Pathways courses to teach needed skills

BOWLING GREEN—Starting this fall, the Bowling Green R-I school system is incorporating a new program that is meant to foster greater understanding of the skills they will need when they graduate.

The new program comes in three stages, with the earliest starting in elementary school. That is the launch program said Kim Luebrecht, who will be teaching the high school level program, better known as computer science.

According to the Project Lead The Way literature on the program, the launch taps into “students’ exploratory nature, engages them in learning that feels like play and encourages them to keep learning.”

The middle school part of the program illuminates the range of paths students can look forward to in high school and beyond.

Luebrecht said she had just finished a two-week class on how to teach the computer science version of the program. Even though she’s never done computer programming or coding, she said the course was enlightening.

“It will be a good opportunity for the kids,” she said. Although students are going to first encounter the various programs in all three schools, Luebrecht said they are designed so that those in high school and middle school would benefit from the program without having taken the program courses in earlier grades.

“Those coming up now, will be better prepared for the high school element,” she said, “but it doesn’t matter. (Current high school students) can still hit the ground running with the computer science part.”

With Project Lead The Way, she noted, there are grant opportunities that the school can tap into in order to buy the hardware and software to teach these programs.

“They are reconfiguring my classroom this summer,” she said. “We’ll be utilizing Android tablets and self-driving vehicles to incorporate into the computer science program.”

She said it should be extremely interesting for the students, as well as her.

“It’s just amazing the things we’re going to be doing,” Luebrecht said. The students would be creating apps and working on other online projects.

For elementary and middle school students, the classes are part of the curriculum. At the high school level, the computer science classes are considered electives, so students have to sign up for it.

Amy Becker is slated to teach the middle school version of the program. She said she’s going to training for a week in July. Luebrecht said the elementary school teacher gets a two-day course. These classes are paid for using grant money from PLTW. These grants coincide with Perkins money that helps purchase technology for students’ greater learning experience.

“There are certain qualifications you have to meet for that money,” she said. And sometimes it’s a matching grant.

“The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins IV) is a principal source of federal funding to states.”

Currently, Luebrecht said, there are 20 students signed up for the high school portion of the program.

With this program, she added, the school system is trying to increase the amount of females interested in computer careers.

At the middle school level, Becker said, the students will be doing design and modeling on the computer.

“The kids learn how to design and model a prototype for a child with cerebral palsy—an instrument that will help them pick up things,” she said.

Her training starts July 13, so she said she’s eager to learn how it all fits together.

“The good thing about Project Lead The Way,” she said, “is it’s transferrable to any school district.” The certification goes with the teacher not just the school district.

She said she chose to do the design and modeling aspect of the program because it provides the basics to the parts of the program.

“My goal for next year, hopefully, is to have the same students in the class and then add another course,” she said.

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