Project Lead-the-Way

We are committed to providing an outstanding Catholic education for our students and we are proud to be participating in Project Lead-the-Way (PLTW). We are reinventing the classroom experience. Our pathways in computer science, engineering, and science engage students in hands-on activities, projects, and problems; empower them to solve real-world challenges; and inspire them to reimagine how they see themselves.

There is a heightened concern within Fox Cities business and manufacturing communities that many potential employees do not have the technical and problem-solving skills that are essential in today’s evolving workplace.

SMCS researched ways to best prepare students for the future while acting as responsible members of the greater community, and found that Project Lead-the-Way stands alone in addressing these core objectives.

Project Lead The Way is the nation’s leading provider of K-12 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) programs. Its project-based curriculum and high-quality teacher professional development, combined with an engaged network of educators and corporate partners, helps students develop the skills they need to be successful in post-secondary education and beyond.


The SMCS Plan

SMCS developed a three-year implementation plan for PLTW involving SMCS principals and science teachers as well as a visionary group of community professionals in STEM fields. The plan includes the following “Launch” (elementary), “Gateway” (middle school), and “Pathways” (high school) program components.

  • In 2016-17, we incorporated two Launch modules for students in grades 4 & 5 at all three SMCS elementary campuses, as well as Gateway computer science units for grades 7 & 8
  • In 2017-18, we added Launch modules for grades 2 & 3, and introduced a flight-based module for students in sixth grade
  • In 2018-19, K-8 was fully implemented. We added Introduction to Engineering to the high school as well as an additional Energy and the Enviornment Module for 8th grade science.
  • In 2019-20 a second high school offering of Principles of Engineering was added.

2020-21 Project Lead-the-Way Modules

  • Kindergarten: Human Body
  • Grade 1: Animal Adaptations
  • Grade 2: Materials Science – Properties of Matter & The Changing Earth
  • Grade 3: Stability & Motion – Science & Flight, Stability & Motion – Forces & Interactions
  • Grade 4: Energy Collision & Energy Conversion
  • Grade 5: Robotics & Automation, Infection Detection
  • Grade 6: Flight & Space
  • Grade 7: Medical Detectives
  • Grade 8: Energy & Environment
  • Grades 7 & 8: Computer Science
  • Grades 9-12: Introduction to Engineering, Principles of Engineering


Paving the Way

To prepare for the first phase of implementation, a group of  SMCS instructors attended training sessions during the summer of 2016 to become PLTW-certified and returned to SMCS ready to share what they learned and led collaboration among their peers to ensure a strong foundation for the program. The following summer, these educators and additional SMCS educators  attended training seminars to take SMCS’s Project Lead-the-Way to the next level.

In addition to our commitment, a visionary group of community professionals with expertise in STEM-related fields or businesses has joined the effort. Members of this advisory committee meet several times per year to help with planning and also serve as resources, help implement innovative ideas and act as classroom consultants to support the PLTW curriculum.

Project Lead-the-Way Advisory Group

  • Jill Ahles
  • Emilie Boots
  • Christine Cedergren
  • Greg Cheslock
  • Helen Englebert
  • Michelle Jungbauer
  • Phil Kerwin
  • Maggie Knecht
  • Dave Levine
  • Linda Meier
  • Bob Mittelstadt
  • Rob Srnka
  • Karie Ann Zeinert


New Era of Student Preparation

The incorporation of PLTW in St. Mary Catholic Schools’ core curriculum is supplemented by many STEM-related co-curricular activities such as:

  • Math Teams (Grades 5-12): Compete in local math leagues & contests during school year
  • STEM Club (Grades 8-12): Aeronautics & Flight, Electronics and VEX Robotics
  • VEX IQ (Grades 2-5): Robotics Competitions
  • Camp Invention (Grades K-6): Week-long summer camp focusing on STEM-based creativity
  • STEM Saturday (Community Event): Day-long event showcasing various STEM interests
  • STEM Club Open Houses (Community Event): STEM Club Lab open to the public
  • Summer Day Camps: Rocketry
  • STEM Club Outreach (Community Event): Club members do demonstrations for community organizations