Project Lead the Way at Seneca High School is introducing a younger generation at local schools to a program of hands-on experience and skill instruction that will help them meet possible future goals.
Project Lead the Way has been active for many years at Seneca High School, where it provides Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programs that engage students in activities and projects, as well as problem based (APB) learning. The goal is to help them understand how the knowledge and skills they develop in the classroom may apply to everyday life, according to the Lenape Regional High School District website.
The APB approach centers on hands-on, real world activities and problems such as building models and soft skills such as applying learned material.
Seneca Project Lead the Way students visited Kenneth R. Olsen Middle School in Tabernacle, Indian Mills Memorial Middle School in Shamong and Southampton’s School Number 3 to introduce the program.
Seneca’s Tom Xenakis is involved in the program and proposed the idea of visiting middle schools years ago, though some appearances were hampered by COVID. For this year’s visits, high school students in the program were able to give a presentation to eighth grade learners and brought prototype models that can be created when students reach ninth grade.
To be eligible for the program, eighth graders have to be enrolled in Algebra 1 or Geometry.
At Seneca, Xenakis teaches Lead the Way’s introduction course for freshmen and introduction to engineering and co-teaches the junior level course Principles of Engineering with science Coordinator Rich Watson.
Xenakis is a mechanical engineer who was among the first class of engineers at Rowan University. He said the Lead the Way program prepares students who want to pursue a science or engineering based career.
“It gives the kids a leg up, because they’re getting exposure to things that they wouldn’t get anywhere else,” Xenakis explained. “And now, when they’re going into an engineering program, they’re hearing things for the second time, which just makes it that much easier.
“They have a background knowledge on these things,” he added, “whereas the students that are going into the same engineering program that aren’t coming from a Project Lead the Way school district are going to be at a little bit of a disadvantage out of the gate”
Even if students choose not to pursue an engineering based profession after high school, Lead the Way will still provide them with learning opportunities.
“At the heart of it, it’s about teaching you how to problem solve, and those types of skills are something that we all use everyday,” Xenakis noted “The life skills that they learn, whether they pursue engineering or not, is a benefit for all of the students,”