Closing the Gap With STEM Education: Why, What, and How

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Closing the Gap With STEM Education: Why, What, and How …

Closing the Gap With STEM Education: Why, What, and How
Participants will learn why there is a growing need for STEM education in the United States, what STEM education is, how STEM education at the middle school level contributes to closing the gap, and how to successfully plan and implement a middle school program.
Ken Verburg Project Lead the Way - Lexington, SC

More in: Education , Technology
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  • Gateway To TechnologyThrough topics like robotics, flight and space, and DNA and crime scene analysis, students will find their natural curiosity and imagination engaged in creative problem solving. PLTW’s Gateway To Technology (GTT) Program is a strong foundation for further STEM learning in high school and beyond, challenging students to develop and apply 21st century knowledge and skills to solve real-world challenges like cleaning oil spills and designing sustainable housing solutions. Using the same advanced software and tools used by the world’s leading companies, students see the application of math, science, technology, and engineering to their everyday lives. GTT is divided into eight, nine-week independent units, assuming a 45-minute class period, and is designed to be taught in conjunction with a rigorous academic curriculum. Schools offering the program must implement both foundation units and may add any combination of the specialization unitsPLTW courses are aligned with Common Core State Standards for Math and English Language Arts, Next Generation Science Standards, and other national and state standards. Courses and units are designed to complement math and science courses and in some instances are used as the core curriculum.
  • Hands On: Students work with industry software, not dummied down student versions.- Regionally (Oregon): Aligns well with “Proficiency Based Teaching and Learning” (OR) or “competency” (NH) based-learning is similar and complimentary to Activity, Project Based (APB) and connects to flipped classroom, less sage on the stage and more guide on the side.Engagement: - Attractive to almost all (may be related to hands-on), each day in class can be funMiddle school are very still willing to try to experience new ideas and be problem solversRelevant: Real world examplesLatest technologySkills kids need (working together, presentation, speaking, reading, writing, math and more)Explore STEM careers (Dr. Robert Tai research on 7-8th impact on future engineers and scientists)More Success for More Students:-Even those who haven’t been successful in traditional classrooms, to see they are “smart” and understand the benefit of taking advanced math and science classes
  • How to create opportunities for students…Tailor comments here to your audience CTE folks who need higher numbersSchools who want more disenfranchised students, girls, students of color, etcGTT is a great opportunity to encourage the audience and show the power of the pathwayTaking 8th grade students to visit high school PLTW classrooms (or to provide lists of area high school, Career Centers who offer GTT, etc) allow Middle School students to see what high school students are doing, what equipment they are using, etc.
  • Rigorous:Throughout GTT, students acquire knowledge and skills in problem solving, teamwork and innovation.Aligned to Common Core Aligned to Next Gen Science StandardsAligned to Health and Technology StandardsKids push themselves to do well because it is funCommon Core State Standards Common Core State Standards Initiative website provides the Common Core Standards, justification for the standards, and several useful resources, including criteria, considerations, and key points. All resources are downloadable in pdf format. The website provides a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn while also providing the tools for parents and teachers to assist with learning, rigorous content, and application of knowledge through high-order skills.Next Generation Science Standards Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) website provides a comprehensive description of the process of NGSS development. The Standards will address three dimensions, including Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Disciplinary Core Ideas. On the NGSS website, one can search the standards by topic or individual performance expectations. The website periodically provides public drafts of the Next Generation Science Standards and invites public feedback.Standards for Technological Literacy International Technology and Engineering Educators Association (ITEEA) website provides access to the Standards for Technological Literacy (STL). STL identify content necessary for K-12 students, including knowledge, abilities, and the capacity to apply both to the real world. STL articulates what needs to be taught in K-12 laboratory-classrooms to enable all students to develop technological literacy.Health Standards National Consortium for Health Science Education (NCHSE) website provides National Healthcare Skills Standards designed to collaboratively define and advance the framework of health science education. The website provides standards for five different health career pathways. The NCHSE website also supplies instructional supplements and resource links.What’s 21st learning?Communication (presentation and writing)CollaborationCreativityCritical thinkingCuriosity
