Penn Manor’s 21st Century Skills course, which teaches science, technology, engineering and math skills to elementary students, has earned the 2013 Program Excellence Award from the Technology and Engineering Education Association of Pennsylvania. Penn Manor is only the second school district in the state since 1998 to earn the prestigious award for an elementary program.
Developed entirely by the Penn Manor staff, the 21st Century Skills curriculum emphasizes the “technology design loop,” which teaches students to analyze problems, collaborate with their peers on possible solutions and develop, test and evaluate creative solutions. Lessons utilize everyday materials, such as Legos, empty drink containers, meat trays, straws, rubber bands and paper clips that students use to build and test simple machines such as airplanes, rainwater harvesters and birdhouses.
Teaching such applied engineering skills to students at the elementary level will enable them to delve more deeply into STEM subjects in later grades, according to teachers. The classes were implemented two years ago at Eshleman, Conestoga and Letort elementary schools without the need to hire additional staff and are taught to students in grades one through six.
“When the elementary program was envisioned, the district wanted to introduce younger students to concepts in order to improve their critical thinking and problem-solving abilities,” Superintendent Dr. Michael Leichliter said. “I am proud that this program and the hard work of the professionals who developed it are being recognized with such a prestigious award.”