Full STEAM ahead: Project Lead the Way begins at CCHS, CCMS

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After more than a year of planning, researching, and consulting with local businesses and industry representatives, Carroll County Schools’ Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) Plan is becoming a reality.

“Our goal is to help our students become college and career ready so that when they walk out of the doors of Carroll County High School for the last time, they will be able to walk into a college classroom without having to take remedial classes or walk into a job in which they can earn a living wage,” said Lisa James, superintendent of Carroll County Schools. “These hands-on programs use 21st Century Learning Skills, such as problem solving, creativity, team work, and communication, to prepare students for a future that is changing rapidly.”

The Carroll County Schools’ STEAM Plan includes new programs such as Project Lead the Way (PLTW) at Carroll County High School and Carroll County Middle School and Engineering is Elementary in grades kindergarten through five.

Three rigorous PLTW programs are underway, two at Carroll County High School and one at Carroll County Middle School.  In the Pathway to Engineering (PTE) program at CCHS, students will design and build projects that help solve real-world problems by using team work and communication, as well as organizational, critical-thinking, and problem-solving skills. Gateway to Technology at CCMS is also a project-based curriculum, designed to challenge and engage the natural curiosity and imagination of middle school students.

In addition to Pathway to Engineering and Gateway to Technology, Carroll County High School has begun offering classes this year in a third PLTW program called “Biomedical Sciences,” in which students explore the concepts of human medicine and are introduced to topics such as physiology, genetics, microbiology and public health.

“The program really seems to be engaging the students; it is very interesting,” said Duke Boles, who teaches the biomedical sciences component of PLTW at CCHS. Boles recently had a classroom activity in which he set up a simulated crime scene and invited Carrollton Police Officer Tim Gividen to help students conduct an investigation. Boles said that students collected evidence and created hypotheses about what might have happened. 

At Carroll County Middle School, students recently use spaghetti, tape, and string to erect a tower that could support a marshmallow.

“The students had to work together as a team to figure out the best way to complete the task,” said Christie Jones, the PLTW teacher at CCMS.

Jones, Boles, and Charles Greenwell, the Pathway to Engineering (PTE) teacher at CCHS, attended two weeks of training at the University of Kentucky this summer to prepare to teach the PLTW classes.

The Project Lead the Way (PLTW) programs “emphasize critical thinking, creativity, innovation and real-world problem solving,” according to the organization’s website. “The hands-on learning engages students on multiple levels, exposes them to areas of study that they may not otherwise pursue, and provides them with a foundation and proven path to post-secondary training and career success in STEM-related fields.” (www.pltw.org)

Project Lead the Way and Engineering is Elementary will be funded over the next three years in part by $350,000 in grants from a combination of sources including North American Stainless ($150,000), Dow Corning ($90,000), the Kentucky Department of Education ($75,000), and the Project Lead the Way Grant Fund ($35,000, based on a donation from the Bemis Corporation, which has a Shelbyville site). The Carroll County Board of Education has also committed to adding an additional PLTW teacher beginning next year.

“Our industries are going to have to replace hundreds of people over the next 10 years due to retiring baby boomers,” said James. “We want those new employees to be Carroll County High School graduates, so we are doing everything we can to fill the pipeline of highly skilled workers who can help our industries compete in a global marketplace.”


 Jeff Fremin is director of public relations for Carroll County Public Schools.