World in Motion: Program teaches students critical thinking, project management

Published 7:18 pm Wednesday, May 16, 2018

School board members crowded together to watch Addison Bartlett play pinball on Monday in a demonstration of what the third grader had learned using a toy that she made herself.

The demonstration was part of an update on A World in Motion’s progress during Monday’s Troup County Board of Education work session. The program teaches critical thinking, project management and other skills to students by asking them to create a toy that meets certain guidelines. The project difficulty is based on grade level — from first graders who are challenged to build a toy that makes music to fifth graders who build straw rockets.

“They are a great way to circle back around and reinforce the concepts that have been introduced in the first three nine weeks,” said Christina Coulter, the lead elementary science coach for TCSS. “The units are highly engaging. They are given to the teachers with the lessons and materials. Everything is already included, and they are flexible, which means we can complete the units even with testing and all the other craziness that happens in the fourth quarter.”

For the program, teachers receive guidance on the activity then present it to students. The program is relatively new to the Troup County School System, but it is quickly expanding to elementary schools throughout the county.

“You are most familiar with and have probably heard the most about our AWIM unit that is done in elementary school,” said Karen Cagle, the assistant superintendent of curriculum, instruction and professional learning for the Troup County School System. “It is the one where we send a team to Detroit. AWIM units are sponsored and funded through Kia [Motors Manufacturing Georgia] and when this opportunity came to us a couple of years ago, the first thing we did was we looked at where the units were aligned to the state standards because that is what we are required to teach.”

KMMG has invested more than $2.1 million into AWIM, according to a statement from KMMG that was read during the meeting. The majority of that investment went toward Troup County, though some funding was also provided to other nearby counties. However, KMMG has provided more than just funding.

“This year we’ve partnered with Kia, and we are piloting it at West Point Elementary because it is closest,” Coulter said. “We actually have Kia volunteers coming in to the school as the teachers are teaching to help.”

This hands-on education goes hand-in-hand with the rigor and relevance focused approach that the school system adopted in 2016. The program has also been impacted by changes to state standards.

“This year when the standards changed, and we were moving toward more rigorous, hands-on engaged instruction, we rewrote the elementary curriculum, so that after testing, all grades in all elementary schools would have AWIM units to use as they end their school year,” Cagle said.

For teachers and students, that means a better chance to focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education, better known as STEM.

“The programs bring STEM education to life for our kids,” Coulter said. “There is a tie in each unit to literacy. Each unit has a book that is included and works in very well with what the students are expected to do. The units teach problem solving skills, teamwork and communication, along with many other concepts.”

Those involved with the program also hope that it will help prepare students for the working world where problem solving, teamwork and communication are essential.

“AWIM is an educational division of a larger company called SAE International, which sets the standards for all of the automobile parts in the United States,” Coulter said. “They created the AWIM units to provide students with opportunities to experience concepts and skills that they’ll need to know as they work through middle and high school and into the workforce.”

The Troup County Board of Education will meet again on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at 100 North Davis Road, Building C.