Horace Mann Elementary is one of 12 schools in Missouri and 306 nationwide to be recognized as a Project Lead the Way Distinguished Launch School.

Sedalia School District 200

To qualify for the honor, a school must offer at least two modules per grade level and have at least two PLTW Launch Lead Teachers; it also must have at least 75 percent of students participate in a PLTW Launch module. Horace Mann offers all four modules at each grade level, has two Launch lead teachers and offers PLTW modules for 100 percent of the school’s enrollment.

Dr. Todd Fraley, principal of Horace Mann, said: “The students and teachers have earned this honor for Horace Mann Elementary. They have embraced STEM education and PLTW has given our students access to 21st Century learning. This program promotes learning and problem solving skills which enable our students to become competitive in an ever-changing global market."

Sedalia School District 200

Courtney Davis, literacy coach at Horace Mann and PLTW certified trainer, is the driving force behind Horace Mann piloting PLTW Launch in the Sedalia 200 district. She said two programs have stood out, coding and engineering. Coding “was a new concept to our students when we first started, but they have really taken a great interest in it. Students become completely engaged in the programs they are creating and at the same time working on problem solving and critical thinking,” Davis said.

Students in all grades at Horace Mann (K-4) are immersed in activities, projects and problems around the engineering design process.

“They are able to be creative and collaborate with their peers to create and test models to solve real-world, authentic problems,” Davis said. “Students solve problems such as preventing mud slides in second grade to engineering seatbelt safety restraints in fourth grade."

Horace Mann’s teachers enjoy watching their students meet the challenges posed by STEM lessons.

“They have seen the students take on their own learning through the activities,” Davis said. “The teachers like that their students can be creative and many times the students come up with solutions to problems that we never would have thought of."

PLTW activities allow students to do hands-on work, work in groups and explore solutions to problems, and “all the solutions can be different,” Davis said. “The students also like using the technology that is incorporated. They use the iPads to look at 3D images they will be building and use a variety of apps that are enriching the topic they are learning."

Fraley, who helped establish PLTW programs at Smith-Cotton High when he was an assistant principal at the school, said Davis’s passion for PLTW has been integral to the success at Horace Mann and the Distinguished Launch School recognition.

Fraley said Davis “quickly volunteered for summer training and dove head-first into learning how to facilitate the program. Mrs. Davis’s enthusiasm resulted in her becoming a PLTW certified trainer and she brought that expertise back to the teachers and students at Horace Mann. Our teachers were quick to support and initiate the program in their classes and the students became instantly engaged."

Because of Davis’s efforts, “Each one of Sedalia’s students in every school now has the opportunity to access the PLTW program,” Fraley said.

For Davis, the most exciting part of implementing Project Lead the Way programs is the level of excitement she sees from students.

“I have had many students come up to me in the hallway the last three years and ask me when their next module is going to be and what they will be doing,” Davis said. “That is extremely rewarding and speaks volumes about the program and our teachers. If the kids are excited about learning that is all we can hope for."

In the photo: Dana Weathers, a second grade student at Horace Mann Elementary School, works on the Google Earth app locating continents, oceans and lakes during a Project Lead the Way “The Changing Earth” module. Horace Mann has been recognized as a PLTW Distinguished Launch School.