Board of Education Hears Update on 'Project Lead the Way' STEM Program, Receives Budget Opti

On Monday, February 5, the Pawling Board of Education met at Pawling Elementary School for the first meeting of the month. The Board would hear an extensive presentation from several Pawling Central School District (PCSD) teachers about their work with Project Lead the Way, as well as proposed figures for next year’s district budget.

Project Lead the Way (PLTW) is a non-profit organization that helps to develop curriculum focused on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The program is used in grades K – 12 and promotes hands-on activities, projects, and problem solving to help students apply knowledge and develop skills that will help them in every day life.

The PLTW Launch program provides interactive instruction to students in grades K – 5. Fourth-grade students learn about data collection and analysis, and applied critical thinking and design to construct an apparatus that could prevent an egg from breaking when dropped from the ceiling. The fifth-grade students are completing two modules this year, robotics and automation, and infection detection.

Grade six begins the PLTW Gateway, with all students enrolled in one module of the program. Middle school students learn the principles of robotics and automation using basic engineering and design processes. Some sixth-grade students were even tasked this year with using these principles to design an orthosis walking boot for a student with cerebral palsy. Another activity involved designing a toy using isometric drawing and thumbnail perspectives. Seventh- and eighth-grade students in the PLTW Gateway learned computer-aided design (CAD), as well as 3D modeling, block coding, and made use of a 3D printer. Students demonstrated their mastery of these skills by designing wrist-mounted computers to play “paper rock scissors,” while others used problem-solving skills to design writing implements for a third-grade student with cerebral palsy.

At Pawling High School, students can use a combination of PLTW courses in conjunction with AP classes. These courses are intended to ensure that students are college and career ready upon graduation. The subject matter focuses on three main areas, engineering, biomedical science, and computer science. Current students are involved in the introduction to engineering design program, which includes technical drawing and statistical analysis using Excel and Autodesk Inventor for CAD design, as well as geometry, basic forces, and kinematics. Students have been applying these skills to a miniature car model construction program known as Automoblox, which allows them to use calculations and measurements to reverse engineer their designs. In addition to engineering design, students have also begun studying computer programming, learning block code, code structure, algorithms, and even creating their own apps to be used on Android tablets.

The PLTW curriculum has been well received by both students and teachers at all levels. Instructors report a high level of student involvement and enthusiasm and look forward to using this module in the future. School officials announced that a designated PLTW classroom at the high school is currently in the design phase, and a new course in cyber security will be offered in the fall.

In other business, the Board heard a presentation from Dr. Neysa Sensenig, Assistant Superintendent for Finance. Dr. Sensenig prepared four separate budget projections for the 2018 – 2019 district budget, as well as tax-cap calculations for 2018 – 2023. These preliminary projections represent four possible approaches for the Board to consider. In all four scenarios, the tax levy cap remains at 2.49%. The four projections have budget percent increases of 0.00%, 0.52%, 1.94%, and 2.47% respectively.

The Board of Education will consider these projections and Dr. Sensenig’s recommendation in the coming weeks. Factors included in this decision will a possible increase in expenditures, state aid received, cost of healthcare expenditures, and salaries. District officials will consider these variables before officially setting the budget for the 2018 – 2019 fiscal year.

The next meeting of the PCSD Board of Education will be held on Tuesday, February 20, at 7:30 p.m. in the Elementary School Multipurpose room.