and leaders for providing this and take advantage of every opportunity you are given.”
To stay up to date on all of Vince's travels and the latest in education and workforce development news, please follow @vincebertram on Twitter.