Project Lead The Way, or PLTW for short, is an important class taken in every grade level at Design39Campus. In PLTW, students from all over the country learn about different subjects such as medicine, robotics, electricity, and more!
What is PLTW?
“PLTW is an American nonprofit organization whose vision is to expand students’ STEM knowledge for use at elementary, middle, and high school grade levels” (pltw.org). Design39Campus has integrated PLTW into students’ learning and designed a process where students learn curriculum based on their grade levels.
Offered PLTW Courses
Elementary students learn in PLTW Launch, a hands-on learning experience in which students learn how to apply their projects from PLTW in the real world. In middle school, there are three required PLTW courses, one for each year. The different PLTW courses that take place in middle school are Automation and Robotics, Design and Modeling, Green Architecture, Magic of Electrons, and Medical Detectives.
K-5 Launch is a PLTW class that is taken less often at the elementary level. In PLTW Launch, students learn about designing through real world problems. For most kids, this feels less like a task and more like fun play where they get the opportunity to experiment with designs! Most lessons in PLTW Launch are hands-on experiments that are based on the design process. This is a crucial exploratory subject for students.
6th Grade PLTW
In 6th grade, students take Automation and Robotics, which teaches them about the history of robotics and how to build and control mechanical systems. Mrs. Collins, a 6th grade teacher at Design39Campus, has been teaching PLTW for around 5 years. She is currently teaching Automation and Robotics and is teaching her students how to build a pull toy. These projects will eventually be given to the 1st grade students at our school. She teaches her students how to design, code, and automate gears to build a race car using a VEX kit. During the course, students will research and sketch what they are making, model and test it, make revisions if needed, and publish their results. Students can use their skills learned here and dive deeper into courses similar to it. They can even enter a field of work related to the subject.
Design and Modeling is another PLTW class for 6th graders. It’s a course where students get to express their ideas through their own sketches, solid models, and mathematical models. Students are also able to apply their ideas online on a professional-grade software called Autodesk Inventor which was used to design our school. Mr. Fitzpatrick, a 7th grade teacher who has been teaching PLTW for 14 years, claims that most students enjoy PLTW as they are learning with something they can apply in the real world. He also says that students struggle, but once they experience the “aha moment,” it makes all the struggles worth it!
Green Architecture is the final 6th grade PLTW option, also taught by Mr. Fitzpatrick. This course is not offered until Trimester 3. In Green Architecture, students learn different architectural styles, construction techniques/technologies, ways to be “green” when building, and using Autodesk Revit. Students not only learn how things are made or what they’re used for, but also what their impact is on the environment!
7th Grade PLTW
Magic of Electrons is a 7th grade PLTW course that teaches students about the history of electricity and how it works. Throughout this unit, students will go over the safety of tools before doing several hands-on activities to test what they learned. This course is being taught by 7th grade LED, Mrs. DiGiovanna and 8th grade LED, Mr. Jacobson. In an interview, Mr. Jacobson claims “students are not just learning about how electricity works, they learn what each component of electric circuits do.” He says that the goal of the course is to learn enough circuitry and soldering skills to eventually build a flashlight!
8th Grade PLTW
Medical Detectives is the 8th grade PLTW course. Taught by 7th grade LED, Ms. Ruppert and 8th grade LED, Mr. Asmus, this class students explore the human body and different medical fields. Students learn about the human body and eventually get to dissect a sheep brain. Currently, students are working on a career brochure where they explore and research a possible medical detective career they might be interested in. Throughout this course students will need to conduct research and create hypotheses to be successful.
Overall, PLTW is a subject enjoyed by students where they learn new things normally never taught in school! These courses allow students to learn about fields of work and possible interests to pursue in high school and beyond. Students learn knowledge and experience within this class which is something that will help them now and in the future.