Inspiring, Engaging and Empowering

Inspiring, Engaging and Empowering
Posted on 12/06/2017
Inspiring, Engaging and EmpoweringInspiring, Engaging, and Empowering Students
By Melissa Chastain

Have you ever worked with a group of people to design a vehicle that will protect an egg? Then test that vehicle on an inclined plane? Me either! You might be surprised to learn that the 4th graders throughout the Mexico School District have done just that! You might ask why on earth 4th graders would be doing that. Good question! What I just described is a hands-on learning project that teaches students all about energy. In this Project Lead The Way unit, students learn about simple machines: a lever, pulley, and an inclined plane; then potential and kinetic energy; and finally, collisions.

What is Project Lead The Way?
Students in elementary school already have the qualities to be designers and innovators. Project Lead The Way (PLTW) is a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) curriculum that inspires, engages, and empowers students to adopt a design-thinking mindset through engaging activities, projects, and problems that relate to the world around them. PLTW engages students in learning that feels like play, and encourages them to keep discovering. Through PLTW, students have the opportunity to engage in learning activities that require students to be creative as well as collaborative problem solvers.

What are the benefits of Project Lead The Way?
Not only does PLTW provide STEM learning opportunities, PLTW also gives students the chance to learn important life lessons. While completing PLTW activities, students learn to be problem solvers while working collaboratively with other students. Students also learn that it’s okay to take risks and make mistakes. Just like in real life, sometimes PLTW projects don’t turn out as students planned. They then have the opportunity to try again.

Research shows that students form ideas about their interests and abilities as early as second grade. It is important for students to have hands-on learning opportunities early in elementary school. The sooner that students have the chance to build knowledge, skills, and confidence, the better for them. PLTW begins in kindergarten where students apply their knowledge in activities such as building digital animations based on their own short stories.

Why is STEM education important for students?
Our elementary students are our next generation of leaders. It is critical that they develop reasoning and problem-solving skills that will help them in the future. STEM programs, like PLTW, engage students in activities, projects, and problem-based learning, which provides hands on classroom experiences. Students apply what they learn in math and science while creating, designing, building, discovering, collaborating, and solving problems.

Throughout the Mexico Public School District, educators believe that all students need access to real world learning experiences that will empower them to gain the skills they need to be successful in life after high school. At Hawthorne Elementary, our mission is Helping Everyone Succeed. We feel confident that PLTW is helping us do just that! As we all know, life is full of challenges. We strive to empower students to discover and imagine solutions to real-world issues while becoming problem solvers who have the determination and grit to persevere through obstacles.