Students of all ages consider summer break a stress-free chance to relax, play and adventure. Many of their teachers, on the other hand, use those months to advance their teaching skills and curriculum. West Virginia University helped teachers from across the country do just that through Project Lead the Way courses.
PLTW is a nonprofit organization that provides science, technology, engineering and math curriculum and professional development opportunities to K-12 teachers. WVU has been an affiliate of the program since 2006.
This year, the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources facilitated the training sessions, taught by instructors who have completed PLTW Master Teacher Training.
“The PLTW program allows us to work hand-in-hand with K-12 teachers to better assist them in teaching curriculum that will challenge young minds,” said Ali Anderson, a graduate teaching assistant of Fundamentals of Engineering. “WVU and the Statler College have far more resources than K-12 schools, so this partnership allows us to spread knowledge, share those resources and help teachers prepare the next generation of engineers and Mountaineers.”
Seventy participants from West Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, California, Michigan, North Carolina, New York and Washington D.C., attended one of seven courses that covered problem-based learning, design and modeling, automation and robotics, computer science, medical detective training, introduction to engineering and principles of engineering.
Angie Leef, a chemistry and engineering instructor at Greenbrier West High School in Charmco, participated in the classes as a way to bring engineering to her county schools.
“I participated in both the introduction to engineering and principles of engineering courses and they were intense, but our instructors did a great job going through the entire curricula and helped me understand how to present the material to my own students,” said Leef. “Because of Project Lead the Way, our school will finally be able to offer engineering courses, which could help guide our students to engineering career choices.”
According to Leef, the new curriculum is more important now than ever, as many of her students will be returning to school looking for hope after the June floods left their county ravished.
“Greenbrier County was hit hard and the students that weren’t displaced due to the destruction will be coming to school looking for a stable, familiar environment. I am hoping these classes will give them hope that they can rise above any situation.”
Summer courses are just one way WVU interacts with K-12 teachers through PLTW says Robin Hensel,
assistant dean for freshman experience and PLTW West Virginia affiliate director.
“WVU has been a consistent resource for PLTW teachers and those considering adding the curriculum to their school for the past 10 years. We work to explain the benefits of introducing students to engineering principles and concepts in K-12, help potential PLTW teachers connect with current PLTW teachers, counselors and administrators, and answer their questions regarding implementation of the curriculum.”
PLTW benefits are two-fold, as Hensel finds students who come from PLTW K-12 schools are better prepared for engineering education.
“The PLTW curriculum provides an excellent pathway to help students understand what engineering and engineering technology are so they can determine, before starting college, if those careers are what they want to pursue,” said Hensel. “PLTW students enter college already focused on a career goal, with a fuller understanding of what that career may look like than other first-year engineering students. For this reason, we consider partnering with K-12 high schools within the state and region an important recruiting tool for the Statler College.”
CONTACT: Mary C. Dillon, Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
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