WWPS to implement K-5 STEM program

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published June 21, 2017

WARREN — After conducting a survey in Warren Woods Public Schools, it was disclosed that parents of students at the district’s three elementary schools want to see more science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) opportunities for their children.

During the 2017-18 school year, Warren Woods officials will implement a new elementary STEM course called Project Lead the Way (PLTW) at Pinewood, Briarwood and Westwood elementary schools. PLTW is a nonprofit organization that provides a transformative learning experience for K-12 students and teachers. The new STEM class is expected to be up and running this fall.

“Project Lead the Way is proud to partner with Warren Woods Public Schools to excite and engage students in math and science from the earliest ages,” PLTW President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Vince Bertram said in a prepared statement. “Together, we’re helping students develop a strong foundation in math and science, make connections between their classroom and careers, and enhance transportable skills that will prepare them to thrive in our evolving world.”

Warren Woods joins more than 9,000 schools across the U.S. in offering PLTW programs to students.

This past spring, district Director of Curriculum Kara Beal presented a PowerPoint to the school board regarding STEM and PLTW. The new STEM program will work as a special much like art, music, gym and media center. STEM will replace Mandarin Chinese as a “special,” since STEM was in greater demand from parents.

“In the survey to parents, STEM was in the top three,” Beal said. She added that the plan is to offer the course once a week to kindergarten, first- and second-grade students for 45 minutes to one hour and then offer it for a longer period to students in grades three, four and five. “That is still being finalized.”

According to Beal’s PowerPoint presentation, 30 percent of all jobs in the metro Detroit area are in research and design and STEM-intensive industries, and median earnings in Michigan are $34.48 per hour.

According to WWPS educators, studies show that students decide as early as elementary school whether they like, and think they are good at, math and science. The PLTW program is designed to tap into students’ exploratory nature, engage them in learning that feels like play, and encourage them to keep discovering.

The new STEM class will focus on application of knowledge and skills, problem solving, teamwork, communication, creativity, innovation and productive failure. The instruction will cover critical thinking skills, inquiry-based classwork, technology and career options. Students will work on project-based and real-world problems.

Depending on the grade level, topics covered will include light and sound, design exploration, properties of matter, stability and motion, energy collisions, robotics, energy, space systems, plants and animals. Projects could include designing a car safety belt or building digital animations based on the students’ short stories. The lessons are designed for students to use their critical and creative thinking skills, build teamwork skills, and develop a passion for and confidence in STEM subjects.

The instructors who will teach the class will undergo training this August at Eastern Michigan University. In addition, PLTW programs include professional development training that provides teachers with the support and resources they need.

It will cost the district $23,031 to implement the new STEM program. In March, the district received a $10,400 grant from the Bosch Community Fund, which will be used toward the cost of the program. The remaining $12,631 has been budgeted in the district’s general fund.

The Bosch Group, based in Farmington Hills, provided the grant to support STEM education during in-classroom and after-school activities.