PLTW Engineering Offers New Interdisciplinary Learning Opportunities for 2015-16: Part 2

(April 23, 2015) PLTW's approach to STEM learning goes beyond the study of science, technology, engineering, and math. Through activity-, project-, and problem-based curriculum, PLTW gives students a chance to lead their own learning and apply their cross-disciplinary knowledge to solve true-to-life challenges.

Two new courses within PLTW Engineering exemplify this hands-on, interdisciplinary approach: Computer Science and Software Engineering (CSE) and Environmental Sustainability (ES). Both courses are available to implement in 2015-16.

PLTW outlines one of these two courses, Environmental Sustainability, below. (See “PLTW Engineering Offers New Interdisciplinary Learning Opportunities for 2015-16: Part 1” for information on Computer Science and Software Engineering.)

Interdisciplinary Learning in Environmental Sustainability (ES)

Environmental Sustainability (ES) is an interdisciplinary engineering course in which students investigate and design solutions to solve real-world challenges related to clean and abundant drinking water, food supply enhancement, and renewable energy. This course has the potential to bring together a diverse group of students with interests in biology, chemistry, and/or environmental studies, and it gives students the opportunity to lead their own learning, collaborate, and gain skills needed to communicate their creative solutions.

In ES, students also gain insights into the future career opportunities that exist in the areas they are exploring.

Through real-world activities, ES students explore a variety of disciplines:

Chemistry: In ES, students investigate water pollution, including the cause, impact, and methods of prevention. As they explore water quality, they administer and analyze chemical tests to determine the presence of potentially harmful pollutants.

Molecular Biology: Students examine genetically modified plants as a potential solution to food security issues around the globe. In their explorations, they employ molecular biology techniques to test food sources for the presence of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), such as Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) genes, which allow plants to produce a natural insecticide.

Environmental Science: Students examine energy use – past, present, and future – and explore how to biomanufacture biofuels from algae and cellulosic plant materials. Students design, build, and operate bench-top scale algae bioreactors to learn about the challenges associated with producing biofuels in a sustainable and environmentally conscious manner.

Within the PLTW Engineering sequence of courses, ES is a specialty course designed to follow Introduction to Engineering Design and Principles of Engineering. ES is aligned with national standards in math and English language arts and Next Generation Science Standards.

Pilot testing began in the fall of 2014 with 25 schools around the country and concludes this May with an End of Course assessment. Environmental Sustainability is available for all schools in the 2015-16 school year and will replace Biotechnical Engineering, which PLTW will continue to support through the end of the 2016-17 school year.