Rancho Verde Takes Lead as PLTW Showcase School

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by Ronnie Zamora/LFCISD

Rancho Verde Elementary, the only elementary Project Lead the Way Showcase school in the Rio Grande Valley, has taken off with the commended PLTW curriculum that engages students in science, technology, engineering and math starting in kindergarten.

Los Fresnos CISD, a PLTW Showcase Launch District, began teaching PLTW’s elementary school curriculum, PLTW Launch, to all kindergarten through fifth-grade students. PLTW is also available as an elective to secondary students across the district.

Los Fresnos CISD, which adopted PLTW at the start of the 2016-17 school year, was the first school district in the Rio Grande Valley to adopt Project Lead the Way in all campuses.

Rancho Verde Elementary, a Showcase campus, has become a model PLTW school.

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“The teachers have been very receptive,” Rancho Verde Elementary principal Maria Elisa Pineda said. “Our teachers plan with the district for the upcoming unit as well as within their own grade levels to be ready for their students’ learning. Overall, we see our students taking their learning to the next level.”

RVE students have been working on different units since the start of the school year. Some of the units include:

  • Kindergarten: Structure and Function – Human Body
  • First Grade: Animal Adaptation
  • Second Grade: Materials Science – Form and Function
  • Third Grade: Stability and Motion – Science of Flight
  • Fourth Grade: Input/Output – The Human Body
  • Fifth Grade: Robotics and Automation

Valarie Londrie, Executive Director for Academics, said that PLTW’s history of engaging students in STEM subjects is a long one. “The earlier that we can get students interested in STEM, the more opportunities they will have. Because of this initiative more students may want to pursue careers in science, mathematics, engineering, technology and medicine.”

Los Fresnos CISD was selected by PLTW as a Showcase Launch District because of a large number of elementary schools that are implementing Project Lead The Way launch, said Tina Dellinger, PLTW Director of School Engagement for Texas. “Rancho Verde Elementary has done an excellent job of exposing all of the teachers to the PLTW launch training.”

The success at RVE and Los Fresnos CISD has not gone unnoticed. In December, representatives from six school districts and The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley attended a Showcase at RVE to see how RVE adopted the PLTW curriculum.

Visiting RVE were representatives from Donna ISD, Harlingen ISD, La Joya ISD, San Perlita ISD, United ISD in Laredo, West Oso ISD in Corpus Christi, and UTRGV.

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The visitors included district administrators, school administrators, and teachers.

“Going through the classrooms and visiting with the students, you can see the tremendous impact that it’s had with students’ problem-solving, collaboration and design processes,” Dellinger said.

Los Fresnos CISD is also one of the few in Texas with all of its elementary schools in the PLTW Launch Program. The three middle schools have implemented the Gateway Program, while the high schools are using the PLTW Engineering and Computer Science model.

The PLTW curriculum is available as an elective to all secondary students.

Project Lead The Way is a non-profit corporation that develops curriculum to teach the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math to elementary, middle and high school students in ways that engage students and encourage them to become critical thinkers and problem solvers.

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