Wheatland-Chili K-12 students are learning pre-engineering concepts through Project Lead the Way (PLTW) a national program that engages students’ natural curiosity through problem-based learning. The District showcased students and their work with PLTW by inviting engineers, company representatives, and Monroe County leaders to visit a fourth-grade classroom to celebrate Public Schools Week. Fourth-grade students in Pauline Emelson’s classroom were at stations to explain the different modules and what they were learning through Project Lead the Way.
"The students had an ah ha moment,” said one visitor, as they explained to her that, when they changed the mass of the skateboarder in an online demo, it changed the amount of kinetic energy from rest to velocity. The visitors thought the students were very thorough in their explanations of engineering concepts.
The purpose of PTLW is to engage students in critical and creative thinking, to build teamwork skills, and to learn to persevere when faced with challenges. All T. J. Connor classroom teachers are teaching the PLTW modules. Students complete activities based on the problem they will solve using the Engineering Method that includes: Ask, Explore, Model, Evaluate, and Explain. For example, second grade students designed a cooler to keep popsicles frozen for one hour so that children may enjoy them at the end of their soccer game; and fourth grade students designed a way to keep an egg safe as it traveled on a car down a ramp. Every problem that the students solve during their grade-level module relates to a real world problem.
T. J. Connor was the first elementary school in the Monroe County area to implement the PLTW Launch program for K-5 students. Last year, T. J. Connor students in first through sixth grades had the opportunity to present at the PLTW statewide conference for teachers at the RIT Inn and Conference Center. “It was amazing to see the students discussing what they have learned and answering questions about their learning,” said Emelson.
In the classroom, she has seen students take leadership roles when solving problems and think outside the box in order to complete activities. “I have seen their willingness to persevere if something doesn't work out as expected, knowing that this is what all engineers do. This skill will hopefully transfer to their life experiences when something is difficult.”