APS brings success high school program to elementary level

News Photo by Julie Goldberg Left to right, Tony Parris, Ben Brock and Aidan Krueger work on their Chromebooks and learning about energy during Project Lead The Way at Lincoln Elementary School in Alpena on Thursday.

ALPENA — Project Lead The Way is a program that has been taught at the high school level for many years and now is being taught to fourth-graders at the elementary schools in Alpena.

“Superintendent John VanWagoner was familiar with PLTW at the elementary school level and decided to implement it,” teacher Elly Diamond said. “It was through a generous grant from the Besser Foundation that allowed us to purchase the materials necessary.”

The grant also allows to train teachers for the program and allows Diamond to go to all six elementary schools and meet with all the fourth grade teachers.

“The fourth-graders are the pilot grade this year that we are starting with,” Diamond said. “I have the great fortune to come into the schools two days a week.”

Diamond is working with three of the schools for 10 weeks and then going to the other three schools and working 10 weeks with them.

“What we are doing is introducing them to a hands-on science learning approach in addition to what they are already doing in the classroom,” Diamond said. “The idea is that we can get kids started by teaching them how to be creative and innovative thinkers.”

The fourth grade students are studying the unit of energy. Diamond starting the unit by strapping a raw egg on the front of a car and sending it down a ramp and when the car crashed, the egg broke.

“Their goal in this unit is to study energy, collisions, and figure out how to design a car that can transport a raw egg safely,” Diamond said. “That’s the big picture at the end.”

The students are going to read articles on Chromebooks where they are gathering facts, do some design work, learn about kinetic and potential energy, the general definition of energy, and forces.

“We teach them the design process, where they start by asking a question and figure out the problem that we want to accomplish,” Diamond said. “We go through all sorts of stages as we teach them how to solve problems.”

Diamond said APS will teach the students about teamwork, how to brainstorm, and think outside of the box along with the unit that they are learning about.

“It’s not learning about engineering or learning about a particular scientific concept, it’s really about learning how to think,” Diamond said. “I want them to think like an engineer and a scientist.”

Diamond said the units usually take about 10 hours to teach the students, but they are taking 20 hours to teach the students. The students have to learn how to log onto their Chromebooks and log onto the online software they are using. Diamond also wants the students and teachers to get to know her.

“It’s a long process to get to the end result,” Diamond said. “I want the students to understand that there are many ways to solve a problem. We have the luxury to take this at an appropriate rate for the age group.”

Julie Goldberg can be reached via email at jgoldberg@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5688.