  • Note – Ideally, each DSE would tailor this slide to their audience by using stories relevant to the specific audienceClosing the Gap:What is your audience focused on? ELL, improving the numbers of girls in STEM, improving low income representation? Once you know you can be more responsive with your presentation with your own powerful storyor with one we provide for you. Here are three choices below, as well as specific data on middle school students:Toppenish High School, Rural Washington State: program starts in this district with GTT (can use 4 min THS video, or just tell some of the amazing story that is Toppenish)Toppenish is a GEAR UP district with PLTW from 6th-12 grades – including GTT of course.Clark County, Urban Las Vegas Nevada: Cashman Middle School, Von Toble Middle School. More details to come on these two schools and for now:Cashman: saw fewer girls having success so they created “almost single gender” sections of PLTW and now girls are taking more PLTW sections and having great success. Principal is a woman and is promoting PLTW to all students with strong academic success. In a district where magnet high schools recruit from the middle schools Cashman used to be a school that the high schools overlooked now they recruit here heavily because of the PLTW program and related success. Von Toble: Low income school (almost 100% free and reduced lunch), +20% ELL, +80% Hispanic. In two years PLTW is the most popular class of choice with over half of the students choosing to take PLTW courses. Success is dramatic with progress of 2-3 years of academic growth in English Language Arts in one year for PLTW students. Achievement gap between girls and boys is gone in two years for PLTW students.Texas Study: A recent study out of Texas that looked at the effectiveness of the PLTW curriculum found some very exciting results. Utilizing Texas’sdetailed education data, researchers analyzed thousands of students and concluded students who took PLTW courses performed significantly better on math assessments, were more prepared for college and were more likely to attend a university, and those who went into the workforce directly after high school earned 13% more income. One especially exciting finding was the hands-on, project based PLTW courses significantly boosted low income students' enrolment in higher education- bringing enrolment rates up to state average. To read the full study, point on middle school students in particular about closing the achievement gap: A report on a control group study that evaluated the impact of PLTW on largely Latino-populated middle schools in Wisconsin finds that:All of the PLTW students in this study begin middle school (6th grade) at lower proficiency in math, reading and science and with lower attendance rates than the control group of non-PLTW students. The study shows that by 8th grade, those gaps had been eliminated. (University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee Report – December 2009) - Note that other data points (focused on students of high school students can be located in this PDF)
  • Regarding what units should be taught at which grade level – Do a crosswalk with math, science teachers to see where we can best support what’s currently taught in math & science at that middle school. For example if life sciences is taught in 7th grade, might make sense to do Energy & the Environment and Medical Detectives in the same grade; or, if physical science is taught in 7th grade, Magic of electrons and Science of technology might be a better fit.*Highest reading level and technological literacy abilities requiredDesign & Modeling (DM)Students apply the design process to solve problems and understand the influence that creative and innovative design has on their lives. Capturing research and ideas in their engineering notebooks, students work in teams to design a hobby organizer and new playground.   They use Autodesk® design software to create a virtual image of their designs and produce a portfolio to showcase their creative solutions. Automation & Robotics (AR)*Students trace the history, development, and influence of automation and robotics as they learn about mechanical systems, energy transfer, machine automation, and computer control systems. Students use the VEX Robotics® platform to design, build, and program real-world objects such as traffic lights, toll booths, and robotic arms.Energy and the Environment(EE)Exploring sustainable solutions to our energy needs challenges middle school students to think big and towards the future. In Energy and the Environment, students investigate the impact of energy on our lives and the world. They design and model alternative energy sources and evaluate options for reducing energy consumption through energy efficiency and sustainability.Flight and Space (FS)The exciting world of aerospace comes alive through Flight and Space. Students explore the science behind aeronautics and use their knowledge to design, build, and test an airfoil. Custom-built simulation software allows students to experience space travel.Science of Technology (ST)Science impacts the technology of yesterday, today, and the future. Students apply the concepts of physics, chemistry, and nanotechnology to STEM activities and projects including making ice cream, cleaning up an oil spill, discovering the properties of nano-materials, and designing, building, and testing a new product.Magic of Electrons(ME)*Through hands-on projects, students explore electricity, the behavior and parts of atoms, and sensing devices. They learn knowledge and skills in basic circuitry design and examine the impact of electricity in the world around them.Green Architecture (GA) Today’s students have grown up in an age of “green” choices. In this unit, students learn how to apply this concept to the fields of architecture and construction by exploring dimensioning, measuring, and architectural sustainability as they design affordable housing units using Autodesk’s® 3D architectural design software. Medical Detectives (MD)*Students play the role of real-life medical detectives as they analyze genetic testing results to diagnose disease and study DNA evidence found at a “crime scene”. They solve medical mysteries through hands-on projects and labs, including a sheep brain dissection. Additionally, students investigate how to measure and interpret vital signs, diagnose diseases, and learn how the systems of the human body work together to maintain health.
