• Project Lead The Way - Our K-12 Engineering Curriculum

    Last spring the district implemented a comprehensive K-12 curriculum called Project Lead the Way (PLTWtm).  Program modules were piloted in grades K, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8, and a year-long course was introduced in grade 10.   The program empowers students to develop and apply science and engineering skills by exploring real-world challenges and has proven to be highly engaging and effective. Students not only learn technical skills, but also learn to solve problems, to think critically and creatively, to communicate, and to collaborate as well.  Most importantly,  the PLTW curriculum offers a continuum of skills beginning with a foundation set in elementary school and building through high school.  Work continues this summer to roll out the program to ALL grades. The following are highlights of what the students have been doing this year.

  • The Concord Road Science Department introduced PLTW to Kindergartners in a unit called Pushes and Pulls. Students learned about forces of different strength and direction and examined examples of pushes and pulls in their everyday life such as pushing a friend on a swing. Fourth graders experienced units on Energy: Collisions and will study a unit on Energy: Conversions before the end of the year. The students began the unit with exposure to the engineering design process and explored the many ways that both kinetic and potential energy can be converted to meet a need. They manipulated 3D designs on an iPad to learn how a pendulum was built and used specific PLTW tools and components to replicate and build the design. They learned how to sketch their finished products and discovered how potential energy varies when the pendulum is set at different angles. With these skills as a foundation, students were given a problem: How to build a car that could protect a passenger in a collision. In their case, the passenger was a raw egg! Students designed their own solution, then collaborated in small teams to exchange ideas, negotiate features, and build their agreed upon design. After testing and gathering feedback from a few broken eggs, the teams modified designs to deliver their final projects. Ask, explore, model, evaluate, explain, and ask again - the engineering design process at work in fourth grade!  

  • Ardsley Middle School has implemented the Design and Modeling, and the Automation and Robotics modules of the PLTW curriculum. In addition, all grades have computer programming integrated into their technology and seminar classes.  Sixth graders were introduced to the engineering design process and skills essential to modeling. After seeing a brief video that describes the challenges children with Cerebral Palsy face walking, our students were given the challenge to design and model a foot orthosis. In another class, students were asked to design, construct, and test a rocket system. Following the engineering design process, students sketched, designed, modeled, built, tested and improved their solutions using 2D and 3D CAD software, along with 3D and laser cutting printers. Seventh grade students enjoy both a technology class and an engineering seminar. In the seminar,  the quarter started with a challenge activity that has multiple potential solutions and requires students to collaborate in order to succeed. As it progressed, students are offered more choices and opportunities to choose their own projects. Included are mini-lessons on how to use simple tools, electric circuits and coding.  The technology class has been focusing on a variety of problem solving models which take into account cost, complexity, time, and the development of many different design options in order to make real-world build decisions.  Our 8th grade students are studying robotics and several mechanisms that are used to change such things as speed, torque, and the direction of movement. Using VEX building parts and Robot C software, students have built simple robots that are controlled by a micro-controller.   

  • Ardsley High School offered its first engineering course this year, Introduction to Engineering Design, in which students are delving into the engineering design process and exploring strategies for design, development, documentation, and collaboration.  Students in this class are exploring and solving a number of real-world problems and becoming grounded in understanding not just how things are done, but why they are done and the importance of each detailed component.  Armed with more detailed understanding of the engineering process, students have progressed from structured activities to student-defined challenges that require planning, documentation, communication, and other professional skills.  Working individually and in teams, they are taking on advanced challenges such as reverse engineering common items by mechanically breaking down an object into its parts.  Using statistical analysis, mathematical modeling as well as 3-D modeling software, students are learning to build solutions that are not only functional, but also aesthetically pleasing.  

  • Expanding STEM offerings in the 2017-2018 school year is part of our strategic vision and plan.  PLTW will expand to include units in ALL grades K-12.  At CRS, PLTW units such as Light: Observing the Sun, Moon and the Stars (Grade 1), The Changing Earth (Grade 2), and Variations of Traits (Grade 3) will be added.  In addition, PLTW coding units will be added to grades 1-4. At AMS, students in Grades 5 and 6 will complete units on Green Architecture, and Flight and Space, respectively.  AHS will add a second engineering class, Principles of Engineering, in which students will explore a broad range of engineering topics, including mechanisms, the strengths of structures and materials, and automation (robotics).

    Over the summer, our science teachers, Fran Zuchetto, Ester Feldbaum, and Peter Lee, and our STEM-D teachers Matt Kennedy and Dave Ponterio will attend on-line and/or in-person training classes to prepare for the 2017-2018 school year.  We thank them and the ongoing support of our community for helping us build and implement this comprehensive K-12 curriculum.