Villa is empowering the makers of tomorrow, TODAY.With the recent curriculum and campus updates, it's certainly an exciting time to be a part of the Villa community, and it's especially thrilling if you are passionate about science and STEM. Over the last two years, the science department has integrated engineering and technology into the current curriculum. The first phase of our curriculum improvement plan involved converting all current content to inquiry-based learning with more STEM-based projects implemented throughout the year. The second phase saw the creation of three STEM-based clubs — Robotics, Rocketry, and Girls Who Code — that experienced the highest levels of success right from the start in 2019, including both Robotics and Rocketry's advancement to the finals of national competitions and Girls Who Code's participation in a national conference. The final phase of the plan included the launch of a full engineering curriculum that would allow all students the opportunity to participate, enabling them to stand out when applying to college for engineering or other science programs. After years of research on high school engineering programs, Villa chose Project Lead the Way.
Project Lead the Way (PLTW) is a non-profit organization that is revolutionizing the way science and engineering should be taught; it is the number one program for students PreK-12 in America. During the 2019-2020 school year, the Engineering pathway, one of three offered by PLTW, was officially integrated into the science curriculum for Villa students to take as an elective. The first class in the Engineering pathway (of a total of ten classes offered) is Intro to Engineering and Design (IED). This class had two sections of students totaling 27 in the program at launch. In this class, students used their creativity and imagination to learn and perfect skills like technical sketching, problem solving, working in team settings, and presenting solutions to problems, while utilizing CAD software and a 3D printer.
Even though year one of the program was altered, the class continued to advance their skills and have fun with the help of the Disney Imagineering Project. A culmination of the skills learned during IED gave students the ability to design their own theme parks. This included everything from the landscapes, buildings, smells, colors, restaurants, maps and sights to rollercoaster design and character development. The final ten weeks of virtual learning saw the creation of great theme parks dedicated to Avatar: The Last Airbender, Narnia, The Office, Aladdin, Frozen, and Inside Out, among many others.
Overall, the PLTW Engineering program at Villa was a huge success and has already experienced growth moving into year two. The IED class will have 33 students and the next PLTW class running is Environmental Sustainability. With the new STEAM hallway expansion on the horizon, Villa's engineering program has the potential to include classes like aerospace engineering, civil engineering and architecture, and computer science. Stay tuned to hear much more about this exciting new venture for our students!
John Gentile, Science Department Chair