Elementary STEM program begins
By Angie Landsverk
Project Lead the Way Launch is now the elementary science curriculum in the Weyauwega-Fremont School District.
“Launch is the elementary version of the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) curriculum,” said Kandi Martin, the district’s curriculum director.
PLTW is a nonprofit that provides K-12 science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs.
The high school is offering PLTW engineerings classes for the first time this school year, with 30 percent of its students enrolled in one.
Martin said PLTW Launch is based on the Next Generation Science Standards.
This past summer, elementary teachers Devon Feldt, Shari Foster, Jodie Knecht, Holly Olsen, Marnie Rotta and Jennifer Steidtman received training at the Milwaukee School of Engineering to become certified lead teachers for the PLTW Launch science curriculum.
They are then teaching the rest of the elementary teachers, Martin said.
Steidtman teaches first grade at Weyauwega Elementary and is now interested in becoming a master trainer for the program.
“It’s fun to see children who maybe do not like or do well in literature or math building something,” she said.
The PLTW Launch program includes interdisciplinary modules.
Steidtman said the students will work on four different modules throughout the school year.
“Two modules for each grade are engineering based,” she said.
There is also a module based on human anatomy with the last module being computer science based.
“I think the kids will be ready to delve into (computer science) the end of the year,” Steidtman said. “They will have to design apps. I love that computer programming starts in kindergarten.”
This month, Feldt’s fifth-grade class at Weyauwega Elementary showed kindergartners and first graders what they learned in the first engineering-based module.
“It is called the Project Lead the Way Toy Show,” Martin said. “All the robots they built are being presented as toys to cure boredom. The kids are trying to sell their products to the target audience.”
Feldt’s class of 20 students created seven different toys.
Grace Radtke and Kiana Van Hammond named their creation Miko.
“Our toy can grab stuff for you,” said Radtke.
Van Hammond said, “We just wanted to do something that people or kids don’t have to stay on their phones or tablets. They can use Miko and have a lot of fun.”
Over the course of about two weeks, the students worked in groups to turn their ideas into designs, using parts from the classroom’s kits to do so.
Tyler Baehnman, Lydia Lick and Ava Loehrke created Lexini 7.
“We hope to help athletes with their ball accuracy. It can throw and catch balls,” Lick said.
Loehrke said she likes working with robots.
Feldt enjoyed watching his students learn the difference between inventions and innovations.
“One of the coolest things is the kids get to learn in a different way,” he said. “This is self directed learning. It allows kids to see different paths to solve problems.”
Feldt said the students got right to work when it was time to work on their projects.
“There were so many different ways for them to express their learning,” he said. “Their different personalities came through.
Feldt said his students did a wonderful job on the first module they worked on this school year.
“We set the expectations pretty high for this. They definitely came through,” he said.
Rotta said the next thing the sudents will do is build a robot and program it.
Elementary Principal Doug Nowak noted the students in each group were proud of their work and equally proud of what their peers did.