Case Study: Project Lead The Way
Training, curriculum development bring innovation
to rural education
Developing programs that prepare students for 21st-century careers can be challenging. That’s why Laurens Central School teacher Alton Dunn was glad to have the support of the CORE Institute (Career Opportunities in Rural Education) to help him craft engineering programs for his students.
Dunn, who teaches Principles of Engineering at Laurens Central School, began working several years ago to develop an engineering curriculum for junior high and high school students. After a few years of doing it on his own, Dunn began looking into existing programs. With the help of CORE, Dunn became certified to offer Project Lead The Way classes.
An Indianapolis-based non-profit, Project Lead The Way (PLTW) develops science, technology, engineering and math programs and provides teacher training. Dunn traveled to Rochester Institute of Technology to participate in the training, and was impressed with what he found there.
“The curriculum, the materials, the structure — it’s all there for you. It’s all well thought-out, and it’s consistent from school to school,” Dunn said. “The program has published standards, and that helps students get college credit for these classes.”
CORE helps the district obtain funding for the training, materials and hardware needed to offer a Project Lead The Way course.
Dunn got certification to teach Civil Engineering and Architecture, and Aerospace Engineering, through RIT, and brought what he learned back to Laurens. And, he said, the response from students has been dramatic.
“The students get really excited about it, because it’s hands-on — it’s not just lecture, homework, test,” Dunn explained. “Student motivation is pretty high.”
And, Dunn said, that hands-on learning experience is preparing students for college and career opportunities in new ways.
“Society today is much more technology-oriented, and has a different skill set associated with it,” Dunn observed. “In order to function, students have to have the right kind of preparation so they can fit in with that.”
Dunn said the applied learning model of the Project Lead The Way class offers benefits to students of all skill levels.
“We have students at the technician level, who might struggle with a math or hard science class, who can handle the PLTW class,” Dunn said. “And students who are more advanced can enjoy it just as much, and get their hands dirty. It fits a broad need, and a broad range of student abilities.”