What is Project Lead the Way

The district began offering Project Lead the Way (PLTW) Engineering classes for junior high and high school students during the 2019-2020 school year.  Project Lead the Way is an organization that offers stem curriculum in computer science, engineering and biomedical science. They believe in providing students with real world applied learning experiences. The PLTW curriculum is a research-supported approach that empowers students to discover and explore interest, imagine and design solutions to real world challenges and become independent, confident problem solvers.

The district is offering a 9-week course to junior high school students called Design and Modeling. Students in this course apply the design process to solve problems and understand the influence of creativity and innovation in their lives. Using design software, they create a virtual image of their designs and produce a portfolio to showcase their innovative solutions.  This course provides the foundation for the high school engineering courses.

The district is also offering the course called Introduction to Engineering (IED) at the high school. In this course, students are introduced to the engineering profession and a common approach to the solution of engineering problems, an engineering design process. Utilizing the activity-project-problem-based (APB) teaching and learning, students’ progress from completing structured activities to solving open ended projects and problems that require them to develop planning, documentation, communication, and other professional skills.

Support from The Libman Company

The district has been able to offer this exciting program because of the support from the Libman Company located in Arcola.  The Libman Company recently donated $140,000 to support the students in the Arcola School District.  One of the projects supported with these funds was the PLTW Engineering Program.

In order to offer these classes, there were two key areas of financial commitment.  These included changes to facilities and professional development for teachers.

Facilities - the district remodeled the agriculture shop area and actually added the PLTW classroom in the front of that current space. The district maintenance crew coordinated the installation of a wall, added electric outlets and added storage for the projects that will occur in the various classes. In addition, the district purchased all the supplies needed, including furniture and technology.

Teachers - the teachers of these courses attended intensive and expensive training this past summer.  The middle school courses required several days of training and the high school classes require two weeks of training. A big thanks to our PLTW teachers, James Caudle, Eric Butler and Lori Anderson for their willing to dedicate so much time in their summer to become full trained PLTW instructors!

What are the Students Saying about PLTW?

Here are some comments that were recently made by students in the Introduction to Engineering Course:

·         The class is very personalized and is teaching you to work both by yourself and in a group.  I think it’s a great introduction to actually being an engineer and being precise and responsible in life.

·         I like the class because it lets me get hands on action.  It’s different because we learn from a process instead of a formula or visual presentation of it.  We learn from our mistakes on how to build and assemble pieces together on how to make something work.  We have instant challenges that make our brains work differently than in an ordinary class.

·         I really like this class because it is very hands on and we learn a lot of skills that even if I don’t become an engineer, I will still use in my life.

This new and exciting innovation would not have been possible without the support from a tremendous school district partner, The Libman Company