HAMMOND — This summer was a busy one for Bishop Noll teacher Mary Albrecht. To prepare for her role as the high school’s STEM teacher, she took a course called Design and Modeling through Project Lead the Way (pltw.org), a nonprofit organization that provides learning experiences for K-12 students and teachers in the United States.

Although she went into training nervous, Albrecht said that following the intense one-week session at Purdue University in West Lafayette, she had great confidence in herself and that the class would be great.*

“This is the same feeling that I want my students to feel at the end of the class. I want them to know that they are great in science, technology, engineering and math,” she said.

In its first few weeks, Albrecht has already seen the program’s positive influence on her students. They recently completed their first project, designing a therapeutic foot orthosis for a person with cerebral palsy.

The freshman students were asked to design this device using a set of criteria and an imaginary $5 budget to purchase materials from the STEM store.

Students looked forward to coming to class, working on their orthosis, collaborating and becoming innovators, Albrecht said.

“It was fun to watch students think their design through and really talk to each other. I could see their ideas develop and see their excitement. There was great energy in the room.”

The class teaches students transportable skills that will carry over in their other fields of study.

“I think this program is going to help students realize their full potential and believe in themselves,” Albrecht said.

Bishop Noll Principal Lorenza Jara Pastrick explained that STEM is a vital component of educating students in today’s world.

“Through our STEM curriculum, students learn to identify problems, design, test, evaluate and present solutions,” Pastrick said. “The STEM curriculum is imperative for our students to learn how to become problem solvers.”

In the future, Noll will survey students to find out what classes most interest them.

* Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the location where Bishop Noll teacher Mary Albrecht took a Project Lead the Way course.

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