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Getting youth ready for science careers

Sophomore students Destiny Smith, left, and Darby McCloud, right, review the differences between male and female pelvic bones during an open house evening for Project Lead the Way.

Sophomore students Destiny Smith, left, and Darby McCloud, right, review the differences between male and female pelvic bones during an open house evening for Project Lead the Way.

CHESAPEAKE — For some students, getting a job in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) field is a dream of theirs.

Project Lead The Way (PLTW), a non-profit organization that operates in more than 4,000 schools nationwide including Chesapeake, Dawson-Bryant, Ironton, Rock Hill and South Point schools in Lawrence County, helps students achieve that success.

A group of prospective students and their parents met at Chesapeake High School Wednesday evening to learn more about the program and see if it would be of their interest.

“It’s a national curriculum to help students as they get ready to go on to college,” Matt Monteville, supervisor for Lawrence County PLTW satellite programs, said to the group. “It helps kids get into STEM fields and get jobs by giving them hands-on project-based classes. It’s not just teaching out of a regular textbook, but taking what they learn in the classroom and making it relevant.”

In Lawrence County, PLTW is conducted by the Collins Career Center and is introduced in the eighth grade with the PLTW Gateway course. That gives students experiences in learning an engineering and biomedical science curriculum. When PLTW students get to high school, they can choose between two paths: PLTW Engineering and PLTW Biomedical Science.

PLTW Engineering is about applying engineering, science, math and technology to solve complex, open-ended problems in a real-world context.

PLTW Biomedical Science provides students with case-based scenarios as they explore a range of careers in biomedical sciences.

“It starts in eighth grade and goes all the way through their senior year,” Monteville said. “They learn to find solutions to real world problems.”

PLTW consultant Gary Salyer has been with PLTW for the past 10 years.

“STEM field jobs want you to be student educated in the best possible way,” he said. “Project Lead the Way can be a tunnel for their success.”

Salyer takes great pride in making PLTW students aware of the opportunities that are out there, he said.

PLTW classes are elective courses that students interested can choose to be a part of.

“It’s a class where they come in and get a problem,” Monteville said. “But there can be many different solutions depending on how they want to go about it.”

Getting students as ready as possible for STEM field jobs is the main goal of PLTW.

“We teach critical thinking,” Salyer said. “Just like they have to do on the job.”

Following the meeting, the group of students and parents went to a different room where current PLTW students had different projects set up.

“Project Lead the Way gets people ready for the real world with more hands-on activities,” Destiny Smith, Chesapeake High School PLTW sophomore, said. Smith is in the PLTW Biomedical Science program and wants to be an anthesiologist or a nurse, she said.