  • The Design & Modeling Playground Problem to do just that their students use the design process to create a playground. They use AutoDesk Inventor, go to playgrounds, sketch ideas, talk to community org or experts about safety, longevity, contemplate how to innovate the design, measuring, conversions,But other teachers across the country use the design process to have their students tackle a different problem in their community. Examples include: designing landscaped area, recycling area, or when a park design & teacher worked with the city to create a new space.
  • Students tackle the Playground Problem from the foundation unit Design & ModelingStudents research, design and model a themed playground using the design processMoves through complete design process, step-by-stepInclude connections to 21st Century Skills
  • Students Define the problem by completing a Design Brief as a class. This includes listing the constraints presented by the teacher, the playground committee representative, and the constraints the student team decides to include. Typically invite a guest speaker – Town council, community playground member, PTSA, elementary playground aid (can talk about safety of students), elementary assistant principal/teacher. The speaker sets the stage to talk about the playground - # of kids typically on the playground, safety factors to consider, may discuss the materials involvedStudents go to the playground and play! 15-20 minutes to brainstorm about what would make the playground more appealing, fun, interesting. What materials, safety elements, etc. For example, a team (class) may decide the playground should have an African theme, Patriotic theme, Pirate theme, etc. or should be color-coded for age-appropriate play areas. [Typically GTT students don’t get involved in financial piece – not there in the curriculum]Students complete design brief to justify need for additional playground equipment, modifying equipment, or build a new playground.Always see different perspectives w/different classes – 3 classes may have 3 different justificationsOften challenges students to think about modifying pieces of equipment for special needs children
  • Students Generate Concepts by brainstorming with their classmates about how they can solve this problem given the resources and constraints.They Research by taking a tour of an existing playground, view options online, or by interviewing elementary-aged students about what types of playground equipment they like.Details about how the paragraph above works in a GTT classroomBrainstorm ideas or generate a theme for the design – Theme park concept (e.g., Pirate, Under the Sea, African Safari, color-coordinated equipment based on age)After brainstorming, students interview elementary students of various agesStudents prep 12-15 questions as a group, conduct interviews with focus group of kidsSafety and fun factor questions: e.g., Have you ever been hurt on the playground?Class discusses and decides what direction to take with the playground. As homework Students sketch their favorite piece of equipment as well as a brand new equipment.Class is divided into groups, and each group creates a specific part of the design, based on the theme or concepts. In order to complete their piece of the playground project groups research safety, size requirements, materials to use, longevity of use, proper placement in the playgroundAdditional details:Even if a playground is not the best project, there is flexibility – designing landscaped area, recycling area, Ed’s example – city park design & teacher worked with the cityEmphasis is on the student learning objectives / knowledge and skills LMS offers opportunities for sharing classroom experiences with other teachers, learning from a broader professional network
  • Students Develop A Solution by breaking into smaller groups. Each group designs and completes a specific part of the playground. Each student sketches 3 thumbnail sketches that follow the criteria established by the class and follow the guidelines presented in the Engineering Notebook. Teams use a decision matrix to decide on the best solution for their team’s playground equipment.Students use 3D modeling software, Inventor, to create computer models.Students groups – design and assemble equipment in Inventor. The playground design on this slide is an actual picture of an Inventor designed playground created by a group of six studentsMerry-go-round – Fun factor was high. Safety was not well-rated, but students thought through this – it’s why the equipment is only 6 inches off the ground Importance of Engineering notebooks– Accuracy of sketches is very important – dimensions, drawings, etc.Relates to their ability to communicate with other students, which is also critical
  • Students Construct a scaled model of the playground equipment using recycled materials or supplies provided by your teacher.A good deal of pride goes into crafting the model to scaleHands-onThemes and color schemes – can pick favorite sports team, own school colors, colors that are more effective in different settings, etc.Why it’s important that the project goes to the level of creating a model: Takes a different skill set – some kids will love the engineering notebook, and some will excel at constructing the model. Allows both types of kids to shine, showcase their skills.Professional Learning Communities - Communication among teachers allows ideas to be shared, creative ways of adapting the projects. Provides support for new teachers.
