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TWINSBURG -- Incoming R.B. Chamberlin Middle School eighth-graders who like to tinker, build and learn how things work may want to look into Project Lead the Way's engineering program.
The Twinsburg Board of Education approved implementation of Project Lead the Way at its June 7 meeting.
"We've been building toward this for a couple of years," said R.B.C. Principal Jim Ries.
Ries said PLTW is used by 9,000 school districts across the nation as a bridge between a middle school engineering program and the career center opportunities -- such as specified engineering and manufacturing, modeling and design -- at the high school level.
"It is three programs that feed into high school," Ries said. "Also, many colleges recognize it and give college credit for it or even college vouchers."
Besides engineering, the intense, 10-unit curriculum also offers avenues for biomedical technology and computer technology. There are also programs at the elementary school level, Ries said.
"The curriculum is very set for our teachers," said school district Director of Curriculum Jennifer Farthing. "It's packed. They said for the first year it will be a challenge for the teacher to get through it all the first year."
Farthing said the program concentrates on 21st-century skills.
The $30,000 cost is covered through a partnership with the Cuyahoga Valley Career Center.
School officials hope the curriculum can serve as a bridge for middle-school students heading into the new Twinsburg Tiger Academy at the high school.
"One thing we want to make sure doesn't happen is that we implement this in the eighth grade, and that's it," Farthing said. "What the future holds for us ... is to see how we can incorporate Project Lead the Way into the Twinsburg Academy."
The bridge between the middle school and high school should flow well, said Norm Potter, district curriculum supervisor.
"This fits in well with our manufacturing and business community, where the initial drive came from," Potter said. "There's going to be an actual building block from the middle school the the high school manufacturing and building community."
Board president Mark Curtis said it takes a "highly qualified staff" to implement such a program.
"We have people who are capable of executing this and providing this for our students," Curtis said. "I think it's important for the community to understand is our process for bringing quality staff into this district is pretty rigorous, and you can't do this type of programming without a highly qualified staff."
Courses offered through PLTW "will prepare the students for the global economy that awaits them," Curtis said.
"There's a ton of [unfilled] jobs ... there are not enough qualified people to fill those jobs," he said. "These kids are going to be equipped with the opportunity. Should they decide to do this, when they cross that stage when they graduate and step out into real life, they are not going to be the typical graduate coming out of the typical high school."
Board Vice President Matt Cellura called PLTW "a great program."
"I'm very excited that we can look for different things to keep the kids engaged," Cellura said. "I actually had someone reach out to me this past week about the medical camps the academy has started, and they said their child started it this week ... and said it was amazing. I'm looking forward to this one going out."
Board member Kim Davis said no such career pipeline existed when she was a student.
"That's a lot, it looks like a pretty intimidating thing but I've seen what they are already doing in Dodge to prepare and I think they will be ready for it," she said.
"Giving our students these opportunities is what I am most excited about," said Board member Kathy Turle-Waldron said. "They can check out these other avenues ... and be exposed to them. I especially like it that this is a positive, direct impact on our students."