LOCAL VOICES: Students in Wentzville See Connection from Classroom to Career

STEM Olympics

(Edited at author’s request with additional information. -Ed.)

Business leaders understand the value of hiring employees with skills that meet the demands of the 21st century economy. Leaders in the Wentzville School District understand this as well, and that’s why eight years ago, Project Lead the Way (PLTW) was introduced in the District’s curriculum.

Project Lead The Way (PLTW) launched as part of our efforts to provide a robust experience of hands-on learning, and the WSD community fully embraced the move.

STEM Olympics

Today, students in Wentzville have access to PLTW Computer Science, PLTW Engineering, and PLTW Biomedical Science. But how do we measure the success we have seen? It’s measured in the stories of students solving read world problems as class projects. For example, a group of students from Liberty High School recently designed and built a wheelchair for a staff member’s daughter with spina bifida. Last spring, a student at Timberland High School designed and built a sensory cane for a blind classmate.

See on KMOV.com: High school students create wheelchair for girl with spina bifida

That is real success. Our students can solve problems that our teachers and community members are facing. I have personally experienced the transformation of relevant, hands-on learning. I’m the proud mother of a senior who was planning to be a lawyer, but after taking PLTW Principles of Engineering is excelling at computer science. He has developed the marketable skill of coding, drawing the attention of Apple, who funded and supported his work to code an app for Apple Watch.

The skills our students are learning in these experiences are absolutely critical to fostering the new version of a well-rounded student who is ready to excel in a global economy. Rather than our high school graduates knowing a little bit about a lot of content, our students today must have agility, know how to collaborate, and know how to lead.

READ MORE: Timberland Hosts Conference to Promote STEM Education

Our parents see the value of these experiences, but more importantly our students see and embrace the value. WSD students in 6th through 12th grades are self-selecting to spend their time in PLTW courses building the skill set that will matter for their prospective careers.

(Dr. Karen Hill is the Director of Professional & Program Development for Wentzville R-IV School District in Wentzville, Missouri.)