Partnerships Inspire Students While Impacting the Community

Eryca Card is a sixth grade science and PLTW Gateway teacher at Elkhorn Area Middle School in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, and Elkhorn Area School District’s PreK-8 PLTW Coordinator. She is also a PLTW Launch Master Teacher and the Training Success Manager for the Milwaukee Hub. Eryca was named the 2019 PLTW Educational Leader of the Year and recently was named as a Distinguished Alumni by University of Wisconsin-Superior. Eryca enjoys serving at Lakeland Community Church, travelling, and spending time with family and friends. She has always been inspired by STEM and is always looking for ways to inspire the students in her classroom.

"Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much." These were famous words said by Helen Keller, and words that the Elkhorn Area School District puts into practice daily. We believe in reaching out to our community to support our students and offer them real-life opportunities. 

So when Wausau Homes, a custom home builder in the area, approached me at the Elkhorn Mini Maker Faire last year, I jumped at the opportunity to partner with them for our PLTW Green Architecture unit. At that time, little did I know the lasting impact it would have on my students or the way Wausau Homes would step in to offer the real-life opportunity I could not provide.

Last spring, my teaching partner Steve Fisher and I partnered with Wausau Homes to build a playhouse. Students were challenged with learning in the classroom while also meeting with Wausau Homes representatives every morning for a few months to put what they were learning into practice on a larger, realistic scale. They learned how to read blueprints, how to use industry tools, and how to use their skills to build the foundation for a playhouse.

They were also visited by New Beginnings staff to learn about compassion, empathy, and giving back to their community. New Beginnings APFV provides help to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, harassment, stalking, and human trafficking, as well as their affected family members. New Beginnings spent time with our students so they fully understood the community impact of their project. The completed playhouse was raffled off at Elkhorn's Octoberfest, which raised over $5,000 for New Beginnings.

Students were able to visit the finished playhouse prior to the raffle, and it was truly where Mr. Fisher and I learned of the impact of the project on our students. The students knew that they were the foundation of something huge and that their learning from Green Architecture and a partnership with Wausau Homes was something special.

Elkhorn Area School District is very grateful for all of our community partnerships, and we really understand the importance of community partnerships to support our PLTW classes. The impact that these partners have on the district goes to show how PLTW classes represent real-life projects and problems and how, if we think outside of the box, we can empower not only our students’ lives but the lives of each and every person in our community.

This project was a community effort from the instruction, to the partnership, to all who supported the project by purchasing raffle tickets. It was a lot of fun as everyone who drove by the school commented on the progress of the playhouse. One community partnership sparked a fire within the community and gave our students a lasting impression and introduction to a potential future career. Mr. Fisher and I came to realize that alone we could only bring our PLTW students so far but together with our community partner we could do so much more!

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.