Bellefonte Area School District to host cutting-edge curriculum training

Bellefonte Assistant Superintendent Michelle Saylor is looking to take the school district to higher levels when it comes to science, technology, engineering and math curriculum studies.

District officials are planning to institute Project Lead The Way into the middle and high schools this fall, and the district will be holding a national training session beginning Sunday.

The training is held in all 50 states, but Bellefonte will be the only site in Pennsylvania this year.

“I think it works really well for career and college readiness,” she said of the STEM program, which is designed to get students to think outside the box and include more relevant learning instruction.

Josh Cramer, project director of school engagement, said the program is getting away from the traditional education methods of one right answer and allowing students to think from the standpoint of multiple solutions to problem solving. He said he wants to make the classes relevant so students aren’t asking why they have to know something — it will be obvious.

“We’re trying to create the thinking, the innovators and the creative minds that think of solutions,” he said.

Student engagement is also key, he said. Getting more students involved in the classroom will allow for increased participation and encourage more people to think critically.

The training at Bellefonte Area High School, which will run from Aug. 4-16, will include more than 80 teachers from other parts of the state and country. It is a demanding process that condenses a year’s worth of instruction into two weeks.

“It’s extremely rigorous,” Cramer said. “It’s a powerful piece to see.”

Elements of the training can be instituted in both middle schools and high schools, and Bellefonte will start small before fully implementing all the courses.

This fall there will be courses for seventh-graders in design and modeling and for eight-grade students in machinery and robotics. The pre-engineering courses build on themselves and an introduction to engineering course will be offered for ninth-graders, Saylor said.

She added that the information is a good precursor for college-level material, but it also applies to real-world skills for students entering the work force. Though this process is still in the early brainstorming stages and may take more than five years to implement, Saylor said they already have been talking with the Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology to maximize the efforts.

“Our teachers are excited,” Saylor said. “We’ve received numerous calls from parents wanting their kids to be enrolled in the program.”