PLTW Launch Increases Student Engagement by Expanding STEM Education

Jessical Coleman is the former principal at Gautier Elementary School in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Gautier was recognized as a PLTW Launch Distinguished School for the 2019-20 school year. 

Smiling students, excitement, student discussions, building structures, and coding robots in elementary school science? With a PLTW school grant from our community partner Chevron, PLTW Launch has expanded our STEM education. Our students and teachers have learned so much by implementing the program for grades K-4 and have benefited tremendously thanks to PLTW. 

Kindergartners Are Engineers

One of my favorite PLTW lessons at my school is a structure and design lesson. Kindergarten students read Jack and the Beanstalk, discuss the problem, and design their beanstalk. 

Students are so excited to build the beanstalk. During the engineering process, students are discussing with each other why their beanstalk is working or not working. After working on their beanstalks, the teacher leads a discussion about the challenges that students faced and discuss the solutions to the challenges. 

Students at this grade level also build a house to withstand the huffing and puffing of the wolf from the Three Little Pigs. Students construct houses with straws, sticks, and bricks and collaborate to build a house the wolf cannot blow down. We have observed amazing student discussions – with support from the teacher – that provide solutions for the little pigs. 

3rd Graders as Scientists of Flight

Seeing firsthand the thrill and excitement on the faces of students who are the facilitators of science is awe-inspiring. Students learn about flight and the forces that make flight possible.  They then become hands-on scientist and build and test gliders, propellers, and spinners and have the awesome opportunity to test and modify their theories and critical thinking processes. 

They are also granted the opportunity to fail (sometimes often) and use that as the process to motivate them to make it work. Our teachers act as the facilitator as true, active learning takes place in their classrooms. Through the PLTW program, our students are empowered to collaborate and take risks together, and even fail together. Nothing compares to the sounds of laughter, friendly debates, and celebratory shouts that can be heard throughout the hall during their PLTW module.     

Increased Student Engagement

Using PLTW has increased our student engagement exponentially. The lessons are created to spark students’ creativity. One teacher recently shared, "Each of the individual classes were able to expose the kids to different ways to look at everyday job experiences. This is a great way to allow students to have an insight on different careers."

Our students are excited to learn about the challenges and find solutions to the problems using the information in the lesson. The program has given our students the opportunity for hands-on learning. We are creating lifelong learners, igniting the spark for future careers, and preparing our students for the next step toward being college and career ready – all thanks to PLTW.

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.