Partnership Accelerates District’s STEM Curriculum Rollout

Brayden Bunting is the K-12 STEM Coordinator and Secondary Science Instructional Coordinator at Anna Independent School District (ISD) in Anna, Texas.

Anna ISD has grown dramatically over the past five years. During our years of growth, it became abundantly clear that we needed to increase our students' exposure to STEM and STEM-related fields at all levels of education. 

In 2017, the district’s curriculum and instruction team investigated several different STEM curricula, pathways, and clubs. The curriculum that stood out by far was PLTW, as it offered a K-12 (now PreK-12) aligned curriculum. The rigor and the student-centered approach to teaching were most impressive. 

Our team set up a ten-year rollout plan to implement PLTW at all campuses and grade levels. We applied for different grants, and fortunately, Toyota, a PLTW Transformative Partner, graciously awarded us a grant through the PLTW School Grant Program for each of our campuses to implement PLTW. With the influx of funding, we were able to change our ten-year rollout to a five-year plan. The district’s goal was to expose all students to STEM and STEM-related fields. 

In 2018, we implemented our first PLTW Engineering course at our high school and two PLTW Gateway units at our middle school, as well as embedding two PLTW Launch modules into the curriculum at each of our elementary campuses. In 2019, we were able to add a second PLTW Engineering course at our high school, two more PLTW Gateway units in middle school, and Robotics and Automation and Robotics and Automation: Challenge modules at the elementary level.

Our students visited Toyota on Manufacturing Day and applied what they were learning and how it translates into real-life jobs. The students were excited and shocked to see real engineers use the same concepts they had learned in school.  

Although 2020 came with hardships, thanks to Toyota’s support, we were still able to add a third level to our engineering program of study at our high school. Toyota blessed us once again in 2021, allowing our elementary program to expand. Anna ISD is proud that currently all 4th and 5th graders have the opportunity to take four PLTW Launch modules throughout the school year on each elementary campus. The additional Toyota grant brings us even closer to realizing our goal of exposing all students to STEM and STEM-related fields by allowing us to continue to expand our elementary PLTW Launch programs. 

With our students’ exposure to a rigorous curriculum and the grit, teamwork, and problem-solving skills that PLTW curriculum provides, we have seen improvements in all of our other classes. I have personally seen multiple students working through the design process in other core and non-core project-based courses.

PLTW-trained teachers have reported using more student-centered teaching in their non-PLTW courses. Students who have completed a PLTW Gateway unit have shown increased state testing scores. Sixth-grade science teachers also note that students who have participated in a PLTW module at the elementary levels can recall and apply the PLTW units’ standards with more success than students who did not participate in a PLTW Launch module. The robotics teams have grown on each campus and now apply the PLTW design process, leading to increased success during competitions. A notably higher number of our typically underrepresented students, including females, are entering PLTW programs and robotics clubs at middle and high school levels. 

Overall, the PLTW program has contributed to our students’ academic successes and our schools’ overall academic culture, which would not have been possible without Toyota’s investment and support. 

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.