Sedalia School District 200 was honored for its commitment to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education on Sunday, Nov. 5, at the Missouri Project Lead The Way banquet in Blue Springs.

Sedalia School District 200

The district was recognized as one of just 45 statewide that provide 100 percent student access to Project Lead The Way curriculum. The district has extended STEM education into its elementary schools to expose younger learners to the concepts of critical thinking and problem solving.

“Being a K-12 STEM district allows our students at a young age to begin to experience these rich learning environments,” said Carla Wheeler, Sedalia 200 Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment. “They begin by exploring phenomena and asking questions and writing about what they are doing. They are steeped in collaboration with other students and end in applying what they have learned in a new situation with a new project -based problem to solve. Students seem to love the experiences and are excited and learning more than ever."

Michael Wright, engineering teacher at Smith-Cotton High School, already has seen positive impacts for students in the expansion of STEM opportunities.

“By having students participating in PLTW at the junior high the past couple of years, we have seen a tremendous improvement in the knowledge and work ethic of the students entering high school,” Wright said. “Taking a PLTW Gateway class at the junior high prepares the students for the creative thinking and problem solving abilities that they will need to apply at the high school. When these students come to the high school, they have already been exposed to the design process and some of the technology that we use. "

The banquet included recognition of the state’s 46 PLTW Master Teachers, including Horace Mann Elementary Instructional Coach Courtney Davis, who is a PLTW Launch Lead teacher. She believes this training is helping her have a positive impact on more students.

“Becoming a Master Teacher for PLTW has helped me more fully understand the impact that STEM education and Project Lead the Way can have on our students,” Davis said. “Innovation and Engineering is a proven and effective path for students to become better problem solvers and critical thinkers. By becoming a Master Teacher, I have received extensive training and support directly from PLTW. Because of this training, I am able to share my passion and knowledge of PLTW with teachers not only in Sedalia 200, but teachers across the country."

Wright’s students are helping enhance the efforts of Davis and other STEM teachers at sub-high school levels by partnering with the different schools and allowing high school students to mentor younger learners. This year, the high school engineering students are working with REACH students at Sedalia Middle School.

Sedalia 200 is investing more in STEM because the jobs of tomorrow will require the skills that education provides. According to David Langdon and the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Economics and Statistics: “By 2018, jobs in STEM fields are expected to grow at a rate nearly double those of other fields – 17 percent versus 9.8 percent. An estimated 1.2 million STEM jobs will go unfilled because the workforce will not possess the skills to fill them."

Wheeler said that along with STEM knowledge, “additional skills that are in high demand are problem-solving, critical thinking, communication and collaboration. These skills are real world work skills, no matter the type of work you are doing. The goal of Project Lead The Way is to emulate this type of hands-on real-life experience through project-based learning."

The PLTW philosophy is that the earlier students can see subjects applied in a real-world work environment, the more serious they will become about their studies and achieving their goals. Wheeler said that for one student, PLTW was the first time math started to make sense. He picked up tools and applied math in completing a project; through that, math concepts became clear.

While STEM education at the secondary level began years earlier, the districtwide effort started in the 2015-16 school year, after Horace Mann Principal Dr. Todd Fraley asked to pilot an elementary-level STEM program.

“I knew our district’s students would benefit from the growing area of STEM education,” Fraley said. “With our workforce and technological needs growing at a rapid pace, our students needed the same opportunities as so many other students across our country and the world. Already having a PLTW program at the high school, the right choice involved expanding the district’s vision to a K-12 PLTW school district.”
Through the pilot’s success, STEM was taken districtwide.

“What we saw was engagement in education increase,” said Sedalia 200 Superintendent Brad Polllitt. “Kids were excited for days and times they had STEM, they were excited for learning. We saw that pretty quickly."

Coming up in May, the district will host a Sedalia STEM Showcase that will allow students from kindergarten through Grade 12 to showcase their projects to their families and the community.
In the photos:

PLTW: Sedalia School District 200 Project Lead The Way teachers and administrators display the banner the district received acknowledging that it provides 100 percent student access to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education.

RICHARDSON: Horace Mann Elementary kindergarten teacher Angie Richardson works with her students on computer coding as part of a Project Lead The Way lesson. The Sedalia 200 district has extended STEM education to all grade levels.

UCM: Smith-Cotton student Will Hooton tries out Envisioneer Virtual Reality, where he was able to walk through a digital 3D design of a house, during an April field trip to the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg for the American Institute of Building Design: Design and Build Day.

Sedalia School District 200
Sedalia School District 200