As educators, it is incumbent on us to stay current with these technological advancements and prepare our youth for a future that many of us find mind-boggling to envision. Nationally, a movement to increase exposure to STEM curriculum (science, technology, engineering, and math) is being seen as a way to prepare our students for that
In Lancaster, we have been ‘ahead of the curve’ in promoting STEM education. As one of the first two schools in our region to offer Project Lead the Way courses, we have also been out front in promoting Advanced Placement physics and calculus, which is made possible by offering early acceleration in math and science at the middle school level, and soon at William Street School.
Our high school was honored as an exemplar STEM school, but typically that is what the community hears about--high school students being involved in those rigorous career-driven courses. Now, we are looking at ways to do better and to offer early opportunities for students to do more. Already, we have one of the only tech ed programs for elementary students in the region. Based on students’ enthusiasm with that program, we looked at ways to bridge our award-winning Project Lead the Way Program to provide broader opportunities for elementary students to explore the exciting world of STEM.
Starting this fall, William Street fifth graders will be among the few students in New York State to participate in Project Lead the Way’s “Launch” Program. The Launch initiative will be woven into our existing technology class at the fifth grade level. Students will be exposed to the curriculum for half the year and will have the chance to build and control their own robot and use it in the way that engineers might in the real world. Launch curriculum offers students the chance to taste engineering in the elementary grades when curiosity is high. These rich hands-on experiences are intended to right blend of excitement and intrigue to keep students enthused about science and technology working and challenged and working toward that next level.
We’ve worked with RIT to train our teachers to get ready for this exciting program. They in turn are now certified to train other teachers, here in Lancaster. This means that eventually, we will be able to help other teachers push Project Lead the Way Launch initiatives, that are meant for young children, into their classrooms. This will be in addition to the hands on science curriculum that already exists in our elementary schools. In the meantime, all of your Lancaster teachers are continually working find ways to keep children interested in the STEM fields.
We in Lancaster, believe that STEM is going to be the key to many of the careers that we, as adults, can’t even imagine. Our children have a future that seems like science fiction to us, but we have to get them ready and we can’t wait for high school or college to do it. Our new addition to tech ed is one of the ways we are helping the elementary students in Lancaster get ready for that science fiction film that is their future.