MHS PLTW parents featured in magazine
The next issue of Wisconsin STEM Pathways magazine will feature an interview with three school district parents whose children are currently in the Project Lead the Way classes at MHS.
Tabatha Gundrum, Zoe Kooistra and Ann Green were interviewed by Marc Whitney, who works for The Ritterbusch Group and is the magazine’s editor, in a recently renovated MHS STEM room on Aug. 21. Excerpts of their one-hour interview are on page 8 of the fall edition.
All three parents have children taking PLTW classes at MHS. Paige Gundrum is a senior who is in Medical Interventions and will take Biomedical Innovations second semester. Kennedy Kooistra is a sophomore and is taking Principles of Biomedical Sciences. Her brother, Connor, is in the Introduction to Engineering Design class. Meanwhile, sophomores Connor and Ryan Green are taking the Principles of Engineering.
The magazine goes to every Project Lead The Way student in the state, which is about 40,000 students, Whitney said in a phone interview on Sept. 20.
“The response was wonderful,’’ he said.
Wisconsin is the only state in the country that publishes a PTLW magazine, although Iowa will debut a magazine in November, he said. Three issues, ranging from 16 to 24 pages, were printed in 2011.
“We wanted students to understand that what they were doing they weren’t doing alone,’’ he said. “There are things we can learn from each other. It’s easy for people to operate in silos. We need to realize if we talk with each other we can learn from each other. We wanted to share stories.’’
The idea for a story on the MHS program resulted from PLTW Affiliate Director Steve Salter’s visit in the spring as part of the certification process for the engineering and biomedical programs. Terri Tessmann is the PLTW coordinator at MHS.
Salter envisioned that the magazine would reach different audiences, including parents. As a result, he wanted at least 1-2 pages of every issue devoted to what parents had to say.
“He came back and said you have to talk with these folks in Middleton,’’ Whitney said. “He was like, ‘The passion and enthusiasm they have for this program is something we have to capture and share with other people.’ That group combined with the overall strength of the program is what brought me out there. And he was right by the way.’’
Whitney has been involved with PLTW Wisconsin for about seven years. He first became involved by providing some public relations help for an annual conference the organization has in Madison.
He said the idea of a magazine came out of talks with teachers and administrators nationally about STEM education and the needs that would exist in those fields in the future. They wanted to devise a plan to introduce PLTW curriculum throughout the state and that specific communication might help.
“We want everyone to be more engaged and know what this is all about,’’ he said.
MHS currently offers six classes in biomedical and four in engineering, Tessmann said. More than 190 students are taking PLTW courses at MHS this fall.
As of March 2012, 25 high schools in Wisconsin offer the biomedical sciences program. The only other Dane County school to offer it is Madison Memorial. There are 152 high schools in the state that offer the pathway to engineering program.
Wisconsin is the fourth-largest PLTW state in the country and the goal is to double the number of students taking classes in the next few years, Whitney said.
The reason for the story is … parents don’t know enough about the program,’’ he said. “They know it is something different and unique. So we decided to have at least one page that is parent-focused. We hoped the students would take the magazine home and the parents will see it. It helps other parents have an understanding of what the program is and what it means. They become powerful spokespersons for the program.’’
Meanwhile, the remodeled STEM area at MHS has been a huge hit. Tessmann also thanked the senior class for paying for the floor designs. An atom is displayed on the engineering room floor, while a DNA strand is displayed on the biomedical room floor.
“Everyone is in awe,’’ Tessmann said. “It’s jaw-dropping and wonderful.’’