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    Project Lead the Way (PLTW) - Launch

    The Holy Apostles science curriculum provides hands-on learning using state-of-the-art tools and programs designed to challenge and engage students.  We have taken a blended approach to teaching science concepts, connecting learning from the scientific method and a project-based curriculum.  Our program integrates classic science units, as well as Project Lead the Way (PLTW), which is a nationally recognized Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) program.

    In each PLTW unit, students collaborate to design, build, and test a device made to solve the given challenge. Then students record, discuss and analyze their observations. Students together, learn how to use innovation and logic based on prior a new knowledge to solve real world problems.

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    Project Lead the Way (PLTW) is integrated into all of our K5—8th grade science curriculum. PLTW gained success in our middle school since 2012 and in 2016 in our K5—4th grade programs. 

    The following STEM units compliment our science program and allow students to gain knowledge and acquire skills in problem solving, critical thinking, teamwork, and innovation, as well as build lifelong interest STEM topics.


    Kindergarten kicks off PLTW with structure and function. Students will explore structure and function.  They will learn about the design process and how engineers influence their lives.  They learn to ask questions and problem solve in groups. 

    Exploring Design: K5 students are discovering the design process while exploring the elements of structure and function. This semester, the teams focused on building a beanstalk to support a weighted     golden egg. They identified products to assist their design, then built, presented & tested their devices.

    Human Body: Students explore the relationship between structure and function in the human body. They examine major organs within the body and investigate how the structure of each is related to its function.

    Pushes and Pulls: Students investigate pushes and pulls on the motion of an object and develop knowledge and skills related to forces of differing strengths and directions. Their explorations include pushes and pulls found in their everyday world, such as pushing a friend on a swing or pulling a wagon. Students work through the problem by applying what they learn about forces.

    Animals and Algorithms: Students explore the nature of computers and the ways humans control and use technology. Starting with an unplugged activity, students learn about the sequential nature of computer programs. They then work in small groups to design and program a simple digital animation about an animal in its habitat.


    First grade students work in teams to investigate and observe the properties of the world around them with hands on activities and research.  

    Animal Adaptations: Our first graders explore animal adaptations for protection, camouflage, food obtainment, and locomotion. They learn what it means for an organism to be adapted to its environment and teams are challenged to design human adaptions to handle extreme environments of their choice.

    Light and Sound: Students investigate the properties of light and sound, including vibration from sound waves. They sketch, build, test, and reflect on a device to communicate over a distance by using light and/or sound.

    Light: Observing the Sun, Moon, and Stars: After observing the sun, moon, and stars, students identify and describe patterns in their recorded data. Students are challenged to create a playground structure designed to protect students from ultraviolet radiation. Students utilize their knowledge of light to design, build, and test structures created to solve this problem. They then evaluate their designs, share their findings, and explore ideas to improve their structures based on the testing data.

    Animated Storytelling: First graders combine fundamental principles of computer science with story-building skills and develop animations that showcase characters, settings, actions, and events from short stories of their own creation.


    Second grade explores materials science, our earth, and technology. Throughout the year they will investigate and classify different kinds of matter based on their properties, learn about form and function, and how these attributes impact design.

    Form and Function: Students research the ways animals disperse seeds and pollinate plants. They learn about properties of matter as they consider the form and function involved in seed dispersal and pollination. The students design, build, test, and reflect on their own device that mimics a way in which animals disperse seeds or pollinate plants.

    Properties of Matter: Our second graders investigate different kinds of materials by their observable properties. The students learn about states of matter and properties of materials including insulators and conductors. They then design, build and test a device to keep a popsicle frozen for an hour in the summer!

    The Changing Earth: Students explore how the surface of the Earth is always changing. They are introduced to different types of maps and explore how these maps convey different information about the world in which we live, including where water is found on Earth. Students are introduced to the design problem when challenged to help a community threatened by a potential landslide. Students investigate the different forces that shape the surface of the Earth and design solutions to limit the impact of erosion on this fictional community, which is located at the bottom of a hill that was recently destabilized by a fire.

    Grids and Games: Students investigate numerical relationships while learning about the sequence and structure required in computer programs. Starting with computer-free activities and moving to tablet-based challenges, students apply addition and subtraction strategies to make characters move on a grid. Using skills and knowledge gained from these activities, students work together in groups to design and develop a game in which a player interacts with objects on a tablet screen.


