“¡Es Hora de PLTW!”

Ramona Elementary School in Hawthorne, California, is having excellent success implementing PLTW Launch in Spanish. Students in the high-demand dual immersion program outperform other district fourth and fifth graders in ELA and math. As principal, Dr. Patricia Ray brings rich teaching and administrative experience to her role as the instructional leader at Ramona Elementary.

Imagine a group of students eager to come to school and whose faces light up each time the teacher announces, "It's time for PLTW!" Now imagine the same scenario except the teacher says, “¡Es hora de PLTW!” Now that PLTW modules are available in Spanish, that is exactly what happens weekly in three of our bilingual immersion classrooms – one kindergarten, one second grade, and one fourth grade.

When his class was building their Three Little Pigs houses, Kindergarten student Isaiah said, “This is awesome! Me gusta construir cosas y usar un blueprint.” [“I like to build things and use a blueprint.”]

At Ramona Elementary School, parents have the option of enrolling their children in a traditional English Language Mainstream Program or in our Two-Way Bilingual Immersion Program (TWBI). TWBI is a kindergarten through fifth grade bilingual program – offered to both native Spanish-speaking and native English-speaking students – in which the students learn how to read, write, and speak in both English and Spanish.   

How We Began

When we started implementing PLTW in 2018-19, the program was only available in English, and we started light. It was taught by two kindergarten teachers. Their excitement and leadership motivated additional teachers who always wanted to know what was going on in the PLTW classrooms to want to implement the program in their classrooms as well. However, we struggled with how to grow the program and also include our TWBI classes. Yes, our talented and dedicated TWBI teachers could translate the PLTW lessons into Spanish, but that would be very time consuming and difficult.

I was thrilled when PLTW announced that the modules would be available in Spanish.

How We’re Expanding Opportunity

We developed a plan to train bilingual teams in each grade level in order to grow the program equally in both English and Spanish. During the 2019-20 school year, we expanded the PLTW program from two English classrooms to six classrooms. We currently have one English PLTW teacher and one Spanish PLTW teacher in kindergarten, second, and fourth grade. All teachers providing instruction in Spanish must have a Bilingual, Cross-Cultural, Language, and Academic Development (BCLAD) Teaching Credential. The next step in expanding the program is to train additional bilingual teams in first, third and fifth grades.

What the Experience Is Like

Kathy Carbajal, TWBI coordinator, taught the Forms and Function module in Spanish in a second grade class last year, and she loved it. She was thoroughly impressed with the Spanish resources, the teachers’ edition, and all of the rich academic vocabulary that is integrated within each lesson. As in any other PLTW class, the students were engaged, worked in a collaborative environment, and were eager to participate. 

In the TWBI program, we strive to provide our students with language development lessons that will encourage students to remain in the bilingual program in order to be proficient in both languages by the end of fifth grade. PLTW has ignited that spark as students are immersed in Spanish dialogue, navigating through the Engineering Design Process, working on communication and team-building skills, and complete the activities, challenges, and projects. In just a short amount of time, we have seen the positive impact that having the PLTW resources in Spanish has had on our students. It’s more than just excitement. They are so proud when they converse about their projects with their classmates and teacher. Second grade students routinely approach Ms. Carbajal during their recess break to talk about their observations. They can be heard shouting excitedly, "¡Señora Carbajal, mi semilla tiene un hipocotilo!" [“Mrs. Carbajal, my seed has a hypocotyl!”] and "¡Señora Carbajal, mi semilla creció y tiene un tallo y hojas!" [“Mrs. Carbajal, my seed grew and has a stem and leaves!”]

We know that PLTW provides students with a rich STEM education that will lead to many college and career opportunities. At Ramona Elementary, we can’t help but believe that PLTW coupled with the academic Spanish skills that our students gain in the TWBI program will lead to tremendous opportunities for them in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math! 

We look forward to growing the PLTW program at our school and seeing the impact that our students will have in our community and in the world.

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.

Generous support from Chevron made the translation of PLTW Launch modules possible.