Kingsland kindergartners through fifth graders will be among a select few across the nation taking part in a new Project Lead the Way program.

"The national Project Lead the Way (PLTW) organization is going to be introducing a new curriculum for students in kindergarten through fifth grade in 2014, and they're choosing a handful of schools across the nation to pilot the curriculum first," said Kingsland Superintendent John McDonald, who learned of Kingsland's selection this past Wednesday, "and they chose schools that had a strong science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and Project Lead the Way. We're proud to say that Kingsland's elementary students are among those chosen to pilot the program this coming school year."

The program will begin in October, and kindergartners will be immersed in a PLTW class called "Design Process" in which, according to the PLTW program outline, "Students will discover the design process and how engineers influence their lives. The students will use the design process to sketch, build, test and reflect on a new paintbrush design. Then, in small groups, the students will design, build and test a structure out of available materials to withstand a force."

During the fall, second graders will study "Matter and Materials Science," in which they will "investigate and classify different kinds of materials by their observable properties, and after analyzing data from materials testing, the students will determine the best material to solve a design problem involving trash recovery from a body of water."

Fourth graders will spend the fall learning about "Energy: Collisions," exploring "mechanisms such as gears, simple machines and pulleys."

Winter curriculum features "Waves: Light and Sound" for the kindergarten students, "Motion and Stability: Science of Flight" for third graders, and "Introduction to Robotics" for fifth graders.

The spring promises "Pushes and Pulls" in kindergarten, "Observing the Earth" in first grade, "Engineering Design" in second grade, "Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions" in third grade, "Energy: Conversion" in fourth grade, and "Robotics Competition" in fifth grade - an introduction to the robotics course that students may later take in ninth grade.

Presently, Kingsland participates in PLTW in grades nine through 12, offering "Principles of Engineering" in ninth grade, "Biomedical Sciences" in 10th through 12th grades, is working to incorporate "Digital Electronics" into everyday instruction, and adding "Introduction to Civil Engineering and Design" next year.

"We've had amazing results the first full year of Project Lead the Way in school," said McDonald. The success of the program relies particularly on the willingness of staff to be trained to teach PLTW tenets, and the elementary program is no different - a staff member who has yet to be identified will be sent for training this summer - and the schools that take part elementary PLTW activities must also have the technological equipment, including computers and tablets, plus necessary supplies for each class. McDonald pointed out, "We have the computers, we have the iPads, and there are other things to be put in place, but we were selected out of many applications."

Applications to be considered for the pilot elementary PLTW program included describing the school's STEM initiatives, the demographics of the school - such as gender and socioeconomic status - the experience of the master teacher to be trained to lead the way and what makes the school a good candidate for the PLTW elementary pilot program. Applications had to be completed and submitted by May 31, and then the waiting began.

McDonald was very excited to announce Kingsland's selection for participation in the PLTW elementary science pilot program as soon as he received notification last week. "Being chosen means that we are identified as a very good school in STEM education, and it's very good to be a pilot school along with the other pilot schools," he said. "They were looking at the quality of our STEM education. This puts the curriculum into the classrooms a year early and helps us continue to build our STEM education."

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