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 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) program 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 Emily Hopper – 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.
WCHS Teacher Emily Hopper has been teaching PLTW for three years. The rigorous curriculum
has evolved into three courses, which include: Principles of Biomedical Science, Human Body Systems,
and Medical Interventions. Students collaborate 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. “Just recently, we’ve been focusing on the morphology of cancer cells and
diagnosis. It’s really interesting…I’m learning with my students.”
At the middle school level, Science Teacher William Allison is delighted to be introducing a six-
week rotation class of Design and Modeling, part of the PLTW Gateway curriculum. Sixth, seventh and
eighth grade students are so enthralled in their design work they do not want to leave the classroom
when the bell rings. The class gets students interested in the engineering design process. Eventually
Introduction to Computer Science and Medical Detective modules may be added as the program grows
at the middle school level.
This is Allison’s 20th year teaching and he is very excited about this new teaching opportunity.
Besides being personally rewarding, 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 last year, Melissa Conn has taken the
courses over and teaches Science of Flight to third graders, Energy Conversion to fourth graders, and
Robotics and Automation to fifth graders.
“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.