Saratoga Springs City School District has been selected to pilot a new science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) program for kindergarten through fifth-grade students.
The school district applied for the elementary school STEM program because of its success with the high school STEM program.
“I think because of our good track record with Project Lead The Way [the organization that developed the STEM curriculum], it just shows that Saratoga Springs is very serious about the STEM program and the direction it’s going in,” said Dr. Joesph Greco, math, science and technology director for integration with the Saratoga Springs school district.
Lake Avenue Elementary School will begin the pilot program in the fall. The pilot program was designed and developed by Project Lead The Way (PLTW) to “align with standards such as Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards.”
Lake Avenue is one of 44 elementary schools throughout the United States that will be piloting the program this fall. Students will be able to “engage in design problems that encourage collaboration, analysis, problem solving and computational thinking,” according to a press release from Project Lead The Way.
“At this point we’re really not looking for the children to get a deep, deep understanding of engineering topics.” said Greco. “It’s the exposure piece of it, to know even as early as kindergarten, first grade, what an engineer is. The exposure to ‘This is what an engineer does and here’s some opportunities for you to kind of role-play as an engineer’ at some of those low levels and then eventually going up to third, fourth, fifth grade where you start getting into some robotics, some heavier science threads. It really paves the way for those students then to go into the middle school.”
In October, James Nair, the district’s instructional technologist, will leave for Indianapolis to be trained by PLTW to work with teachers during the STEM pilot program. Nair will take on a new title in the fall as the master teacher for the new pilot.
The teachers in each of the 44 schools throughout the nation will play a vital role in the final curriculum for the educational program, which will be available to all school districts nationwide beginning in the 2014-2015 academic year. Teachers will test 12 STEM modules with students and have the opportunity to give PLTW feedback on the program.
There are currently STEM programs in both the middle and high school levels throughout the nation, but this fall will be the first year an elementary program will be conducted. Saratoga Springs City School District will be the only school district to conduct the pilot in New York this fall.