PLTW Launch: Just the Beginning

Lisa Parisi is a highly qualified classroom teacher, dual certified in both general and special education. She has been helping students be successful for 30 years. She is presently the gifted and talented teacher and the PLTW Science Lead Teacher in her school. She has won many awards, including the SIGTEL Online Learning award for global projects. She is co-author of the ISTE-published Making Connections with Blogging. She has also had articles published in Scholastic magazine, Tech4Learning, and various online sites. She is a Discovery Educator Network Member, a Google Certified Teacher, an iEARN cadre member, a CAST cadre member, a BrainPop Popstar, a SMART Exemplary Educator, a Voki ambassador, and a Fablevision ambassador. All of these “extras” help her keep up with technology in the classroom. She teaches at Denton Avenue Elementary School in New Hyde Park, New York.

This year, my school district made the decision to use PLTW Launch for K-5. With this decision came my new role as PLTW Lead Teacher in my building. With this decision also came the decision to move to a new math program and learn new reading and writing units.

How did the teachers feel about PLTW? Overwhelmed. They were already overwhelmed with math and ELA, especially since the state tests the children in those areas. So PLTW seemed like just an extra.

But I was hopeful. I knew that the PLTW Launch program would allow teachers to move toward a more project-based learning approach. I knew it would help the students learn to think, analyze, evaluate, and reimagine what they were working on. And I knew the students would love every minute of it.

So I went through training, listening to the teachers struggle with time-management issues while learning the topics. I provided as much support as I could without actually going into classrooms and teaching the lessons, something the administration clearly did not want. And I commiserated with my PLTW Lead Teachers from the other elementary schools in district, who were facing the same struggles as me.

But then we arrived at the end of December, when we were finishing up our first module, and things had changed.

Now, I cannot walk through the building without being dragged into a classroom to witness the children building and testing their designs: fifth graders creating toys and robots that they program, kindergarteners creating beanstalks and houses that are stable and functional, third graders flying planes and discussing drag and lift. I cannot pass a teacher without hearing stories about the learning the children are doing, like the third graders who were able to talk about the molecular changes in a frozen leaf, and the first graders who clearly learned about refraction and reflection while designing their device to contact friends in the woods. And I cannot get through even one day without teachers sharing pictures and videos with me of the children working on the modules.

We just started training for the second module. This training has gone so much differently. The teachers are excited with the new concepts and anxious to show the children what ideas there are to work with. Gone are the worries about time. They now recognize that time spent on PLTW enhances the skills needed for problem solving in math and revision perseverance in writing.

As for me, I am so grateful for this position. I love that my district has decided to hire a Lead Teacher for each elementary school. This gives me a team to work with and bounce ideas off of. I love that my teachers took the challenge and ran with it. I knew they would, but it’s exciting to see, nonetheless. I love that the students stop by my room to show me the pictures they took on their iPads in science. They call me the science teacher! I love that my principal has asked me to create a blog and a display case full of PLTW success stories. Now I have to choose among so many great stories. Mostly, I love Project Lead The Way!

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.