BY JONATHAN YOUNG
With help from a $35,000 grant from the Cargill Foundation, Osseo Senior High will begin offering Project Lead the Way, a program that focuses on offering courses in science, technology, engineering and math, also known as STEM courses. When classes begin this fall, all three of the Osseo School District’s high schools and all four junior high schools will have Project Lead the Way.
Julie Halverson, the district’s coordinator for career and technical education, said the program helps prepare students for the workforce and for college by giving them hands-on experience.
"We know that those skills… are going to be needed in our economy later on," Halverson said. "And also we know that students need… many of those skills when they enter college."
At first Osseo Senior will offer two introductory courses required by the curriculum: "introduction to engineering design" and "principles of engineering." Later it can add more specialized classes.
Park Center and Maple Grove Senior High both offer digital electronics as a specialized course option. But Halverson said Osseo Senior may take a different route and offer a class such as "biotechnical engineering" to complement its health science magnet program.
The grant will be $15,000 the first year and $10,000 each of the following two years. It will help cover the cost of training teachers and purchasing software and instructional materials.
Teachers receive intensive training for two weeks during the summer. The first Osseo Senior High teachers will take the training in June.
"It’s a pretty rigorous time commitment for our teachers," Halverson said. "And I can tell you that all of the teachers have been absolutely favorable in the training, saying it was hard work but it was probably the best professional development they’ve ever experienced."
For students, Project Lead the Way also provides the opportunity to take a year-end test that can earn them college credit at some universities.
"I am really excited to be able to give every student the opportunity to learn about engineering, as well as an opportunity to receive college credit through a qualifying assessment process," said John Licciardi a teacher at Osseo Senior who applied for the grant on behalf of the school.
Osseo Area Schools began implementing Project Lead the Way at Park Center and Maple Grove Senior High School in 2002. In 2008 the district implemented the program at the four junior high schools with help from a Cargill grant of more than $55,000.
Halverson said Project Lead the Way relies heavily on business and community partners for advice, supplies and opportunities. She invites anyone interested in learning about the program – especially businesses and individual engineers – to set up a classroom visit and consider becoming a partner.
"We would love them to participate on our partnership team," she said.