The Verizon Foundation is focused on improving student engagement and achievement in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). We see the use of technology—when paired with professional development for teachers—as a powerful way to accelerate learning.
The Foundation awarded $20,000 Innovate Learning Grants to help schools advance STEM instruction and learning, paired with the effective use of technology.
Three Milwaukee-area schools received the grant in 2014, including Bruce-Guadalupe Community School. This is their story.
Leading the way
Bruce-Guadalupe Community School (BGCS), located in Milwaukee’s Walker’s Point neighborhood, incorporates programs from Project Lead the Way (PLTW). PLTW is the nation's STEM solution, and it’s found in more than 6,500 schools across the United States. PLTW’s Gateway to Technology (GTT) program serves 267 BGCS students in grades 6-8.
Instead of being passive recipients of information in a question-and-answer environment, PLTW programs allow students to lead their own learning and find unique solutions through project-based education.
Since they are able to envision, design and test their ideas with the same advanced modeling software used by companies like Lockheed Martin and Intel, the skills and knowledge students gain provide a strong foundation for further STEM learning in high school and beyond.
Students at Bruce-Guadalupe Community School learn STEM concepts by being Medical Detectives.
Solving medical mysteries in the classroom
Bruce-Guadalupe Community School currently implements PLTW Gateway units in Design & Modeling, Science & Technology, Energy & the Environment and Medical Detectives.
In the Medical Detectives unit, students play the role of real-life medical detectives as they analyze genetic testing results to diagnose disease and study DNA evidence found at a “crime scene.” They solve medical mysteries through hands-on projects and labs, investigate how to measure and interpret vital signs and learn how the systems of the human body work together to maintain health.
BGCS plans to use the funds from the Innovate Learning Grant to expand their PLTW Gateway program, adding units in Robotics & Green Architecture and Automation.
Students enjoy the opportunity to take part in interactive learning.
Hands-on projects lead to real-world aspirations
According to Adam Reynolds, PLTW instructor at BGCS, the program has had a big effect on the students’ education – helping many decide what they want to do for a career down the road.
“When asked to share how they feel about the program, students were very eager to provide their thoughts,” Reynolds said. “It’s a great feeling to know that so many of our students’ lives have been impacted by the curriculum.”
“This class is one of the best, because you never stop learning new things,” said an eighth grader named Xaynesis. “Because of my experience with Project Lead the Way, I plan on becoming a veterinarian or a doctor in the future.”
“This class has positively impacted me and has given me a good idea of what I want to become as I go on to high school, college and eventually my career,” said Sergio, another eighth grader.
“No other class or program makes you think as hard as Project Lead the Way, and that’s why I love it,” said eighth grader Juan. “I am now more motivated to go into the engineering field, because I know there will be a job waiting for me in the world.”
“Project Lead the Way has impacted me so much,” said Maria, an eighth grader who will be the first of her siblings to graduate. “I’m thankful to have had this experience at such an early age because I now have an advantage that other kids might not have.”
Bruce-Guadalupe Community School operates within the United Community Center through a partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Included in the charter is Bruce-Guadalupe Elementary School (K4 through 4th grade) and Bruce-Guadalupe Middle School (grades 5-8). The United Community Center also offers an Early Childhood Education Program for 3-year-olds to prepare them early for academic success. More than half of the students in each graduating class at BGCS have gone on to private high schools.
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