UM Joins National STEM K-12 Education Provider Project Lead The Way

MISSOULA – The University of Montana has joined Project Lead The Way, the nation’s leading provider of science, technology, engineering and math programs for students in grades K-12. UM’s new role as a PLTW affiliate reinforces the University’s support for STEM education and its dedication to providing high-quality educational opportunities for Montana students and teachers.

PLTW offers programs with pathways in engineering, biomedical science and computer science. As an affiliate, UM will offer professional development training programs to PLTW teachers, host annual conferences for school administrators and counselors, and provide ongoing support to PLTW schools throughout the state of Montana.

This summer, UM will offer teacher training for PLTW Launch, a program for students in grades K-5, which is designed to engage and inspire a love of math and science for students at a young age.

“We know that two variables are essential in increasing the number of students who consider a STEM major or career: math proficiency and student interest,” said Lisa Blank, UM’s affiliate director of PLTW Launch. “We also know that the best time to nurture awareness and interest in STEM careers is in the early elementary years.

“The opportunity to partner with PLTW means UM will be a leader in providing K-5 teachers with quality STEM training and curriculum that advances student learning and interest in math, science, technology and engineering.”

UM joins a cohort of approximately 50 other PLTW affiliate partners – colleges, universities and research institutions – that provide support for PLTW and its network of more than 5,000 schools in the U.S.

UM also plans to offer PLTW Biomedical Science training beginning in summer 2015. PLTW Biomedical Science is a hands-on, project-based sequence of four courses that allows high school students to study and investigate concepts of human medicine, physiology, genetics, microbiology and public health – learning content in the context of real-world cases.

Students explore the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease; work collaboratively to understand and design solutions to the most pressing health challenges; and study the many diverse career opportunities in health sciences.

Colleen Sullivan teaches Principles of Biomedical Science at Whitefish High School, where they have implemented the program. In years past, she and colleagues have traveled as far as California and Wisconsin to undergo teacher training for the program, but the new partnership with UM will offer training to Montana educators much closer to home.

Aside from allowing teachers to save on travel costs for training, Sullivan said UM’s involvement with PLTW will create a great link for students who have participated in the high school programs when they attend the University later.

“Just having one of our local universities supporting the programs is really cool,” Sullivan said.

High schools in Billings, Missoula, HelenaBozeman and Whitefish currently use PLTW programs in the curriculum, but with a closer connection to an in-state affiliate, the programs likely will spread.

“The opportunity to partner with PLTW in advancing STEM education in the biomedical sciences provides a very exciting opportunity to connect the college’s expertise and mission in the health sciences with high school science curricula,” said David Forbes, dean of UM’s College of Health Professions and Biomedical Sciences. “It not only will strengthen the pipeline for students to enter our college, but also represents a long-term investment in improving health care in Montana.”

While this is a new partnership, the University’s support of STEM education began several years ago. The Phyllis J. Washington College of Education and Human Sciences sponsors an annual Expanding Your Horizons Conference for girls to explore STEM, and recently constructed a lab to teach educators and students about 3-D design and printing. All K-8 teacher candidates in the school receive robotics training.

In the College of Health Professions and Biomedical Sciences, the Clean Air and Healthy Homes Program, spectrUM Discovery Area and the Big Sky Brain Project bring STEM education to underserved, rural communities in Montana.

For more information call Blank at 406-243-5304 or email