Project Lead the Way hosts informational lectures


Dr. Jennifer Mushtaler, an OB/GYN who participated in the PLTW speaker series last year, talks to students

Hadley Hudson, Co-Editor in Chief

Project Lead the Way is an organization that develops STEM class curriculum for all levels of schooling. At Vandegrift, PLTW created classes such as the Biomedical Science classes. Vandegrift’s branch of PLTW hosts a speaker series, where professionals of different medical occupations speak to students about their profession during PIT. The next speaker is coming on Wednesday and is speaking about Fetal Genetics.

“The first year was pretty lowkey, honestly. We had a few speakers come in, we did it in the classroom, maybe only a handful would show up, maybe 10 on a good day,” science and Project Lead the Way teacher John Schocken said. “And then we expanded it the next year because we wanted it to be bigger. I think we, as PLTW teachers, wanted to make it more of a big deal and advertise it more and bring in more people from the outside more regularly.”

Viper Nation Education Foundation helped PLTW with their advertising for the speaker series by buying them a large sign to hang in the hallway. The sign includes the date of the next meeting, the location, the guest’s name and their profession. The sign is located at the front of the science hallway. PLTW teachers also tell their students about the series and update them with meeting times.

“We started advertising for it more and pushing students to go and hear professionals talk,” Schocken said. “I think a good portion of kids in the BioMed pathway are committed to the health field so they naturally will go out of their own curiosity, interest, and enthusiasm.”

Senior Elizabeth Roach attended the most recent speaker series.

“An audiologist came and talked about their job, what they do on a daily basis, what their job consists of, and about their education,” Roach said. “We can ask questions about their job and it’s cool to get answers immediately. It’s basically an in depth conversation about their career. It’s nice to get the information from someone who actually has that career.”

The speaker series is intended to inform students interested in the different medical professions about the types of jobs available to them. With that information, they can draw conclusions about future careers.

“I learned that there’s more to a job than what you could look up,” Roach said. “She talked about some of the emotional stuff with her job too, with her patients. You can’t really look that up, so it was cool to get that information. I would definitely go again because the career changes each time and it’s really cool to hear about medical careers because I want to go into the medical field.”

PLTW classes have career journals as assignments, where students research about a job in their field and turn it in for a grade. The speaker series gives students a different approach to that same idea.

“It’s good to hear from somebody doing a job right now and be able to ask them questions about what they did to get there, why they wanted to do that, what are the things that are cool about their job, “ Schocken said. “Just to hear about this person in the field doing it right now rather than just having to research it. So they get that professional’s personal experience directly from them and it doesn’t have to be research. So that’s a nice opportunity for students as well.”

In the future, PLTW intends to continue the speaker series, with diverse speakers from various professions speaking every month. Among those future plans, the Vandegrift branch of PLTW wants to add another class in the future.

“Not next year, but I think the year after that we are going to start offering the fourth year BioMed class, which is Biomedical Innovation,” Schocken said. “I really want to do cool things where we can go out to a hospital in that class, because it’s a project based class. It would be for seniors who made it the whole way through the PLTW BioMed pathway.”