By Leah Jackson
Teams of third, fourth and fifth graders at Northwestern State University Elementary Lab impressed visiting guests from the Natchitoches Area Chamber of Commerce with their skills at assembling and programming robots to perform simple tasks. Members of the Chamber, along with faculty from Northwestern State University’s Department of Engineering Technology, were invited to watch demonstrations and visit with youngsters who participated in Project Lead the Way Launch, the elementary curriculum PLTW curriculum that introduces students to concepts in science, technology engineering and mathematics.
Support for implementing the program at Elementary Lab came from the Natchitoches Chamber Education Fund.
“We thank Tony Davis and Mike Wolff and members of the Chamber who are always willing to support STEM programs in our schools. We are the only school in Natchitoches to have PLTW Launch for first, third, fourth and fifth graders,” said E-Lab Principal Caron Coleman. “We also thank the NSU Engineering Technology faculty for their support and Dr. Phil Brown for his years of expertise and his work with the PLTW program.”
Elementary Lab science teachers Hillary Gray, third grade, and Jessie Church, fourth and fifth grade, participated in PLWT-Launch training last summer at NSU and began program in January with 44 first graders, 48 third graders, 54 fourth graders and 56 fifth graders. The Launch curriculum includes computer science for first grade, force and motion for third grade, energy collisions and conversions for fourth grade and bio-medical science and robotics for fifth grade. Coleman said 21 students also joined the schools competitive Robotics Club.
Northwestern State is Louisiana’s affiliate university for Project Lead the Way and offers facilities, training and support to PLTW programs in place in several parishes throughout the state. More than 6,500 schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia offer PLTW courses to their students from elementary school through high school. Currently, there are 96 PLTW programs in Louisiana. PLTW courses follow the Common Core standards, though the program is customizable. Funding opportunities are available through grants and the PLTW partnerships across the state and nation.
The hands-on approach to learning keeps students engaged in projects where they learn not only STEM concepts, but also teamwork and problem-solving, administrators said.
“Implementing PLTW Launch is a major milestone for the Natchitoches Area Chamber Education fund,” said Dr. Phil Brown, PLTW affiliate director. “We thank the Chamber and specifically those individuals and organizations who have contributed and continue to contribute to the Education Fund. Individuals from the Natchitoches community who see this new PLTW program will hopefully become inspired to encourage its expansion into other Natchitoches Parish Elementary Schools, be they public or private.”
For more information on Project Lead the Way, contact Christina Lake, affiliate assistant director for PLTW, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Training for educators becoming certified to teach PLTW at their schools will take place at NSU this summer.