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Project Lead the Way captures student interest with STEM curriculum

Project Lead the Way captures student interest with STEM curriculum

     If you go upstairs in the Wayne County High School, don’t be surprised to find what looks like a
medical lab filled with budding doctors, researchers and forensic scientists. Likewise, at Wayne County
Middle School you might find a room full of young teenage designers sketching three-dimensional models of
future products at an engineering or architecture office. Head over to Monticello Elementary School and
they are either launching an airplane glider or building the chaise to a robotic vehicle in their lab.
     It is all part of a very impressive and modern program known as Project Lead The Way (PLTW).
An impressive number of Wayne County students are benefitting from this exciting STEM (science,
technology, engineering, and math) inititative that should provide them with advanced skills to compete
in the workforce.
    While STEM related courses, seem to be equated with future engineering jobs, that is not the
sole intended outcome. It is more about inspiring students to become tomorrow’s problem solvers,
critical thinkers, and innovators so they can be prepared to be leaders in a global economy in all kinds of
fields. Some of the jobs have not even been invented yet, while others might relate to technology,
computer science or applied science.
    Project Lead The Way (PLTW) is a nonprofit organization and the nation’s leading provider of K-
12 STEM programs. The program offers world-class, activity/project/problem-based curriculum. The
team of Wayne County teachers – Melissa Conn, William Allison and Kelly Brown – enjoy high-quality teacher professional development. The program has an engaged network of educators, policymakers,and corporate partners too.
    One of the rewards for students after their white coat ceremony while still in high school is that
many post-secondary institutions actively recruit PLTW students and provide recognition opportunities like preferred admissions and scholarships.

    Wayne County School District Chief Academic Officer Brian Dishman spoke to the families attending the white coat ceremony and explained that when he was initially researching job growth in the Lake Cumberland area four years ago, he found that health care was the fastest growing field. So, the PLTW courses were a good investment to prepare local students for future jobs in that particular field. “It was a good community investment,” noted Dishman.

    Fast forward to the graduating class of 2019 and the good news is that all of the Biomedical Science students successfully completed the End of Program Assessment in their high school pathway, by obtaining their NOCTI Industry Certification. This impressive 100 percent passing rate validates the success of that program. 
    Former WCHS Teacher Emily Hopper taught PLTW for three years, before moving on to another position. Over time, the rigorous curriculum evolved into three courses, which included: Principles of Biomedical Science, Human Body Systems,
and Medical Interventions. Students collaborated on projects using communication skills while solving
everything from a murder mystery to discovering treatments for disease.
    “We have focused on diagnostics, screenings and treatments in our Medical Interventions
module,” said Hopper. "At one point, we focused on the morphology of cancer cells and
diagnosis. It’s really interesting…I learned with my students.”

      Newly employed PLTW High School Teacher Kelly Brown, who previously taught Biology at Dunbar High School and West Jessamine High School, has taken over the reins and is teaching the introduction course to Biomedical Science and Human Body Systems, as well as Advanced Placement Biology this school year. She completed specialized PLTW training this past summer in order to continue offering these high level PLTW courses.    
     At the middle school level, Science Teacher William Allison was delighted to introduce a six-
week rotation class of Design and Modeling, part of the PLTW Gateway curriculum. Sixth, seventh and
eighth grade students were so enthralled in their design work they did not want to leave the classroom
when the bell rang to switch classes. The class gets students interested in the engineering design process. Eventually Introduction to Computer Science and Medical Detective modules will be added as the program grows
at the middle school level.
    Last year was Allison’s 20th year teaching and he was very excited about this new teaching opportunity.
Besides being personally rewarded as a teaching professional, he sees it as “a good opportunity for the students” to be able to do
these hands-on approaches to learning.

   Retired Teacher Tammye Sumpter originally took on the elementary version of Science of Flight module to start
the rotation program at Monticello Elementary several years ago. That evolved to other modules like
Stability and Motion: Forces and Interactions (exploring simple machines), Energy: Collisions, and
Robotics and Automation: Challenge. After Sumpter retired two years ago, Melissa Conn continued in her footprints and teaches Science of Flight to third graders, Energy Conversion to fourth graders, and
Robotics and Automation to fifth graders in six-week rotating sessions.
    “My students really love the interaction with the VEX IQ equipment boxes where they build their
robotics,” said Conn. “I really enjoy working with this age” as they accomplish amazing projects using
advanced concepts at the elementary level."
     Even though the PLTW modules are complex, Wayne County students are completely engaged
in the activities and feel empowered by them.


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