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ODU Plays Host to Teachers from Eight States, Learning Innovative Engineering Preparation Curriculum

Brandon Berry, a teacher at Chesapeake's Grassfield High School and ODU graduate, participated in Project Lead The Way.

Twenty-five math and science teachers from more than a half-dozen states are spending the last two weeks of July learning how to teach the innovative Project Lead The Way curriculum, designed to prepare high school students for the challenge of university engineering courses.

Old Dominion University is Virginia's official university affiliate for the program, organized by Project Lead The Way, a national, not-for-profit educational program that helps give middle and high school students the rigorous ground-level education they need to develop strong backgrounds in science and engineering.

Started a decade ago, the Project Lead The Way program had modest expectations. Ten years later, the program is run in all 50 states, and has more than 250,000 kids enrolled nationwide. It's run in 51 schools throughout Virginia.

"It's a phenomenal success," said Marcie Gerdin, operations manager for ODU's Virginia Applied Technology and Professional Development Center, and director of Project Lead The Way Outreach in the state.

In these two weeks, the teachers - from Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Washington, D.C. and Virginia - will be instructed on the Project Lead The Way curriculum.

The goals for Project Lead The Way are to increase the number of people who pursue engineering in two- and four-year post-secondary programs, reduce the future college attrition rate in the academically challenging programs, and contribute to the nation's prosperity by ultimately producing more engineers.

Gerdin said the benefits of the program are obvious - for the students, and for all engineering programs.

"These kids go into universities with three to four engineering classes under their belts," she said. "They're better prepared for what they'll face in the programs, and the schools have a better chance to keep these students in engineering through graduation, where they fill needed jobs.

"In that way, we all share the benefit of this."

Brandon Berry (pictured), a teacher at Chesapeake's Grassfield High School, has already taught the PLTW curriculum to ninth graders this past school year. "You were seeing some definite advancement by the end of the year," said Berry, himself a 2005 ODU grad with a bachelor's of science in occupational and technical studies.

Berry said the sharing of information and anecdotes with fellow teachers from across the southeast will help him when he gets back in the classroom, teaching ninth and 10th graders the Project Lead The Way Curriculum this school year.

"We all shared our experience, and it's definitely good to talk to your colleagues, to find out where they're having successes and where the challenges are."

Some of that information sharing took place over a lunch on Thursday, July 23, sponsored by ODU's Office of Admissions, with an eye to convincing the teachers in the seminar to recommend ODU to students.

"We actually let the ODU recruitment people know who the Project Lead The Way teachers are in the places they visit," Gerdin said. "What better advocates for the school than people who have been here and learned this program themselves?"

This article was posted on: July 24, 2009

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