New curriculum creates thinkers at Carver Elementary

Posted: Wednesday, November 4, 2015 7:55 pm

BY MELISSA ROLLINS Morning News This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

FLORENCE, S.C. – Wednesday morning, Stefanie Dorsey’s student architects were making plans to build a house. Separated into pairs, the students were trying to figure out the best way to build their houses using the supplied materials: “straw,” “sticks,” “bricks” and…glue.

The venture was just an average day for the Carver Elementary School kindergarten class, using the Project Lead the Way curriculum for the first time.

Project Lead the Way is a national movement, using project-based learning to incorporate science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) into more classroom lessons.  Dorsey, who has been teaching for more than two decades, said that the new school year has been exciting with Project Lead the Way.  “I really love what we are doing with Project Lead the Way,” Dorsey said. “What happens is that vocabulary gets instilled in them. I’ve already started telling them, ‘You know what? You could grow up to be an engineer,’ and it gets them thinking that there is a future out there for them; things that they could do, things that they like.”

Tuesday and Wednesday, the students were reading “The Three Little Pigs.” Dorsey said the project lesson plan used the book in a completely different way than she has used it previously.

“I would never have used it for science,” Dorsey said. “I would have used it for language arts, talking about retelling a story in order; there are some math concepts but I would never have thought to use it for science. I love that this curriculum takes this book and puts a twist on it.”  Dorsey’s students had to sketch a design for their house. Once the partners had decided on a design, they had to use either toothpicks (straw), Popsicle sticks (sticks) or small blocks (bricks), along with some clay and glue, to hold the structure together.

Today, after the houses have had time to dry, they will be stuck in front of the wolf (a fan) to see if he can blow it over. The students will then have to sketch a picture of what their house looked like when the wolf was done with it.  Of course, because they are reading a book, language arts is incorporated even when working on a science project.

“We are using words like ‘function’ and ‘structure,’” Dorsey said. “When I first read the lesson, I was like, ‘This is for kindergarten?,’ but the kids remembered what we talked about yesterday. They knew what I meant when I asked what the function of a chair is. When they go into first grade next year, when they hear those same words, they are going to remember this. It could be the hardest thing they did that didn’t work out, but they are going to remember what the function of the house was.”

The PLTW curriculum lets students work together, Dorsey said, which can lead to them sharing knowledge.  “We were using blocks yesterday, and one of the students said he was building a museum,” Dorsey said. “One of the other students in his group asked what a museum was. Well, the first student said that it is where you put old cars and other old things. I didn’t have to teach him that. It was something he knew, and now he was teaching the other student. I went over and was able to ask them about what the function of a museum is.”

Carver Principal Chris Rogers said he is eager to see the results of the new curriculum as the year progresses.  “It is incredible, seeing all of the learning going on but also the excitement,” Rogers said. “We are looking forward to seeing these kids next year, doing it in first grade and then second, just getting better and better each year.”  As a former teacher himself, Rogers said , it is great to see students are learning so many different concepts early on.  “This is really beneficial to our school because it helps the students become thinkers,” Rogers said. “It isn’t just ‘here is a lesson’ and ‘here is the answer.’ They do it themselves. By the time they get to high school, there will be so much that they have been exposed to.

“Project Lead the Way is teaching them all that they can be whatever they want to be. We want to be able to open doors for everybody, and that is what we have been able to do with this.”

Carver, along with Briggs and Greenwood Elementary Schools, received a grant earlier this year from The School Foundation to help them launch Project Lead the Way in Florence One at the elementary school level. A grant from Verizon allowed Delmae to also take part in the effort.

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