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K-5 STEM: It Starts Here.

PLTWGuest Post by Dorothy Powers
Vice President of Engagement
Project Lead The Way, Inc.

What are the chances that an aerospace engineer knows she’s excited about the field without an early introduction to the science of flight? Or that a biomedical researcher embarks on his career in biophysics without having learned at a young age about the fundamentals of motion? Slim, data suggests. Studies show that students decide as early as second grade whether they like – and think they are good at – math and science.[1]

At Project Lead The Way, our mission is to prepare students for the global economy. As we reviewed data on the importance of introducing students at a young age to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), we were compelled to take action. We have provided in-school STEM curriculum for millions of middle and high school students since 1997. Recently, we made the decision to bring our activity-, project-, and problem-based curriculum and professional development to kindergarten through fifth grade: In fall 2014, we will launch an elementary program, connecting STEM learning for students from kindergarten to career.

Introducing students to STEM when they are young helps them see new perspectives and discover new talents. Ultimately, it gives students the opportunity to begin a pathway toward many great career options.  Early exposure to STEM programs matters for all students, but it is especially important for minority and female students.  With the U.S. aiming to regain its global leadership in talent-driven innovation, we must open doors for everyone.

The case to engage all students in STEM when they are young is strong. Yet data also shows how challenging it may be in practice to implement:  Elementary teachers often shy away from teaching STEM subjects.[2]  A fundamental component of the PLTW model is the high level of training and support in both content and pedagogy to position teachers for success. PLTW teachers are known for showing up to class with both the content to capture students’ creativity and skills to facilitate critical thinking.

On Wednesday, October 23, 2013 at 8 p.m. EDT, an enthusiastic and passionate group of educators and parents involved in the PLTW elementary program pilot will join Project Lead The Way and Big Beacon in a Twitter chat to talk about what STEM looks like for young students and why it matters so much to spark their interest early.

Article is an excerpt from “Launch Student Success with STEM in Elementary School,” 2013 Fall edition Living Education eMagazine (p 70-71)


[2] Glory Oljace, author, STEM is Elementary: How Elementary Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Prepares Students to Beat the Gaps! (2012)


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