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Leading the way
New curriculum lets students 'do' science
Elementary teachers Stephanie Stephens, Jefferson School, and Amy Stein, Lincoln School, fill science kits for teaching the new Project Lead the Way curriculum.

Great Bend USD 428 is leading the way with its new K-6 science curriculum and all indications that students are willingly following.

“Project Lead the Way is a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) curriculum in that it is very project based on those four disciplines,” said Tricia Reiser, director of teaching and learning. 

“For the past two years, our district has been studying possible K-6 science curriculum choices,” Reiser said. “Last school year we chose to pilot both Project Lead the Way and Dimensions.” 

Nine teachers piloted the curriculums including Meagan Henry, Linda Basye, Mandy Stansfield, Matt Rorabaugh, Kacie Kilgore, Amy Karst, Anna Freund, Signe Cook and Jessica Geist.  

“In January we had lengthy conversations about which program we should adopt and about our philosophy of what science instruction should look like,” she said.

“The question was, do we want our students to ‘read’ about science or do we want our students to ‘do’ science? The students who we polled were overly enthusiastic about Project Lead the Way and the teachers indicated that our students were more engaged with the PLTW curriculum. 

“The PLTW curriculum is a shift in instruction,” Reiser said. “It is different from how we have taught science in the past. Students work in teams and technology is an important part of the curriculum. The curriculum meshes engineering and science concepts, as well. 

“The teachers are required to participate in 16 hours of professional development prior to having access to the curriculum,” she said. “The pilot teachers have attended extensive training and have been our district trainers as we implement PLTW.  

“The technology coaches at each of the buildings, as well as the pilot teachers, will continue to serve as resources and help as the classroom teachers teach science,” she said.

Reiser gave a nod to Amber Lucessi at Great Bend Middle School and Jake Hofflinger at Great Bend High School for their help with the program. 

“The short-term goal of PLTW is to delve into the curriculum and learn with the students along the way,” Reiser said, “Each grade level will use two PLTW modules. As we become more familiar with the curriculum, we anticipate adding more modules at each grade level.

“The long-term goal is that our students improve their 21st Century job market skills of collaboration, teamwork, creativity, problem solving and critical thinking,” she said.