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About 70 people, including school officials, teachers and residents learned Project Lead the Way and how it helps Twin Bridges students  prepare for the future on Thursday, January 24. (J. Taylor)

Project Lead the Way offers STEM education to prepare Twin Bridges students for future

TWIN BRIDGES – Twin Bridges school district pitched an educational program to the public on Thursday evening, January 24, that promises to prepare its students for the future – a future in which the jobs students now in school work at may not even exist.

The program is called Project Lead the Way (PLTW), and it is focused on getting kids involved in a hand-on, cross-curriculum, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) learning system that will prepare students for the future.

About 70 people, including members of the public, teachers, students and school officials showed up for the presentation, which included a delicious roast beef, wild rice and vegetable dinner prepared by Shovel and Spoon restaurant.

Elementary Principal Tammy Demien kicked off the evening, introducing PLTW, with a video that explained the program. 

PLTW says it is a “transformative” learning experience for students of all ages, from kindergarten to senior high.

Twin Bridges has been using this educational technique for kids in kindergarten through high school for the last three years in seven different classes.

PLTW focuses on what will likely be growth industries in the future, and prepares students to enter these fields, whether it’s through college, a technical or trade school, or simply by creating the kind of hands-on skills that a student might use in any career path in the future, skills employers are looking for.

Engineering, bio-medicine and computers were three of the industries highlighted in the presentation, although as Jenifer Elser pointed out in her presentation about what PLTW is, there are many jobs that may exist in the future that are not even considered today. 

Elser pointed to how, 20 years ago, the idea that people would use cell phones, computers and other technology as they do today was not even considered. Yet today, these are all very important industries, all involving STEM-based skills.

Robotics, artificial intelligence, the biotechnical field and advanced materials are likely to see significant growth in the future, she said. And, according to a U.S. News and World Reports study, STEM skills will be involved in about 65 percent of the jobs that spring up in the future.

So how can the school district prepare students to get into these fields?

PLTW will lead the way by offering students training to make them critical thinkers, problem solvers, have perservence, instill the value of teamwork and prepare the leaders of tomorrow.

The bonus, she said, is that students who can show PLTW skills in their coursework can get preferential treatment when it comes to college admittance, receiving scholarships, paid internships and other opportunities.

 Lockheed Martin and Chevron, for example, are offering 200 scholarships worth $10,000 per year for students who have PLTW/STEM-related training in their background. Toyota, T-10 training for certified technicians incorporates PLTW STEM training. Any trade, she said – electricians, carpenters, mechanics, welders – is looking for people with PLTW-style STEM training.

Within Twin Bridges, the seven courses involving PLTW are focused on 3rd graders, launching the program; 6th – 8th graders opening a gateway to additional PLTW training, and high school students getting an introduction to engineering and the principles of engineering.

Twin Bridges students like PLTW, judging from their enthusiasm for it – especially how it incorporates study, design, then hands-on construction of things. 

For example, 3rd graders were using I-pads to draw geometric figures, the rudiments of engineering.

Older kids, 6th, 7th and 8th graders, learned mechanics in the classroom and on computers, then went hands-on and built machines and other items that involved STEM principles. For example some Twin 6th graders built handlebars that could help those afflicted with cerebral palsy to strengthen their grip, as well as a weight system to build upper body strength and a puzzle that would develop other motor and dimensional skills.

A group of 7th graders became medical detectives, using rudimentary STEM biomedical skills, and explored how bacteria grow, DNA, the cells of the central nervous system. This inspired one young lady to want to become a surgeon.

8th graders looked into automation and robotics, and explored engineering careers.

High school students took all of these steps a bit futher.

Twin Bridges robotics team is already going leaps and bounds into the future, and part of their skills come from PLTW learning.

The evening wrapped up with school Superintendent Thad Kaiser summarizing what was seen and noting that John and Cynthia Osborne, of Twin Bridges played a big role in helping get PLTW off the ground.

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