PLTW Gateway

PBJHS receives grant to help expand STEM electives
Posted on 08/25/2021
Candace Warren

Poplar Bluff Junior High has been awarded a matching grant to offer three new semester-long courses in high-demand fields through Project Lead the Way.

The classes reportedly filled up quickly, as students were able to choose from computer science for innovators and makers, design and modeling, and medical detectives for this coming school year.

Because of his familiarity with the science, technology, engineering and math curriculum developer, Director Charles Kinsey of the Technical Career Center helped write the $25,000 grant, half of which comes from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Division of Learning Services.

“I’m super excited,” said Candace Warren, Junior High principal. “One, for all the different, new choices in discovery-based learning for our kids; and two, that we’re able to partner with the TCC so they can delve into the fields of engineering, biomedical and computer science and maybe get involved in a career path even sooner.”

When Warren took the helm as principal five years ago, one of her first orders of business, she explained, was to add a class period in the school day so students who participate in band or choir, for example, can take an additional elective in order to explore their interests.

Warren contemplated repurposing some teaching positions toward the beginning of the calendar year due to a retirement in the industrial arts program plus an internal transfer to the counseling department. In March, a PLTW representative visited with school administrators to overview the Gateway program designed for seventh and eighth graders.

Available for “restoring America’s status as a leader in innovation,” the Technology and Engineering Grant through the DESE Office of College and Career Readiness went toward training and fees, 3D printers, teacher computer devices and consumable kits for students.

The certified teachers—Jodie Berry, Lybby Mannon and Adam Moeller—completed 40 hours of training this summer, and will continue to have access to the learning management system and technical support through the nonprofit organization. PLTW is a “nationally vetted, robust program,” noted Warren, and—according to its website—was established to empower students to develop and apply in-demand, transportable skills by exploring real-world challenges.

In 2019, the TCC was the first school in the district to add a PLTW module: the computer science program, taught by Michael Barrett. The pathway for upperclassmen includes computer science essentials, computer science principles, computer science A, cybersecurity and, new this year, computer integrated manufacturing.

“By introducing STEM at a lower grade level, we can now start getting students interested in the fields in seventh and eighth grade,” said Kinsey, adding that his ultimate goal would be to see a high school tier and perhaps all the way down to elementary in the future. “It all culminates at TCC, and every time a kid gets into CTE (career and technical education) at an earlier age, that’s a win for our local industry as well.”

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Cutline: Principal Candace Warren, pictured during an assembly in February 2020, has partnered with Project Lead the Way Gateway to upgrade Junior High’s elective offerings.

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