Project Lead The Way

STEM in District 30

Student doing an experiment

Today’s students need to develop knowledge and skills that allow them to thrive, no matter their chosen life and career paths. They need to become comfortable taking intellectual risks, adept at collaboration, confident in the face of challenges, and skilled at devising solutions  — these are essential skills.

Middle school is the perfect time for students to explore and learn that there is more than one way to reach a solution, to become designers and inventors, and to work together to create new things and develop new knowledge.

District 30 emplooys a hands-on, project-based STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) curriculum that emphasizes critical and creative thinking.

In 2016, District 30 partnered with Project Lead The Way (PLTW), a national organization, committed to working with schools in the implementation of innovative and rigorous science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs.  A rigorous STEM program will also expose young people to the practice of “design thinking”.  This approach to creative thought is centered on continual improvement and learning from mistakes. Failure is looked upon as a natural step towards success, and not an end to an idea.  This is a significant step in helping our students to become “innovation ready”.

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 The Project Lead The Way curriculum for middle school students challenges, inspires, and encourages them to delve deeper into subject areas. Students get rigorous and relevant experiences through activity-, project-, and problem-based learning. Students are able to use industry-leading technology to solve problems, while gaining skills in communication, collaboration, critical-thinking, and creativity.

PLTW is divided into independent, quarter-length units. The program is designed to be taught in conjunction with our rigorous academic curriculum.  PLTW courses are aligned with national standards in Math and ELA, Next Generation Science Standards, and CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards. Courses and units are designed to complement and enrich the existing math and science courses.

The Project Lead The Way Curriculum

Design and Modeling (Sixth Grade): Students apply the design process to solve problems and understand the influence of creativity and innovation in their lives. They work in teams to design a playground and furniture, capturing research and ideas in their engineering notebooks. Using Autodesk® design software, students create a virtual image of their designs and produce a portfolio to showcase their innovative solutions.

Automation and Robotics I (Seventh and Eighth Grade): This course begins with the study of mechanisms in order to understand motion. Students apply this information by using VEX® robotics parts to design a pull toy and complete a “survival challenge”. Then, students will learn to program and automate devices that use motors, batteries, and sensors. Students will utilize this knowledge to design and build real-world devices.

Automation and Robotics II (Eighth Grade only; Automation and Robotics I prerequisite): Students continue to explore mechanical systems, energy transfer, and machine automation.Using their previous knowledge of programming and automating devices, students will continue to design and build devices. This course cumulates with students designing, building, and programming real-world devices that will help others.

Medical Detectives (Seventh and Eighth Grade): Students play the role of real-life medical detectives as they collect and analyze medical data to diagnose disease. They solve medical mysteries through hands-on projects and labs, measure and interpret vital signs, dissect a sheep brain, investigate disease outbreaks, and explore how a breakdown within the human body can lead to dysfunction