Project Lead the Way a success in BLMS

Contributing Writer
Aleah Stenberg
The Big Lake School Board meeting was held at Independence Elementary Mon., Feb. 24 with all members present.
The meeting began with an open forum session where Andrea Tighe, whose three children attend Big Lake Schools, delivered positive feedback to the school board. 
Tighe started by saying that a year ago they were considering looking for a new school for their children. Fast forward to this year, in which Tighe has witnessed a complete, positive morale change, specifically in Big Lake Middle School.
Tighe credits much of this change to the leadership in the school and points to the positive asset Principal Mark Ernst has been to the administration. 
"It is evident he was proud to work at our school," said Tighe about Ernst and the efforts he has made to improve BLMS.
"I feel confident that the students' education is the number one priority," Tighe concluded, pleased with the changes she has seen this year.
Project Lead the Way
Executive Director of Teaching and Learning Crystal Thorson and technology teachers Mike Hill and Wade Olson (filling in for Matt Vogel) reviewed the first year of implementation for Project Lead the Way (PLTW) and outlined how the program will be further applied in the 2014-2015 school year.
During the current school year, all 7th grade students will take Design and Modeling taught by Hill. In the new class, students use AutoDesk Inventor Pro, a software used by  professionals, to design products and then have the opportunity to make their designs tangible by printing them out on the 3D printer.
Students have been excited to design projects such as bobbers, window slides, and iPhone cases. The hands-on process and problem solving approach to learning has really allowed students to excel and enthusiastically enjoy learning.
"This has taken us to a whole new level," said Hill. "[It's exciting] to see the kids engaged the way they are. You can't get them to stop."
In addition to the 7th grade Design and Modeling course, Hill also taught a special 8th grade group and currently has two independent study students in the PLTW curriculum. A high school senior will also take the course through independent study next trimester. 
This spring a new computer lab will be installed in the high school technology classroom in preparation for implementing PLTW into the BLHS technology curriculum. High school technology instructors will also complete the PLTW training in preparation for these new courses.
What changes are expected as PLTW is implemented into BLHS for the 2014-2015 school year? The current Drafting and Design would be replaced by Introduction to Engineering and Problem Solving is under consideration to be replaced by Principles of Engineering.
Other benefits the committee is excited about are partnering with Wright Tech to offer capstone classes and the possibility for youth apprenticeships, internships and work-based learning with local businesses. The committee is also researching the option of offering college credit with the PLTW curriculum.
Snow Day Planning
Calendar Facilitator Glenn Evans headed a discussion about the prioritized list of snow day make-up days for the 2014-2015 school year. 
The Calendar Committee found that the task of designating specific days as snow make-up days brought more complications than anticipated with contract obligations and when spring break falls next year. 
After discussing several options, the board will continue talks and finalize the designated make-up dates during a work session at a later date. 


BIG LAKE AMBASSADOR 2015-16 candidates were painting faces at the Big Lake Chamber of Commerce Business Expo. They are, from the left, Kayla Robertson, Izzy Rasmussen, Cady Shaw, Bella Kallas, Allie Bahe and Ali Wandersee. (Photo by Jennifer Edwards).

PRAIRIE FIRE THEATER ACTORS Lauren Longyear and Gregory Stowers spent one short week with these Big Lake students working on the play Sleeping Beauty before they presented the show twice this weekend. Prairie Fire is sponsored by Big Lake Community Education. (Photo by Jennifer Edwards).

CENTRACARE HEALTH MONTICELLO BIRTH CENTER staff celebrated their one year anniversary and the birth of 290 babies March 4. Pictured are Timothy Olson, MD, OB/GYN with the Monticello Clinic; Abby LaBounty, MD, Family Physician with Monticello Clinic; Hannah Whelan, RN, Birth Center Manager at CentraCare Health–Monticello; and Matt Hoffman, MD, Pediatrician with Monticello Clinic. (Submitted photos).

A CAR FIRE IN THE PARKING LOT outside Great River Spine and Sport totaled the vehicle as Big Lake Fire Department had to use the jaws of life to open the hood while the flames were so hot they melted the tires and the snow flakes fell. (Photo by Jennifer Edwards).

Jenna and Dan Nygaard visit with Friends of the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge President Bruce Johnson, who is holding a beaver pelt.