PLTW: Launching a Pilot
Starting anything new as a teacher can be a little bit like learning to ride a bike again. There is a heady mix of excitement and trepidation, but courage in knowing you have support should anything go wrong.
When Morning Star Christian School was invited to pilot PLTW Launch, we knew we were part of something greater than our school or community; we were part of a national movement to bring STEM out of just our middle and high schools and bring it to our early learners in elementary. Our school knew this was of vital importance because those early grades are where kids form their lifelong opinions and passions about math and science. We, in partnership with PLTW, could show kids that they can be excellent in science and math and that the possibilities of their future were limitless.
A lot of time and preparation goes into the initial stages of PLTW Launch. First, as a Lead Teacher, you attend a 2-½ day training to cover the three of the 12 modules that are taught at the elementary level. I have to say that this is one of the most valuable and, not to mention, fun trainings I have ever experienced in my teaching career. I was so inspired by the mission and foresight this company has for students in America, and others who shared that passion surrounded me. I also got to sit and explore as if I were one of the students experiencing PLTW education, which ignited a fire within for true project- and problem-based learning.
After the training, I came back home and started to prepare to bring this training to my grade-level teachers. It took me a week to organize VEX kits, program iPads, print the handouts, and decide which parts of the module to teach. If you are like me, you may be asked to wear many hats as part of your job and have limited time to teach the modules. It was my hope to be able to teach all of what I learned at the training PLTW provided; but because of time constraints I had to decide what would work best with the time I was given.
Having now completed the training and most of the organization of the supply closet, here are some of the tips I would offer teachers who are working to bring this to your school or district:
- Get the conversation about what STEM is and how it benefits students at an elementary level started with your administration and other teachers now. There is plenty of research out there about the age at which most kids decide whether they will be good at subjects like math or science. Hint - It is earlier than you think!
- Be sure to choose a teacher who is passionate about STEM to be your Lead Teacher. It is going to take a high level of dedication to push through all the extra hours it will take to implement this program on top of regular duties. Passion and the excitement you see on other teachers' faces as they train and recognize the value this program will bring to the kids make it worth any sacrifice.
- Be sure to take pictures of your VEX kits after you are done organizing them. Kids will drop them (just as I did to one of the last kits I organized) and you will want to remember where things go. You may want to drop one yourself; it is a good exercise in patience!
- Most importantly: Look at all this with a child’s eyes. It is easy to forget the wonder of curiosity as a teacher. Hands-on learning brings back the natural exploratory nature of young children, allowing creativity to flow out and the imagination to be sparked. Prepare for a very fun and wondrous new ride!!!