  • Students continually test and evaluate design solutions as they model. They have elementary-aged students look at designs and give input on how they may want that piece of equipment to look, act, or work.Elementary students who were interviewed to look at the model and provide feedback, critique the designElementary students often underwhelmed – they have high hopes, wonder why they can’t use the modelTeachers ask questions about the decisions, materials – challenge the model and ideas in a way that makes students think through their designSome schools call in Subject Matter Experts to discuss. For example someone from local lumber yard might discuss materials, different types of wood. He or she might also provide different materials for use.
  • Students Present their Solution to the playground committee representatives. All students should be involved in the presentation, some speaking, some helping with technology, and some helping with room organization. All students should be available during a question and answer time following the presentation. The following information isincluded in their presentation:Explain the problem.Review the constraints.Explain the research that was conducted.Show and explain initial design sketches.Explain why an idea was chosen to pursue or why it wasn’t pursued.Show and explain working drawings of 3D Computer model.Show and explain the playground prototype.Explain the method of testing and how the models were evaluated.Explain changes made to initial CAD drawings and why these changes were made.Playground committee representatives – may be that first group of folks from the beginning of project + additional folks. Example: Playground aids, 2 teachers and all elementary kids who did original interviews, 2 Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) folksFeedbackPlayground aids are often the most interactive with concerns, questions, feedback – they understand the use and flow of the playground best and typically concentrate on safetyTeachers – often focus on students allowing opportunities for exerciseElem students may have been underwhelmed, but adults were overwhelmed - Cost factor – not included in this project; but at high school level PLTW integrates this element in the courses and projectsKey points to weave in:Design process at high school level has same elements – and a project like this helps students become accustomed to the process – interviewing and engaging with subject matter experts, etc. The process becomes familiar. Important to bring in outside community – very meaningful for a student to talk to someone outside the school. 3rd pillar – engaged network – really distinguishes PLTW – people in the community are eager and excited to be part of the education community; excited to draw connections between our program and what happens in the workplace. Once a person is connected, they want to come back again and again – they are invested
  • Starting with curriculum, the Project Lead The Way Launchmodel aligns with our proven approach to STEM experiences. Historically, science and math have typically been taught in isolation. We believe in a different approach. We offer integrated,activities- projects – problems-based STEM curriculato scaffold learning and help students understand how to apply skills to solve problems and think critically about the issues in front of them. Our curriculum is rigorous and relevant. It has been designed to promote critical thinking, creativity, innovation, and real-world problem solving skills in students. The hands-on, project-based program engages students on multiple levels. The curriculum is standards-based, aligned with both Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards, and yet flexible and customizable so that schools and school districts can meet their curricular needs. Teachers can bring on the modules they want, when they want, at the grade level they want.PLTW Launch curriculum, as with all our programs, students learn the design process. The concept of the design process is used worldwide. For PLTW at the elementary level we are looking at this process as both the critical thinking and engineering design process. We know not all of our students are going to be engineers, but this design process promotes the development of intellectual skills and critical thinking. Project Lead The Way’s curriculum helps more students develop the skills to succeed in the global economy.Based on audience’s familiarity with PLTW, consider adapting slightly – go into more or less depth as needed:PLTW Launch model aligns with our proven approach to STEM experiencesWe employ a consistent PLTW model starting in the earliest stages of a student’s life, setting them up for success at the next level, and ultimately launching them into career:The curriculum is rigorous and relevantHistorically, science and math have typically been taught in isolation. As providers of rigorous and relevant STEM education opportunities, we believe in a different approach and offering an integrated activities-, projects-, problems-based curricula to scaffold learning and help children understand how to apply skills to solve problems and think critically about the issues in front of them. PLTW’s world-class, activity and project-based curriculum helps more students develop the skills needed to succeed in tomorrow’s global economy. PLTW courses are aligned with Common Core State Standards for math and English Language Arts, as well as Next Generation Science Standards and are designed to run alongside math and science courses offered by a schoolEven in Elementary school, as with all of our programs, students learn the Design Process used world-wide. This is the Engineering and Critical Thinking Design Process. Not all of our students are going to be engineers, but this design process is about developing critical thinking.
