SPOKANE, Wash. —  Trading in their flip flops for lab coats, 40 teachers will immerse themselves in the latest technology to dissect hearts and analyze DNA for disease risk.

This isn’t your everyday summer class. This new approach to teaching has hundreds of area high school students excited to begin school this coming fall — all for a course they elected to take in addition to their required instruction.

The curriculum titled Project Lead the Way (PLTW) is part of a national, nonprofit organization that provides rigorous, innovative K-12 STEM education.

Overwhelmingly popular
“The interest in this program has been overwhelmingly popular,” said Terrie VanderWegen, assistant superintendent at Central Valley School District. “In fact we have more students than sections available this coming fall.”
 
One year’s training in 10 days
The inaugural PLTW Biomedical Sciences Core Training for teachers is being presented by Washington State University Spokane faculty. The intensive instructional program covers a year’s worth of curriculum in 10 days and is taking place July 18-29 and August 1-12.
 
Twenty-four Washington teachers will learn the science of the future during a two week hiatus from their summer vacation. They will join 16 teachers from 11 other states from as far away as Florida. 
 

“This approach to instruction can transform to the way we teach in the future,” said Dan Butler, assistant superintendent for Mead School District. “I love how PLTW is interdisciplinary. It integrates a variety of skills into the learning process and really teaches the kids how to think.”

Local districts enthusiastic
Several Spokane area school districts are participating, including Spokane Public Schools, Central Valley, East Valley and Mead.
 

Karin Short, associate superintendent for Teaching and Learning Services said, “Spokane Public Schools is highly invested in providing our students with cutting edge science/math/technology opportunities. Through PLTW — available at each of our comprehensive high schools — students will have access to an elective course highlighting biomedical sciences.

“In addition to the elective PLTW biomedical course,” Short said, “we have a full complement of high quality science course offerings. We also have the added advantage of a strong partnership with WSU that will serve to support staff development for our teachers offering the PLTW curriculum. Students and teachers are equally enthusiastic about the new science offering.”

VanderWegen added, “Having the training right in our back yard at WSU Spokane allows our teachers to collaborate more closely with other teachers in the region around the STEM initiatives. Teachers are very excited about the opportunity to participate in such a high quality training experience.  This curriculum is rigorous and engaging and will provide our students with opportunities to become better prepared for career choices beyond high school.” 

“It is setting the stage for many ‘perfect teachable moments,’” said Sylvia Oliver, affiliate PLTW director at WSU Spokane. “When you engage students in learning about their own health, among many other impacts, it will be a ripple effect with positive impact on families and friends regarding prevention or intervention of disease such as cancer or diabetes.”
About Project Lead The Way
Project Lead the Way, Inc., is a national, non-profit organization that is the leading provider of rigorous and innovative STEM education curricular programs used in K-12 schools. The PLTW comprehensive curriculum, which is collaboratively developed by PLTW teachers, university educators, engineering and biomedical professionals, and school administrators, emphasizes critical thinking, creativity, innovation and real-world problem solving. The hands-on, project-based program engages students on multiple levels, exposes them to areas of study that they typically do not pursue, and provides them with a foundation and proven path to college and career success. PLTW began  in 1998 in 12 high schools in upstate New York as a program designed to address the shortage of engineering students at the college level and has grown to a network of approximately 4,000 middle and high schools in 50 states and the District of Columbia. More than 350,000 students are enrolled in PLTW courses. For more information, visit www.pltw.org.
About WSU Spokane
WSU Spokane is the urban campus of Washington State University, a land-grant research university founded in 1890. The campus features advanced studies and research in health sciences and health professions, the design disciplines, education, social and policy sciences and science and technology.
WSU Spokane is leading development of the Riverpoint Campus as a comprehensive, research-intensive academic health science center. A study by national experts conducted in 2010 projects that research and education at the Riverpoint Campus, area healthcare services, and associated business/industry spin-offs will drive the regional economy with a $2.1 billion annual impact at full build-out.
Campus programs include professional and graduate studies and research in medicine, pharmacy, nursing, health administration, nutrition and exercise physiology, and other health professions and sciences.
WSU is one of just 95 public and private research universities with very high research activity, according to the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching classifications. In addition, U.S. News & World Report ranks WSU as one of the top public research universities in the nation.
School Districts Participating:
Central Valley School District 
Spokane Valley, WA
Charles County Maryland
LaPlata, MD
Colfax School District 
Colfax, WA
East Valley School District 
Spokane Valley, WA
Fairborn City Schools 
Fairborn, OH
Franklin Pierce School District 
Tacoma, WA
Harriet Tubman Leadership Academy 
Portland, OR
Helena School District
Helena, MT
 Los Angeles Unified 
Los Angeles, CA
Madison City Schools 
Madison, AL
Mead School District 
Mead, WA
Montour School District 
McKees Rocks, PA
NCCVT (Howard High School)
Wilmington, DE
NEWESD 101 
Spokane, WA
Newport School District 
Newport, WA
Putnam School District 
Paltka, FL
Riverside School District 
Chattaroy, WA
Spokane Public Schools 
Spokane, WA
Todd County School District 
Mission, SD
Toppenish School District 
Toppenish, WA
Vallejo City Unified Schools 
Vallejo, CA
West Valley School District 
Spokane Valley, WA