MPS’ Gaenslen School receives national recognition for STEM education

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:23 am

Milwaukee Public Schools’ (MPS’) Frederick M. Gaenslen School has earned national recognition for its Project Lead the Way (PLTW) pre-engineering programming, which equips students with the introductory skills needed to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).


The K-8 school received PLTW’s Gateway to Technology National Recognition, a certification highlighting schools that meet criteria structured by the national PLTW program to implement effective STEM education.

The criteria consists of factors like adequate administrative support, training, quality facilities and consistency in following curriculum.

Gaenslen’s program serves all middle school students and offers very basic STEM education to 5th graders – about 280 students total. PLTW is designed as a standalone course within each grade level that covers topics like design and modeling, automation and robotics, and electrons through hands-on activities.

The program, which seeks to fill the gap of STEM professionals in the country, focuses heavily on real-world application, said PLTW teacher Ajamu Olaniyan, who has been at Gaenslen for six years.

“As a Project Lead the Way teacher, it’s just a great opportunity because I can have conversations about (concepts) in a real-life circumstance where normally it’s all theory,” Olaniyan said.

The program also supports peer-to-peer instruction and emphasizes leadership, problem solving, and skill building across each STEM discipline for all students, Olaniyan said.

“I think it embraces the whole Gaenslen philosophy of inclusion,” Olaniyan said. “I just know that we try to allow everybody to have an opportunity to partake in different things.”

In facilitating PLTW, Gaenslen has relied on the Milwaukee School of Engineering to train its staff in order to meet national standards.

Business advocates like Johnson Controls have been just as instrumental. For the past six weeks, Johnson Controls has been sending teams of its engineering staff to help small groups of Gaenslen students prepare for the MPS STEM Showcase at the end of the school year.

Last September, 13 7th and 8th graders from Gaenslen participated in a demo day at Johnson Controls’ facilities in Glendale. In addition to presenting STEM projects to engineers at Johnson Controls, students toured the site as a part of PLTW’s commitment to real-world application.

About 5,800 middle school and high school students participate in PLTW at more than 30 schools in the MPS system.

At least 400,000 college-level STEM graduates are needed each year in order to fill the STEM gap, but currently the U.S. only sees 265,000 graduates, according to statistics from a National business Roundtable report referenced by PLTW.  

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