  • At Project Lead The Way we know that teachers are the key drivers of a successful STEM program. Teachers need support. That leads us to our next pillar, High Quality Professional Development. Project Lead The Way’s unique professional development model is a key differentiator and marker of the curriculum’s success, focusing on preparing teachers with the professional skills necessary to get students engaged in learning the STEM disciplines and focused on seeking out solutions. According a report by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), teachers lack adequate support, including appropriate professional development as well and interesting and intriguing curricula. At Project Lead The Way we place incredible emphasis on our high quality teacher training, support of professional learning communities and network. One STEM education author reports that elementary teachers may be uncomfortable with the idea of rigorous math and science curriculum. Many elementary teachers, because potentially of their own experiences with math and science along with their preparation, tend to view STEM subjects with more trepidation than other subjects and may shy away from teaching them. (Glory Oljace, author, STEM is Elementary: How Elementary Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Prepares Students to Beat the Gaps! (2012))We do that by setting teachers up for success. We make the curriculum accessible and provide ample support. Our high quality professional development for the Launch program is similar to our other programs, with three phases of professional development: readiness training, core training and ongoing training. We use face to face, online and on demand which we will discuss more in depth specifically for our PLTW Launch program during our time together today.
  • That leads us to our third pillar, engaged network. Project Lead The Way’s engaged network includes teachers, students, leading corporations, philanthropic organizations and educational institutions all coming together to stimulate interest in STEM fields and nurture these competencies. Having such a diverse engaged network ensures that the curriculum is relevant and provides recognition and unique learning opportunities for both students and teachers. Beyond the engaged network at the national level, the idea of an engaged network also applies at a local level with school partnership teams. School partnership teams are critical to the success of any program, creating a pathway to results.
  • Flexibility options:GTT units as 9 week, semester, full-year courses Everyday, every other day, block scheduleElective, integratedMultiple grade-level implementationsFor all studentsGTT, intended for grades six through eight, is designed to spark an interest in STEM subjects and prepare students to pursue STEM related in high school and beyond. Taught in conjunction with a rigorous academic curriculum, the program is divided into eight, nine-week independent units, assuming a 45-minute class period. Schools implement both foundation units and may add any combination of the specialization units.States have brought in GTT at the urging of the high school CTE program administrators and teachers because they want to boost interest and preparation among the students for high school level STEM courses. The Boise example. In one year the Meridian School district expanded GTT quickly because the kids are asking for it. GTT replaced keyboarding because kids love it and the teacher is happy to integrate keyboarding into the GTT coursework. In Washington State the Vancouver based school district brought in GTT to address under-representation of girls in the high school CTE programs. Many girls are taking GTT and doing well.


  • 1. GATEWAY PROGRAM Project Lead The Way 2
  • 2. WHAT IS STEM?
  • 3. Why?
  • 4. STEM Education is TRANSFORMING Student Learning.
  • 6. Engaging students early in STEM opens career doors for a larger, more diverse group Source: Microsoft
  • 7. In a 2010 study, the majority (65%) of participating scientists and In a 2010 study, the majority (65%) of participating scientists and graduate students stated that their interest in science began before middle school –sa Exciting experiences in STEM at an early age help spark a lifelong passion Sources: R. Tai, C. Q. Liu, A. V. Maltese, and X. T. Fan. (2006). Planning for Early Careers in Science. Science 312(5777):1143–1144. A. V. Maltese and R. H. Tai. (2010). Eyeballs in the Fridge: Sources of Early Interest in Science. International Journal of Science Education 32:669–685.
