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Students enrolled in engineering courses at Battery Creek High School can earn up to 12 college credit hours after the school last week became the first in the Beaufort County School District to earn a special accreditation.
As a certified Project Lead The Way high school, Battery Creek will offer credit through the University of South Carolina for four courses, if students pass end-of-course exams.
PLTW is a national educational program that promotes pre-engineering courses for middle and high school students. The curriculum first was introduced to 12 New York state high schools in 1997. About 3,000 schools nationwide now participate.
The classes expose students to electrical, chemical, civil and mechanical engineering, Battery Creek teacher Angela Dawson said. In the final course, students are required to invent a new product or design an improvement to an existing product.
"They are very rigorous classes, and they are project-based," Dawson said. "It's not like a standard class where there are lectures and then the teacher gives them worksheets. ... It's very hands-on and very 'teacher, back off.'<2009>"
Implementing the full PLTW curriculum at a high school costs about $60,000, said Bill Evans, coordinator of community relations, guidance and athletics for the district and the former director of career and technology services.
That includes the cost of teacher training and equipment, such as computers, design software and large printers. The district also must pay to renew software licenses each year.
Students must pay $198 to USC to earn college credit for each PLTW class they take.
This year, Battery Creek offered the first three PLTW courses and enrolled about 130 students in the program.
Now that it's accredited, the school will begin offering college credit this year and a capstone course next fall.
Dawson said she expects enrollment to grow.
"It's not just for the smart kids," she said. "It's really not. It's for anybody who is creative, dy who wants to design something. A lot of kids who are successful are not the honors kids."
Other Beaufort County high schools are on track to earn PLTW certification.
Bluffton High School already offers some PLTW classes and should earn accreditation next year. Teachers at Beaufort High School will begin training this summer, Evans said.
The Beaufort-Jasper Academy for Career Excellence also offers PLTW courses. However, the Beaufort County School Board voted last month to stop letting its students participate in the program at ACE because it duplicates the district's efforts at the other schools.
Several middle schools also have begun offering PLTW's Gateway To Technology, an activity-oriented program designed to help students in grades six through eight explore math, science and technology.
Robert Smalls, Lady's Island and Whale Branch middle schools now offer the class, and H.E. McCracken will begin offering it next fall, Evans said.