David Ulrich: Pivot to the positive!
Beginning in the fall, our elementary school students will have the opportunity to engage in a new and exciting Science, Technology, Engineering and Math program called Project Lead the Way Launch. PLTW Launch is a nationally recognized approach to engaging students in STEM-related learning. PLTW Launch brings student learning to life. Students are challenged to implement a “design-thinking mindset through compelling activities, projects and problems that build upon each other and relate to the world around them.”
Implementing PLTW Launch is consistent with the district’s five-year Strategic Plan. Adopted in February 2017, the Strategic Plan has five focus areas. Focus Area II: Student Success, Goal 1, states, “MCSD will connect every student, pre-K through 12, to relevant coursework, measurable outcomes and authentic experiences reflecting the skills, talents and capacities leading to a successful future.”
Focus Area IV: Fiscal Management, Goal 2, states, “Student needs will be met through efficient facility maintenance and management.”
In September, members of the MCSD Board of Education, two elementary principals, teachers and members of district leadership visited multiple PLTW Launch classrooms, and we were impressed with what we observed. Students were actively engaged in various STEM-related activities. What stood out most was the rigor in the classrooms. Throughout our visits, students consistently used high-level science vocabulary to explain their thinking.
Since 1999, PLTW has grown to include more than 10,500 schools across the country. PLTW has a presence in all 50 states. According to the Colorado PLTW website, there are currently only 10 elementary schools in Colorado that have implemented PLTW Launch. Through the operational savings of closing an elementary school, we are able to implement this program for our students within our current budget. Making that tough decision is allowing us to bring something new, different and better to our students. We will have teachers dedicated to teaching STEM-related curriculum at each of our elementary schools.
Recently, Kirsten Koseck, a PLTW Launch teacher in Denver Public Schools, visited our community. She met with elementary school principals to answer questions about PLTW Launch implementation. Specifically, the principals were eager to learn how PLTW Launch can fit into an elementary school schedule. After meeting with the principals, Koseck met with MCSD teachers interested in teaching PLTW Launch. We know we have the right person, because Koseck was recently named a Master Launch Teacher by PLTW.
When I asked Koseck to comment on the program, she said, “Project Lead the Way has helped our school embrace 21st century learning and helped our students develop a love of science and engineering. From sending eggs crashing into walls as they test custom seat belt designs to testing remote-control robots that can retrieve supplies from a hazardous area, students from all backgrounds are fully immersed in and excited about their learning. They’ll go on to middle school with the skills needed for success in the STEM areas and an enthusiasm to explore their interests even further.”
Through our commitment to the Strategic Plan, a supportive board of education and dedicated teachers, I am confident PLTW Launch will become a cornerstone offering for our students next year and into the future. This is only one step on our journey to help us live Moffat County School District’s Mission Statement to educate and inspire students to thrive in an environment of change!
David Ulrich is superintendent of the Moffat County School Disrict.
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