Major initiative will bring pre-engineering to Perham schools
Sweeping changes are on the horizon for the Perham-Dent school district--all aimed at keeping up with a fast-paced world. More than 200 learned about a major local education initiative March 31, at the annual 549 Family Foundation Gala. "The worl...
Sweeping changes are on the horizon for the Perham-Dent school district--all aimed at keeping up with a fast-paced world.
More than 200 learned about a major local education initiative March 31, at the annual 549 Family Foundation Gala.
"The world is shifting right in front of us...and we need to educate students for their future--not our past," said Superintendent Tamara Uselman, repeating a statement that has become something of a "battle cry" for administration, staff and the school board.
To keep up with the "explosion in science and technology," Uselman announced plans to adopt "Project Lead the Way," a broad curriculum that emphasizes math and engineering in the classroom.
"Forging new generations of engineers" is the mission of "Project Lead the Way," and the Perham schools will be among more than 2,000 schools in 46 states that have adopted the new educational approach.
PLTW is a non profit organization that helps schools give students the knowledge to excel in high-tech fields. This "pre-engineering" curriculum is introduced in the fifth grade classrooms, and continues through the senior year.
"We don't expect 80 percent of our students to go into engineering--but we want to educate them well enough to make the career choice that is right for them," said Uselman.
"Crisis" is how guest speaker Mike Lehn described the situation in the U.S., where 50 percent of our engineers today are on the verge of retirement.
To keep pace with the world, the U.S. will need 15 million engineers by the year 2020--precisely when nearly all baby boomers will be retired, said Lehn, a spokesperson for "Project Lead the Way."
In highly populated India and China, there are as many honor students in school as the entire number of students in U.S. schools. In fact, within one generation, China is expected to become the largest English-speaking nation in the world.
"There are 1.3 million engineering jobs available today--with nobody to fill them," said Lehn.
Futurists are concerned that the U.S. will "slide into the status of a third world country," added Lehn.
PLTW will be introduced this fall into the Perham-Dent schools. Among the components:
----A two week "boot camp" to train teachers.
----In the fifth grade, Perham kids will have nine week units on design, electronics, science-tech, robotics, flight and space.
----In the high school years, the material will intensify with civil engineering, architecture, bio-technology and aerospace education.
----By senior year, some students may actually be working with an engineering or technology firm.
Details and cost of the program are still a work in progress. But grants and partnerships with the private sector are key to implementing "Project Lead the Way." Minnesota is one of five states targeted for the largest investment of PLTW grants, according to Lehn--which should bode well for Perham.