"The spirit of collaboration has just overwhelmed us. The teachers have absolutely loved it and we have grown leaps and bounds from meeting with each other," said Amy St. John, career education coordinator for the North Kansas City School District.
The group of educators was brought together as a result of their participation in Project Lead the Way (PLTW), a national program designed to create a pipeline of students prepared to pursue engineering and technology-related careers.
"Basically, their lessons are coming to life. It's all
project based and team oriented and ironically, it's impacting the
staff as well."
--Amy St. John, career education coordinator for the North Kansas City School District
The high schools in three school districts are among eight in the Kansas City area who are implementing PLTW in one or more of their high schools and/or middle schools for the 2007 year. Through the program, teachers are trained to teach a four-year sequence of courses that provide exposure to the real-world problem solving and critical thinking skills necessary for success in engineering-related careers.
In the North Kansas City School District, three high schools – Winnetonka, Oak Park, and North Kansas City – are offering an introduction to engineering design course to 9th graders. The class focuses on the concepts taught in algebra and physics, according to St. John.
"We have PLTW labs where students can create projects in application of the theories they have learned on paper," St. John said. "Basically, their lessons are coming to life. It's all project based and team oriented and ironically, it's impacting the staff as well."
This fall, staff from the three districts gathered at Oak Park and then Winnetonka high school to observe the PTLW classroom in action.
"We had a day of observation and conversation," St. John recalled. "The staff visited the classrooms in the morning and then in the afternoon we had a conversation and reflection time about how we can strengthen our programs."
Conversations centered on ways to get more female students involved in PLTW as well as more minorities. An engineer from Kansas City Power & Light was in the classroom to provide comments on how the curriculum pertained to real-life situations in the engineering profession.
"The teachers thoroughly enjoyed being able to go into each other's classrooms to talk about obstacles and accomplishments and share students' stories," St. John said. "In the spring we would like to go into one of the other schools in the other districts. We are definitely planning to continue the effort."
Currently 16 high schools and two middle schools in the Kansas City area are implementing PLTW curriculum and plans are under way to increase this number to more than 35 high schools and at least 10 middle schools over the next four years.