WALNUT, CA--Walnut Valley USD is laying the foundation for STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) success across the District with the expansion of the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) in four additional elementary schools this year.
The transformative learning is now taking place at Quail Summit, Vejar, Walnut, and Westhoff, in addition to Evergreen and Maple Hill.
PLTW is helping students develop 21st century skills by providing hands-on learning opportunities to think critically while solving real-life problems.
Westhoff 2nd graders in Suzana Tran’s class begin each PLTW lesson with a chant she created.
The children leap out of their seats eager to join their teacher using clever hand motions.
“This is the engineering process,” they chime in pointing to their brain.
“First, ask what, then explore (binoculars with hands), model (hands make something), evaluate (finger under the chin-thinking), and explain (hands out from mouth to audience),” they recite in unison.
Tran has been incorporating PLTW into writing, reading, math, and science lessons several times a week.
“My students are absolutely excited and engaged. They look forward to seeing PLTW on the schedule!” she shares.
The class is completing its first four-week PTLW module - Properties of Matter.
During the “Save the Ice Pop” activity, students are challenged to build a cooler to insulate a frozen ice pop for an hour. They would later measure how much had melted.
Selecting just three items, the seven and eight-year-olds work in small groups to sketch, brainstorm, and finally construct the insulated containers.
“The best part is the building!” exclaims Tran while moving about the class checking progress, guiding, and asking clarifying questions.
Principal Denise Rendon has already observed a transformation around the Westhoff campus.
With PLTW, the children are using iPads, measuring, recording, communicating, problem solving, and fully engaged in the process of learning.
“There’s less teaching and more doing,” she says.
Students are learning that there is more than one way to solve a problem and each solution yields different results.
“PLTW makes learning accessible, fun, and relevant for all our students,” adds Quail Summit teacher Lisa Esse, a PLTW Master Teacher.
“The STEAM focus is shifting from having a product to learning and experiencing a process and a deeper understanding. Projects are relevant and cross-curricular,” Rendon said.
One team in Tran’s class protects their frozen treat with two Styrofoam cups securely wrapped with foil and tape.
“Foil doesn’t let heat through,” explains seven-year-old Reiko Akerboom.
“Our model was insulated well. We had 100 ml of frozen liquid and only 9 ml of it melted!” reports Audrey Khuu, age 8.
“I could improve my design by using foam plates instead of cardboard so it keeps more air out,” says Victor Lin. “I like PLTW because there are so many activities for us to do!”
That same day, another 2nd grade class tackles the “The Heat is On” experiment by testing different materials held to a thermometer for 30 seconds.
The young scientists measure and record changes in temperature using hand warmers, foam, and paper.
“It went up eight degrees!” announces Andrew Caparaz.
“They are doing an amazing job working collaboratively reading and recording the results!” beams teacher Kathy Stewart-Schmidt.
“I love to make things and PLTW is fun for me!” said Allison Kajikawa.
The program is also meant to encourage students to pursue STEM careers.
“I want to be a mathematician!” Khuu shares while jotting down a temperature increase in her notebook.
“We’re going to be engineers!” declare tablemates June, Regina, Oliver, Andrew, and Kristie.
“We’re collecting data for these science experiments,” said Kajiwawa, who correctly points out that data has different meanings.
“Data is also on our cell phones!”
PLTW is bringing collaboration and deeper connections in the classroom.
“Students take turns, encourage, and persevere toward a common goal,” Rendon said.
By Kelli Gile, Office of Community Resources
Westhoff Elementary 2nd graders construct an insulated container during Project Lead the Way lesson. Shown: Jayden Yang and Joyleen Qu.
Shown: J.T. Ferrer and Julie Ye. Shown: Jenna Faridi and Charlotte Wong with teacher Suzana Tran.
Shown: Jasmine Zhang, Justin Zhao, and Chris Guo.
Students brainstorm ideas, then sketch designs during Project Lead the Way lesson. Shown: Aiden Tran and Saer Malik.
Westhoff Elementary students Jun Wu and Christy Yip record data during PLTW experiment.
Young engineers at Westhoff Elementary conduct “The Heat is On” experiment. Shown: Andrew Caparaz
Shown: Allison Kajikawa and Aidan Patterson.