Science teacher Ashley Adams of Trevor-Wilmot Consolidated School assists student Dylan Starzec with a hands-on laboratory on March 2, when her class calculated speed and other variables using balloon rocket (Jason Arndt/The Report).

By Jason Arndt

When students have an opportunity to explore through hands-on learning, they often obtain problem-solving skills which can benefit them later in life, regardless of what career path they chose.

The exploratory opportunities are happening at Trevor-Wilmot Consolidated School, which received recognition as a Project Lead The Way Distinguished School Gateway last week, and was just one of 110 middle schools nationally to earn the honor.

Of the 110 middle schools acknowledged, eight were from Wisconsin, including Paris Consolidated School in Kenosha County.

Project Lead The Way, a nonprofit organization serving millions of students and teachers, is a program geared towards science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

To qualify for the distinguished honor, a school must offer at least PLTW Gateway unit at each grade level, have more than 50 percent of students participating in classes during the 2016-17 school year, and have 25 percent of students advancing to high school participate in at least two PLTW units.

Trevor-Wilmot’s Director of Curriculum Instruction Tracy Donich said the honor shows the school’s dedication.

“This recognition affirms our dedication to increasing student engagement and achievement in science and engineering in an authentic way that empowers the students,” she said.

Christina Nickles instructs students students on an interdisciplinary STEM laboratory, which tested different preservatives to mummify on an organism through various trials. Students from left are: Hannah Salopek, Layla Grice and Julia Debello.

Donich said the school has used the PLTW curriculum for at least six years.

The two science teachers, Ashley Adams and Christina Nickles, have been the driving force behind the school’s achievement.

Adams, who is in her fourth year at the school, has seen her students grow and understand scientific and engineering concepts with the PLTW curriculum.

“It is really exciting that we have seen a lot of success. Last year, every single one of our eighth graders on the state test was proficient and that is an amazing accomplishment as a school,” Adams said. “We have our students truly learning the science curriculum.”

The curriculum, according to Nickles, has evolved since she started teaching at the school 15 years ago when the state did not have clear engineering standards.

Today, the curriculum has changed, including adoption of nationwide Next Generation Science Standards.

With changing standards, Nickles and Adams hopes to expose students to more engineering opportunities.

“This is in hopes of building interest and understanding so that we can get more of our future generation well prepared and equipped to enter college and eventually the workforce, which currently has an engineering deficit,” Nickles said.

However, to build a strong curriculum, communication is crucial, according to Adams.

“We really have to communicate,” said Adams, who teaches seventh and eighth graders while Nickles instruct sixth graders. “What has she done and how can I continue to grow on that?”

“We want to make sure that our students are always progressing,” she added.

The other six schools were Amherst Middle School, Kenosha School of Technology, La Causa Charter School in Milwaukee, Lake Country Middle School in Hartland, New Glarus Middle School and Park View Middle School in Mukwonago.


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