In an effort to stimulate and engage students, a handful of local educators attended a two-day Project Lead the Way conference recently in Indianapolis.
The conference was sponsored by the Indianapolis-based national nonprofit Project Lead the Way, which included a panel discussion titled, "Achieve More Indiana: Preparing Today's Students for Tomorrow's Workforce."
PLTW is the leading provider of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics education for middle and high school students.
Sean Egan, principal at the Hammond Academy of Science and Technology charter school, said it was "eye-opening" to meet students and teachers from other PLTW programs and see how large and small schools are making it work.
"I am even further committed to this program as an excellent curriculum that embodies all that HAST represents, namely integrating academic and technological skills in a learning environment that is directly related to skills needed for college and career success," he said.
He said HAST has every intention of expanding PLTW, using the experience of other successful programs as its guide.
"Our limitations for expansion are the same as those facing other schools: identifying and training teachers for the program, getting students interested in the program, and financing the required materials for the program. Our first approach will be to grow the number of students taking our current offerings. Our long-term approach will be to expand the number of courses that we offer," he said.
The charter school currently offers four Project Lead the Way courses and students have completed several assignments, including a computer-programmed simulation of a recycling plant, where colored marbles represent the different types of recyclable products (glass, aluminum, paper, a virtual downtown Hammond to integrate into the gohammond.com website and preparation of an interactive 3-D training module for commercial boilers.
Egan said students have benefited from PLTW courses in a number of ways.
"First, all of these courses are offered as dual credit in conjunction with Ivy Tech's East Chicago campus. That means that at HAST, beginning their freshmen year, students can begin to acquire dual credit courses," he said. "Second, these courses assist students with all their other coursework, as they include elements of math, science, and writing, as well as the examination of social issues and how technological applications can address them.
"These courses also require our students to hone their team-working and problem-solving skills, two ultimate requirements for a successful student at HAST. As a school of science and technology, PLTW is perhaps the best distillation of all that we are about, providing challenging, hands-on curriculum that prepares students to compete for the growing number of jobs and careers in STEM-related industries."
Portage High School teacher John Kappes said the immediate benefit of the PLTW conference is returning to the classroom with renewed vigor.
"PLTW and engineering education is for all students," he said. "It's rigorous. The math, science, technology, problem-solving and communication skills developed and refined in the curriculum play a major role in making students college and career ready. Portage Township Schools has made a significant investment in PLTW and engineering education and recently added the PLTW Gateway program at both middle schools."