Project Lead The Way Grant

Academy of Whole Learning Now a Project Lead the Way School

Published: July 21, 2015


Academy of Whole Learning has been named a Project Lead The Way school for the 2015-16 and 2016-2017 academic years. The nonprofit, private school in St. Louis Park, Minnesota will receive $20,000, funded by the Cargill Foundation, to be used for the installment of Project Lead The Way’s Gateway Program.

A nonprofit organization itself, Project Lead The Way (PLTW) prides itself as the “nation’s leading science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) solution,” found in more than 6,500 schools across the United States.  The program provides select schools with highly-refined curriculums that engage students in STEM subjects, challenging students in new and innovative ways that are modeled to allow the students to learn and excel.  Academy of Whole Learning was selected in the first year that PLTW began serving private schools.

Through a generous grant from the Cargill Foundation, Academy of Whole Learning will earn $10,000 in each year to offset costs associated with the implementation of the Gateway Program. A prominent STEM education funding source in Minnesota, Cargill extensively finances STEM education knowing the advanced programs may produce better-prepared future employees.

Academy of Whole Learning received its grant toward PLTW’s Gateway Program, a science course track designed for students of middle school age. The curriculum is taught in nine-week units, featuring foundation units (design and modeling, automation and robotics), and specialization units (computer science, energy and environment, flight and space, etc.).  Created to challenge students to solve real-world problems, PLTW’s purpose is to engage students’ natural curiosity and imagination in stimulating problem-solving settings. Teachers must be certified by PLTW to administer the specialized curriculum.

Head of School Wyayn Rasmussen believes the addition of this program will greatly enhance Academy of Whole Learning’s already comprehensive curriculum. “As a school specifically for students with an autism spectrum disorder or related learning difference, many Academy of Whole Learning students have high interest in the areas of coding and computer science,” said Rasmussen. “Bringing in the Project Lead The Way (PLTW) Gateway program will greatly impact their future as it will provide them with a way to develop their skills and interests in this area, thus setting them up for greater achievements in their future endeavors.” Rasmussen added that the new programming may also provide an enrollment incentive for prospective students.

Academy of Whole Learning’s addition of the PLTW curriculum adapts to recent trends, as jobs in areas involving science, technology, engineering, and math are projected to increase 17 percent by 2018.  Supporting PLTW’s claim as “a pathway to prepare and motivate students to enter careers in science and engineering,” 70 percent of high school seniors enrolled in PLTW courses plan to further study STEM subjects.