The following guest blog from Beverly Ransdell highlights Project Lead the Way (PLTW) and STEM, two key ongoing components in Indiana education now. For more on PLTW, see our article in the March/April edition of BizVoice. Furthermore, one of the top goals in the Indiana Chamber’s recently released Indiana Vision 2025: A Vision for Hoosier Prosperity plan is to increase the proportion of Indiana residents with postsecondary credentials in STEM-related fields to "top 5" status internationally.
Each summer at IUPUI, high school teachers from across Indiana become “students” again in the School of Science. Through hands-on experimentation and discovery, Project Lead the Way (PLTW) provides science teachers the tools they need to implement valuable knowledge in their high school classrooms. Those same teachers leave excited about their role in changing the face of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education across the state.
More than 100 teachers will participate in this summer’s intense training—living and working together on campus as part of the national education program (July 9-20). PLTW currently offers workshops in engineering and biomedical science. It is designed to enhance interest in STEM fields among students and teachers while also addressing the country’s growing need to increase academic performance in these areas.
Since 1997, the program has served more than 400,000 students and more than 10,000 teachers in all 50 states. The results are clear: Students who complete the courses in high school pursue STEM fields at nearly 10 times the average rate and typically achieve much higher test and retention rates than those who do not participate.
Rather than rattle off statistics about the impact of the program, I can tell you first-hand of how the program changed me fundamentally as a teacher and how it changed the outlook for my former students. The bottom line is no other program fosters curiosity and rewards enthusiasm to learn more than PLTW.
As a PLTW alumna, I consider this program to be one of the most challenging and exciting experiences I have had during my 23 years of teaching high school science. I have seen the enthusiasm flow from teachers to students. The experience lasted well beyond the classroom bell and laid the groundwork for a natural inclination to explore the unknown through science.
Participating teachers are able to master some tangible skills to produce the results that drew many of them to the classroom in the first place. While so many headlines debate what the country needs to do to improve STEM performance and increase the competitiveness of our students, PLTW serves as a reminder of the progress our teachers and students continue to make.
The national headquarters of PLTW recently relocated to Indianapolis, a beneficial move for the booming life and health sciences industries in Indiana. The bar is set high for students and teachers to achieve more and push farther than ever before. Hoosier employers should be excited that a new generation of critical thinkers and problems solvers is being formed to approach the challenges that will sustain the future of our state for generations to come.
Beverly Ransdell is a retired teacher at Arsenal Tech High School and coordinator of Project Lead the Way Indianapolis affiliate.