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WDC junior Ryan Jahnke works on a computer-aided design (CAD) program in Mike Shrode's technology class. The CAD class is one of the upper-level courses offered by Shrode, engineering and technology instructor at WDC High School. The Project Lead The Way grant will allow middle-school students to receive STEM classes, beginning fall 2012.

WDC receives grant to implement nation's leading STEM education curriculum

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Wadena-Deer Creek Middle School recently received a $20,000 grant from Project Lead The Way (PLTW), the nation's leading provider of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) curriculum, a press release sent to the Pioneer Journal said.

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Funds from the grant will support the implementation of the PLTW engineering curriculum for WDC students in grades 7 and 8, including the purchase of materials and equipment that will be used in the hands-on, project-based classes that are a distinguishing characteristic of PLTC's curriculum.

Beginning with the 2012-13 school year, WDC will offer PLTW's Gateway to Technology (GTT) program, a program that engages the natural curiosity and imagination of middle-school students, while introducing them to engineering, robotics, computer modeling and energy. The curriculum is designed to give students a solid foundation for further STEM learning in high school and beyond.

The PLTW grant application process is highly competitive for schools, according to the press release. To receive a grant,Tyler Church, high school counselor Toni Kraska, engineering and technology teacher Mike Shrode and Superintendent Virginia Dahlstrom went through a rigorous application process, which included demonstrating that WDC met specific requirements and eligibility criteria to be awarded grant funds. The requirements included district and community support, contractual agreements, teacher professional development, technology acquisitions and many others.

Shrode is excited to introduce the GTT offerings to students, who he said are eager to delve into the technology-driven classes. This summer, Shrode will be attending training to teach three areas of the middle-school engineering program, which will include:

Automation and Robotics

This is where students trace the history, development and influence of automation and robotics. They learn about mechanical systems, energy transfer, machine automation and computer control systems, and also use a robotics platform to design, build and program a solution to solve an existing problem.

Design and Modeling

In this unit, students begin to recognize the value of an engineering notebook to document and capture their ideas. They are introduced to and use the design process to solve problems and understand the influence that creative and innovative design has on life. Students use industry standard 3D modeling software to create a virtual image of their designs and produce a portfolio to showcase their creative solutions.

Energy and the Environment

Students investigate the impact of energy on life and the environment. They design and model alternative energy sources and participate in an energy expo to demonstrate energy concepts and innovative ideas. Students also evaluate ways to reduce energy consumption through energy-efficiency and sustainability.

In addition, WDC plans to implement additional STEM classes in grades 9-12, according to the release. Shrode will be teaching an engineering class that is still in the planning stages. It will be funded by a grant as well. In the meantime, Shrode is not wasting any time, as he plans on incorporating higher-level problem-solving activities, related to engineering design and processes, when the 2012-13 school year begins.

Furthermore, WDC will roll out its integrated technology initiative this fall, which will include students and teachers in grades 5-12 receiving iPads to use in their classrooms. The referendum passed by voters in 2009 is making a big impact on carrying out the integrated technology program for the 2012-13 school year.

WDC School Board Chairman Steve Techam said the school board strongly supports the integrated technology program because the school district should provide its students with the tools necessary to succeed in the classroom.

"We, as a board, feel it's necessary to teach and prepare our students," said Techam. "Whether it be STEM classes or learning how to use technology, students are going to be dealing with it in school, college and eventually, the workforce."

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