On Monday morning some community members got a peek at what goes on inside the engineering classes at Zavala Elementary, as students showed off their knowledge and skills, and the school district thanked Chevron for making it possible.
In August Zavala Elementary became the home to Project Lead the Way Launch, an engineering curriculum for elementary-aged students. It was launched at Zavala thanks to the generous support of Chevron.
“A grant from Chevron meant $150,000 for ECISD again this year,” said ECISD Career & Technical Education executive director Carla Byrne. “Of that, $63,000 was earmarked specifically for Project Lead the Way engineering, and we used it to start Launch here at Zavala.”
Project Lead the Way is a nonprofit organization and the nation’s leading provider of K-12 STEM programs. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math. It provides world-class curriculum and high-quality teacher professional development. The middle school curriculum and classes go by the name of Gateway to Technology, and the elementary program is Project Lead the Way Launch.
Zavala Elementary principal Amanda Warber said all students at the school, kindergarten through 5th grade, are involved in Launch engineering classes. All of them pose age-appropriate problems for kids to study and solve, and all are aligned with the mandated Texas Essential Knowledge & Skills (TEKS).
“Chevron has done so much to help grow our science program year after year,” said Ashley Bryant, ECISD science coordinator. “They truly recognize how important science education is.”
Zavala’s 2nd-graders are currently observing the sun, moon and stars. They are working to solve a problem for three students from a story who need some relief from the hot sun on the playground during recess. They have been studying the movements of the sun and its position during different times of the day in order to know where effective shade structures could be placed. The Zavala students are the engineers working on the project, and using iPads have taken pictures and collected data for weeks. They are now studying the shadow patterns to predict where they will fall when the kids in the story are at recess.
In ECISD Project Lead the Way courses are offered at Odessa High School and Permian High School, Gateway to Technology is offered at Wilson & Young Middle School and Ector Middle School, and Project Lead the Way Launch at Zavala Elementary, the school district’s childhood engineering magnet school.
A United States Department of Congress report states that by 2018 STEM-related jobs in the US will grow by 17%, nearly double that of non-STEM fields. The same report projects about 1.2 million unfilled STEM-related jobs due to lack of qualified, trained professionals. The problem-solving, critical thinking, and real-world application of learning through PLTW helps prepare kids for those types of jobs.