August 07, 2015, BY Christina Masciere Wallace

More than 80 teachers traveled to Bucknell in July to attend professional development training for Project Lead the Way, the nation's leading provider of STEM curricula for K-12 students.

"Project Lead the Way (PLTW) is about solving authentic problems through hands-on, experiential learning based on pedagogical best practices. There are no textbooks for these courses," said Professor Erin Jablonski, chemical engineering, PLTW's affiliate director for Pennsylvania. "It helps students develop many of the skills they will need to succeed in undergraduate engineering programs."  

Bucknell is the official university affiliate for PLTW in Pennsylvania. In this role, it hosts annual curriculum training classes for high school, middle school and elementary school teachers who wish to become certified to teach specific PLTW classes in their home districts. The University provides equipped instructional facilities, while PLTW master teachers conduct the classes.

In addition to facilitating the summer sessions, which grew from two last year to eight this summer, Jablonski certifies teachers who complete training and visits schools to certify their PLTW programs.  

PLTW began in 1997 with a couple of engineering classes in 12 schools in upstate New York. Today it serves more than a million students in 8,000 schools located in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. High schoolers may study programs in engineering, biomedical science and computer science. As an engineering program university affiliate, Bucknell hosts core training for the high school engineering courses, middle school foundation courses and Launch, PLTW's new initiative to introduce STEM concepts to K-5 students through hands-on projects.

High school students who complete PLTW courses and pass assessment tests may be able to earn college credit or scholarships for their efforts. The organization recently entered a national partnership with the College Board and the Advanced Placement (AP) program to develop a system of recognition for students who have taken a certain amount of PTLW and AP coursework.  

"Studies show that Project Lead the Way students are better prepared for STEM careers than their peers," said Jablonski. "Our partnership is a great opportunity to promote high-quality engineering education throughout the state and help Bucknell develop relationships with school districts that have embraced an engaging, cost-effective resource."