  • 8. PLTW offers a comprehensive Kindergarten to Career solution Elementary School Program Launching in 2014 Middle School Program Gateway To Technology High School Programs Pathway To Engineering & Biomedical Sciences College, career, and beyond
  • 9. Gateway To Technology Activity, project, and problem-based engineering and biomedical science curriculum for middle school students that • Challenges • Inspires • Offers variety and flexibility 10
  • 10. • Hands-on, rigorous, relevant, real-world experiences • The chance to use scientific sensors, Vex & ROBOTC, industry software (Revit, Inventor) • Opportunities to be creative and solve problems • The realization that there isn’t just one right answer11 Project-based learning gives students:
  • 11. GTT grows student interest in PLTW’s advanced programs and STEM careersGateway To Technology Unit Pathway To Engineering and Biomedical Sciences PLTW Courses Automation and Robotics Principles of Engineering Computer Integrated Manufacturing Computer Science/Software Engineering Design and Modeling Introduction to Engineering Design Energy and the Environment Biotechnical Engineering Principles of Engineering Flight and Space Aerospace Engineering Green Architecture Civil Engineering and Architecture Medical Detectives Principles of the Biomedical Sciences Human Body Systems Medical Interventions Biomedical Innovation Magic of Electrons Digital Electronics Science of Technology Biotechnical Engineering Introduction to Engineering Design Principles of Engineering
  • 12. GTT is challenging Communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and curiosity Students acquire knowledge and skills
  • 13. By providing more success to more students GTT is inspirational
  • 14. Gateway To Technology units 9 week units designed for grades 6-8 Specialized Units Design & Modeling Medical Detectives Automation & Robotics Flight & Space Science of Technology Energy and the Environment Green Architecture Magic of Electrons Foundation Units
  • 15. Inspiring, challenging, and flexible How do Gateway To Technology students use the engineering design process to solve a problem? Students tackle the Playground Problem from the foundation unit Design & Modeling
  • 16. Students use the design process to research, design, and model a playground
  • 17. • Discuss playgrounds with community or school representative • Visit and “play” on an existing playground • Justify need for new or modified equipment playground Define the problem
  • 18. • Generate concepts – Brainstorm ideas/themes – Interview younger students – Sketch favorite piece of equipment – How to innovate? – Sketch new piece of equipment • Conduct research – Safety – Size requirements – Materials – Longevity of use – Proper placement in playground Generate concepts and conduct research
  • 19. • Sketch in engineering notebook • Create decision Matrix • Use Inventor to develop 3D CAD drawings Develop a solution Student work in Inventor
  • 20. • Build scaled model of playground design • Requires new skillset and allows range of students to excel Construct and test model
  • 21. • Evaluate the fun factor and safety factor • Assess material usage Evaluate solution
  • 22. Present solution • Includes full team of students • Explain problem, constraints, research, design, testing, and more to playground committee
  • 23. Proven PLTW model 24
  • 24. Proven PLTW model 25
  • 25. Proven PLTW model 26
  • 26. Flexibility • Implement GTT in the best way to fit your school – GTT units as 9 week or semester courses? – Full school implementation or elective? – Every class every year?
  • 28. STEPS TO A SUCCESSFUL IMPLEMENTATION FALL/SPRING • Visit the Web site to learn more. • Contact your PLTW State Leader or Regional Director regarding state education guidelines. • Locate and visit a PLTW school to learn first-hand how PLTW is implemented and sustained. • Share marketing materials to increase awareness. • Select a School District Delegate. • Complete the online registration form and receive the PLTW STEM Agreement. • Review the Purchasing Manual for equipment and supply needs. • Sign up for a Counselor Conference.
  • 29. STEPS TO A SUCCESSFUL IMPLEMENTATION SPRING • Return the signed PLTW STEM Agreement to the PLTW national office. • Identify teachers who meet the recommendations set forth by PLTW in the PLTW STEM Agreement. • Add teachers to the PLTW Extranet. • Have teachers register for a Core Training session. • Purchase software, supplies and equipment through the PLTW Purchasing Manual.
  • 30. APPENDIX Ken Verburg, Director of School Engagement 31