Washington Evening Journal
http://washington-ia.villagesoup.com/p/1015247

Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 25, 2014

Middle School receives national honor for technology

By Xiomara Levsen | Jun 13, 2013
Erik Murphy helped to create an automated robot in Dave McLaughlin’s Automation Robotics Class, which is offered at the middle school as part of the Project Lead The Way (PLTW) and Gateway To Technology (GTT) programs.

Washington Middle School has received national recognition for the first time from Project Lead The Way (PLTW) for the school’s Gateway To Technology (GTT) program.
PLTW is a national program that schools can participate in voluntarily. It is the leading provider of rigorous and innovative Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education curriculum programs used in middle and high schools across the United States, the PLTW Web site said.
To qualify for the award a self-assessment was done with everyone who was involved in the program, including teachers, administrators and community partners, said Washington Middle School principal Curt Mayer. He wasn’t sure how the self-assessment would turn out.
“Some of the assessment was really tough,” he said. “There were some things you were rating on a scale and we were rating things pretty low because we weren’t quite there with counselor and administrator training.”
Despite not having all the training in place, Mayer said, the school decided to go ahead with applying for the award this year. They hadn’t done it before for a couple of reasons.
“We wanted to get things implemented and get the schedule so that all kids were being able to participate,” Mayer said. “We’re just excited to say that we’re on the right track.”
This is the third year for the program at the school, Mayer said. For the first three years seventh- and-eighth-grade students were able to participate by taking animation and robotics courses.    
One of the projects from the robotics course in the 2012-13 school year was building an elevator, Mayer said. He remembers one student having a pulley system for the elevator that actually moved it up and down.
Offering these courses at the middle school-level helps get students interested in technology and science, Mayer said.
“Allowing all kids an opportunity to take those classes while they go through the middle school really prepares them and strengthens the Project Lead the Way program at the high school, which is what we’re trying to do,” Mayer said.
At the beginning of the 2013-14 school year the program will expand to include the sixth grade. There will be an energy and environment course offered to those students, Mayer said.
Washington Community School District (WCSD) superintendent Dr. Mike Jorgensen was happy to hear about the recognition.
“I think that’s cool,” Jorgensen said. “We’ve been working really hard to offer the STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] classes.”
Since the STEM classes first began at the middle school, Jorgensen said open enrollment and female participation has increased. The district is beginning to offer STEM programs at the elementary schools like the Lego League, too.
Both Mayer and Jorgensen said they would like to see the program expand further with more business partners in the community.
As part of the recognition, there will be a banner given to the middle school. Mayer isn’t sure where it will be hung yet, but he knows it will be in a place where everyone can see the school’s achievement.


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