Project Lead the Way – 30 Days of Thanksgiving

At F.C. Tucker we talk a lot about “paying our civic rent,” so for the month of November, we would like to express our gratitude to the many organizations and individuals who serve their communities tirelessly and make Indiana a better place to live and work. We obviously can’t highlight everyone, but we would like to salute these 30 organizations that are making a difference.

30 Days of Thanksgiving – Day 16: Project Lead the Way

In 2011, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard announced that Project Lead the Way (PLTW) would be moving its headquarters to Indianapolis.  As America’s largest provider of STEM curriculum for middle school and high school students, Project Lead the Way is a perfect addition to Indiana’s comprehensive education-reform movement.  Project Lead the Way was initially created in 1997 in upstate New York to fulfill the mission of providing, “comprehensive curriculum for engineering and biomedical sciences” to students nationwide.  Since its inception, the organization has served over 2.4 million students, 37,000 teachers, and 10,500 schools in all 50 states.

The core of Project Lead the Way’s impact is their programs.  PLTW programs are designed by Project Lead the Way’s talent team staffed primarily by former teachers.  All PLTW programs follow APB instructional design otherwise known as, Activity, Project, and Problem Based instructional design.  This instructional design encourages students to, “understand how the knowledge and skills they develop in the classroom may be applied in everyday life.”  These programs take the form of modules that schools can purchase individually for their classrooms.  Specific costs of different modules can be calculated with Project Lead the Way’s investment calculator here: //investment.pl.w.org/.  Funding and grant opportunities are listed on Project Lead the Way’s website.

All of Project Lead the Way’s programs are categorized by age group.  For K-5 students, Project Lead the Way designed PLTW Launch.  PLTW Launch is made up of 24 interdisciplinary modules.  One module designed for Kindergarten, for example, is named “Pushes and Pulls.”   In this module, students can learn about force by virtually moving rocks from a character’s yard so she can install a swing set.  Similar units can be found for middle school students under PLTW Gateway. In contrast, Project Lead the Way’s high school program is split into three separate tracks: Computer Science, Engineering, and Biomedical Science.  These tracks allow high school students to gain deeper knowledge in their chosen area.

Project Lead the Way does not just stop with students, it also has a professional development program for teachers.  PLTW’s professional development training is a threefold program.  Teachers must first take pre-requisite courses about Project Lead the Way.  Following pre-requisite courses, teachers undergo Core Training where they, “develop the skills and tools they need to inspire students.”  This Core Training can be delivered in-person or online.  Lastly, teachers can continue their learning by choosing a “PLTW Professional Development Track.”  Some examples of “track” subjects include: Aerospace Engineering, App Creators, Flight and Space, and Medical Intervention.

Project Lead the Way has expanded their reach beyond their student and teacher programs by partnering with College Board.  These organizations partnered, “to encourage student participation in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) courses and build their interest in STEM degrees and careers.” Under this partnership, schools can create STEM “pathways” for students by connecting existing AP and PLTW courses. Pathways include: computer science, engineering, and biomedical science. Awards are also available to individual students and school systems if they follow certain PLTW and AP guidelines.  

Project Lead the Way has proven that their programs work.  Research shows that 97% of high school seniors who have participated in PLTW plan to pursue a four-year degree.  If that was not enough, research also shows that, “PLTW students outperform their peers in school, are better prepared for post-secondary studies, and are more likely to consider careers as scientists, technology experts, engineers, mathematicians, healthcare providers, and researchers compared to their non-PLTW peers.”  If any of this information was interesting to you, please visit their website at www.pltw.org to find out more!