Leading the way: Danville schools to try engineering-based initiatives
Clay Jacksonfirstname.lastname@example.org.Below, Blake Quinn, left, and Jeremy Quinn focus on making their bridge. (Clay Jackson / Clay Jackson / January 2, 2013)
In 2011, Bate Middle School teacher Caleb Wetmore began teaching engineering-based electives at the request of the administration. Using ideas from Project Lead the Way programs, the class was formed.
Wetmore explained how the school’s technology teacher, Scott Walker, expressed to him early on that he wanted to teach video game programming at the middle school level, “which is almost unheard of.”
There are now four classes of nearly 100 students learning the code-based programming, 30 to 33 percent of whom are female, which is greater than the national average, said Bate Principal Amy Galloway.
Three of Bate’s educators, Wetmore, Walker and science teacher, Anthony Carney, now offer engineering-based courses.
However, talking it over, they soon realized that progress in engineering being made by students, some of whom don’t fit the mold for traditional learning, would be halted when they left Bate, as there were no engineering classes at the high school.
“It just didn’t make sense,” Galloway said. “So I sent Wetmore and Walker over and told them to sell it.”
They did sell it to Aaron Etherington, principal at Danville High School, and this fall, students entering the school will be able to take an engineering class. The program will continue to grow each year, equipping interested students in the skills they need to possibly attend an engineering school in the future.
The classes are being implemented along with a program in both schools called Project Lead the Way, a national program to introduce students to science, technology, engineering and mathematics intiatives known as STEM.
The best explanation of STEM, according to Dianne Leveridge, director of Project Lead the Way in Kentucky, came from a 10-year-old in Franklin County, who said, “science is the way the world works, technology is what we use to understand how the world works, engineering is what we do to improve how the world works, and math, that’s just math.”
Project Lead the Way has a curriculum for schools, working with them to create a pathway for high school students, Leveridge said.
“What the University of Kentucky, the Council on Postsecondary Education and the Kentucky Department of Education decided back then was that Project Lead the Way was a STEM solution for the commonwealth, for K-12,” she said.
She said it works to prepare high school students “for whatever, not just college, but any postsecondary choice.”
While it is not a program of UK, the two are affiliated and students can obtain credit toward an engineering degree by completing the requirements in high school.
Being part of the program requires the district to send teachers to training. The district receives about $75,000 as part of a matching grant. The money cannot go toward paying teachers, so the district is using part of its match to cover those costs, among other things, ultimately running the district about $109,000 total in-kind time.
Superintendent Carmen Coleman predicts students will have great success in the coming classes, because of the existing opportunities available at the middle school level.
“There’s already such a demand because of the success our first classes have had ... we really have a demand for it with our students,” Coleman said.
Currently, there is not a curriculum for the elementary levels; however, Coleman said they are excited for that opportunity, when it becomes available.
The school system will need to rely on the support of local industries, she said, to help the students gain real insight and application of what they are learning in the schools.
On April 11, they held a Danville Schools/Industry Partnership TEAM meeting, during which the district expressed the upcoming plans to industry leaders in the area. Opportunities to support the students, financially or with chances for visits to the companies, were also offered during the event.