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PLTW Visits Grenada to Celebrate Impact
GSD Communicator

Grenada School District (GSD) celebrated recent achievements in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education at a special event on Feb. 20. The occasion centered around the publication of “Launching a STEM Story for Every Student,” a profile of Grenada’s implementation of Project Lead the Way (PLTW) curriculum in grades PreK through 12. 

GSD was the first district in Mississippi to establish this program top to bottom in all grades, PreK through 12, and the district’s success story was shared and discussed with members of PLTW, local industry, and community leaders.

Grenada School District (GSD) celebrated recent achievements in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education at a special event on Feb. 20. The occasion centered around the publication of “Launching a STEM Story for Every Student,” a profile of Grenada’s implementation of Project Lead the Way (PLTW) curriculum in grades PreK through 12. 

GSD was the first district in Mississippi to establish this program top to bottom in all grades, PreK through 12, and the district’s success story was shared and discussed with members of PLTW, local industry, and community leaders.

The event began with remarks from PLTW representative Sylvia Huff, Senior Vice President of Research, who presented an overview of the company’s impact profile which used Grenada’s case study to illustrate the program’s success. (Read more about the PLTW profile on page 3).

“One of the key takeaways is that, intentionally exposing students to STEM opportunities as early as possible results in a plethora of opportunities later in life,” Huff said. “You don’t have to wait until graduation to see those impacts. One of the most eye-opening pieces that my team was able to glean from the information collected was that even when students get into middle school, they’re already speaking about their elementary experiences and how that has impacted and prepared them for their middle school courses … Project Lead the Way and otherwise.”

Katie Minihan, PLTW’s Executive Vice President and Chief Impact Officer, said the company’s impact profiles present the most powerful stories about how their curricula is used in education throughout the country and that Grenada’s story will help other districts maximize their potential. Presenting a plaque to GSD Superintendent Dr. David Daigneault, Minihan said, “Thank you for all you do for students, [and] thank you for letting us partner with you to do that.”

Daigneault accepted the plaque and spoke about how PLTW curricula has impacted not only scores as Grenada but teaching methods as well. “The techniques that we use in those (PLTW) classes have driven what happens in most of our other classes,” he said.

Chris Hinton, Community Development Manager for Entergy, spoke as one of the district’s industry partners. Hinton said Entergy was a big supporter of PLTW because the critical-thinking, problem-solving, and team-building skills at its core are exactly what his company is looking for when they hire new workers. 

“I’ve had the opportunity to tour the (Grenada) schools,” Hinton said. “What I witnessed was absolutely amazing, just to see the expression on young people’s faces as they’re figuring out things, to see them in groups working together.”

Hinton said Entergy has supported PLTW and Grenada through funding for specialized teacher training for many years and will continue to support it. “The success is proven,” he said. “We’ve seen it.”

Wendy Clemons, Associate Superintendent of Secondary Education and Career and Technical Education for the Mississippi Department of Education, applauded the large number of females represented in the PLTW students who were present. She credited PLTW classes at the early grade levels for exposing “non-traditional” STEM students to subjects they didn’t know existed.

“Our kids can only be what we show them,” Clemons said. “And if we don’t show them the opportunities that exist, they won’t know. And so, Grenada, keep doing that. Keep partnering with your community. Keep showing our children what those possibilities are, particularly our non-traditional students. Because everybody deserves to know what opportunities exist out there for them, and then they need to be equipped to reach those.”

Two GHS alumni from the Class of 2018 rounded out the panel. Sydnie Clemons Dickson spoke about being the only girl among 16 boys in the first PLTW engineering class. Concepts such as electrical wiring and building implements were foreign to her, but in time she learned to make the best of what she had and learned the value of meticulous attention to detail. Following a class field trip to local factory Novipax, she participated in summer internships four years in a row and was offered the chance to put her problem-solving skills to work in a full-time position as Corporate Continuous Improvement Specialist. Today, she helps increase productivity at Novipax by improving efficiency among departments.

Charles Pheng took an early biomedical class at GHS, but his interest diverted to engineering when he attended Mississippi State. After graduating in aerospace, he’s now earning his master’s degree at the University of Tennessee Space Institute, researching “stuff going four times the speed of sound.” He said the lab set-ups and scientific method he learned at GHS still applies to his work today.

After the speakers’ remarks, attendees were divided into groups and toured three different PLTW labs across the high school campus. 

In the Engineering Lab, Pheng shared some of his research with students while Dickson offered advice for applying their PLTW skills. 

In the Biomedical Lab, visitors met with students to learn about various projects, including DNA identification and brain dissection. They also watched students demonstrate some of the  high-tech equipment they’ve learned to operate. 

In the Computer Science Lab at the Grenada Career and Technical Center, the Pure Imagination robotics team, along with middle school Lego robot engineers, showed off their wares and demonstrated how to program and operate robots to perform different tasks.

The tour culminated with a visit to the Discovery Lab at Grenada Elementary 4-5, a PLTW School of Distinction for five years running. The lab’s director, Devon Tipton, engaged students with his high-energy lesson on the solar system. The fourth-grade students worked together in groups to build models of the planets and also presented their work on written forms. 

Among the visitors was Kevin Gibson, plant manager at Milwaukee Tool. Gibson was impressed by how intensely focused the students were on their project, seemingly unphased by so many adults observing them. “Milwaukee Tool definitely recognizes the importance of this approach,” he said. “It not only fosters a pathway to further education but also cultivates skilled individuals ready to contribute meaningfully to the manufacturing workforce. We’re delighted to collaborate with GSD, championing their dedication to equipping our youth and community with the skills and mindset essential for the future.”

Wendy Clemons enjoyed interacting with the students as well. “Students of all ages need to learn how to think and collaborate, and what I see here is students really thinking and problem-solving,” she said. “They are very inquisitive of one another. If someone is doing something, I noticed another student would ask why. But they were always very polite.”

Clemons added, “The fact that the (GES 4-5) has the second highest science scores in the state, their proficiency rate in mathematics is out the roof, that’s not by accident. It’s because they teach students to think … and you can’t replace that.”