    Third grade students will focus on stability and motion, as well as human traits and computer programing patterns.  They continue to work in groups to solve more advanced engineering design challenges. 

    Stability and Motion: Science of Flight: In this module, students learn about the forces involved in flight as well as Newton’s Laws of Motion. They design, build, and test an experimental model glider to find out how air and other forces affect its flight. Students discover aeronautics and apply the design process to the problem of delivering aid to an area where supplies must be airlifted in and dropped to the ground from an aircraft.

    Stability and Motion: Forces and Interactions: Students explore simple machines such as wheel and axles, levers, the inclined plane, and more. They investigate the effects of balanced and unbalanced forces on the motion of an object. They are faced with a design problem of how to rescue a trapped tiger at the zoo. Students then apply their knowledge of forces and devise a way to rescue a heavy zoo animal while keeping it safe throughout the process.

    Variation of Traits: Students investigate the differences between inherited genetic traits and traits learned or influenced by the environment. They explore the phenomena that offspring may express different traits than parents as they learn about dominant and recessive genes and also investigate how predicted outcomes compare to experimental results. Students then model how the gene for stem color is passed on and expressed among sample sets.

    Programming Patters: This module introduces students to the power of modularity and abstraction. Starting with computer-free activities and progressing to programming in a blocks-based language on a tablet, students learn how to think computationally about a problem. Students then create a tablet game using modular functions and branching logic.


    Fourth graders will focus on the properties of mechanisms, including potential, kinetic and the conversion and transfer of energy. New this year, they will also focus on computer systems and the human brain. Students continue to design, build and test a device made to solve their given challenges.

    Energy: Collisions: Students explore the properties of mechanisms and how they change energy by transferring direction, speed, type of movement and force. Students discover a variety of ways potential energy can be stored and released as kinetic energy. They explain the relationship between the speed of an object and the energy of that object, as well as predict the transfer of energy as a result of a collision between two objects. As students solve the problem for this module, they apply their knowledge and skills to develop a vehicle restraint system.

    Energy: Conversion: Students identify the conversion of energy between forms and the energy transfer required to move energy from place to place. They also identify and explain how energy can be converted to meet a human need or want. The design problem focuses on the need to move donated food from a truck to a food pantry. Students apply scientific ideas about the conversion of energy to solve this design problem.

    Input/Output: Computer Systems: In this exploration of how computers work, students are encouraged to make analogies between the parts of the human body and parts that make up a computer. Students investigate reaction time as a measure of nervous system function. Students apply what they learn to build their own reaction-time measurement devices on tablets. This module has strong connections to the Human Brain module.

    Input/Output: Human Brain: Students discover how signals passing from cell to cell allow us to receive stimuli from the outside world, transmit this information to the brain for processing, and then send out a signal to generate a response.  


    In Fifth Grade, we are excited to be introducing PLTW for this first time! Our students will explore robotics and discover how to detect infection and how it spreads in our body.

    Infection: Detection: Students discover how signals passing from cell to cell allow us to receive stimuli from the outside world, transmit this information to the brain for processing, and then send out a signal to generate a response. Students discover how signals passing from cell to cell allow us to receive stimuli from the outside world, transmit this information to the brain for processing, and then send out a signal to generate a response. 

    Infection: Modeling and Simulation: In this module, students investigate models and simulations and discover powerful ideas about computing. Students look to model an infectious disease to simulate how an illness spread through their class. Applying their new understandings, they program their own models and collect data by running simulations with different parameters.

    Robotics and Automation:  Students explore the ways robots are used in today’s world and their impact on society and the environment. Students learn about a variety of robotic components as they build and test mobile robots that may be controlled remotely. They are tasked with designing a mobile robot that can remove hazardous materials from a disaster site. Students are then challenged to design, model, and test a mobile robot that solves this design problem.

    Robotics and Automation: Challenge: Students expand their understanding of robotics as they explore mechanical design and computer programming. This module focuses on developing skills needed to build and program autonomous robots. Inspired by a design problem, students work with a group to apply their knowledge to design, build, test, and refine a mobile robot that meets a set of design constraints.


    Visit our middle school science program for more information about PLTW Gateway.

    Learn more about PLTW here

    Last Published: March 7, 2019 11:58 AM
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