Project Lead the Way Instructor

Phone: 845-477-2411


Degrees and Certifications:

Mr. Pignataro

Hello and welcome to my PLTW site.  This is my 33rd year as a teacher in the Greenwood Lake school system.  I have taught Kindergarten, First Grade, Technology Education (K-8), and Third Grade for the district.  I am now in my sixth year as a Project Lead the Way instructor for the district.  This position allows me to teach STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) concepts to grades K-3 and fifth grade.

PLTW is a STEM based program designed to teach students how to problem solve using aspects of STEM in a guided exploratory, lesson based fashion.  There are four specifically designed modules per grade level.  Each module has five parts which are centered around a common theme.  These parts consist of:
-three activities designed to teach the core concept for the module
-one project to complete
-one problem based activity designed to have the students use what they learned to solve a real world problem
Almost all work in PLTW is centered around group work.  The developers of PLTW have a strong belief that STEM learning is best accomplished when students worki in groups that learn to work cooperatively and collaboratively towards a common goal.  Collaboration and cooperation are two of the four C's of 21st Century skills with creativity and communication being the remaing two skills.  I have always subscribed to this belief and have implemented cooperation, collaboration, creativity, and communication throught my years of teaching.
PLTW classes are three weeks long and are carried out four times a year on a rotating basis.  Therefore, each class will have completed four modules designed for that particular grade level each year.

Kindergarten Module One: Structure and Function

  • In Kindergarten, we are looking at structures and funtions while learning about the design process.

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Kindergarten Module Two: Structure and Function-The Human Body

  • Students explore structure and function in the human body. They examine major structures within the body and investigate how the structure of each organ is related to its function. Once students gain an understanding of basic structure and function in the body, they take a deeper look at the functions of bone. Students assemble a skeleton and create a model X-ray of a hand. They act as scientists to perform an inquiry investigation to understand why fingers are made up of more than one bone. Finally, each student works through an engineering design process to design and build a cast to aid healing of a broken bone.

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Kindergarten Module Three: Pushes and Pulls

  • Students investigate pushes and pulls on the motion of an object and develop knowledge and skills related to forces of differing strengths and directions. Their explorations include pushes and pulls found in their everyday world, such as pushing a friend on a swing or pulling a wagon. In this module’s design problem, Suzi needs to move rocks from her yard so she can install a swing set. Students work through the problem by applying what they learn about forces.

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Kindergarten Module Four: Animals and Algorithms

  • Students explore the nature of computers and the ways in which humans control and use technology. Starting with a computer-free activity, students learn about the sequential nature of computer programs. Students apply this knowledge to the domain of science when they design a simple algorithm about an animal in its habitat. Using an age-appropriate programming environment, students use their newly developed programming skills to turn their algorithm into a short animation. Through this work, students come to understand that computing is a collaborative activity that can be used to create digital artifacts pertaining to any area of interest.

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First Grade Module One: Light and Sound

  • Students in First Grade are beginning to take a deep look at light and sound.

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First Grade Module Two: Observing Light-Sun, Moon, and Stars

  • After observing the sun, moon, and stars, students build upon their knowledge of light to design, build, test, and reflect on a structure designed to solve a problem related to the patterns of the sun. After evaluating their design, students share their findings and ideas for ways to improve the structure.

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First Grade Module Three: Animal Adaptations

  • Students explore animal adaptations for protection, camouflage, food obtainment, and locomotion. Students learn what it means for an organism to be adapted to its environment and how different adaptations can be categorized. Students are introduced to the design challenge when Suzi announces she is visiting the Sahara and needs to get prepared for her trip. Students are challenged to design the ideal shoe for travelers to wear in extreme environments, applying what they have learned and looking to plant and animal adaptations to guide their designs.

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First Grade Module Four: Animated Storytelling

  • Through this exploration of both storytelling and animation, students are presented with the problem of arranging moving images and sounds to depict a story. Students learn that computers need specific instructions written in a language that the computer can understand. Students develop an understanding of events as triggers that make computer programs carry out instructions. Combining fundamental ideas in computer science with story-building skills from language arts, students create animations that show characters, settings, actions, and events in a short story of their own creation. The programming environment in which students create these stories is appropriate for emerging readers and offers an appropriately scaffolded environment for piecing together logical steps to produce an animation.

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Second Grade Module One: States of Matter

  • Second Graders are learning about, exploring, and experimenting with the three states of matter.  Don't know what the three states of matter are?  Then ask your second grade child and sing along to the video clip below (double click to enter full screen mode).

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Second Grade Module Two: Form and Function

  • Students learn about the variety of ways animals disperse seeds and pollinate plants. Students expand their understanding of properties of matter as they consider the form and function involved in seed dispersal and pollination.  The design problem requires students to apply their knowledge and skills to design, build, and test a device that mimics one of the ways animals either disperse seeds or pollinate plants. Students reflect on the efficiency of their designs and how they were informed by nature.

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Second Grade Module Three: The Changing Earth

  • Students explore how the surface of the Earth is always changing. They are introduced to different types of maps and explore how these maps convey different information about the world in which we live, including where water is found on Earth. Angelina, Mylo, and Suzi introduce the design problem when faced with the challenge of helping a community threatened by a potential landslide. Students investigate the different forces that shape the surface of the Earth and design solutions to limit the impact of erosion on this fictional community, which is located at the bottom of a hill that was recently destabilized by a fire.

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Second Grade Module Four: Grids and Games

  • In this exploration combining mathematics and computers, students investigate numerical relationships while learning about the sequence and structure required in computer programs. Starting with computer-free activities and moving to tablet-based challenges, students apply addition and subtraction strategies to make characters move on a grid. Using skills and knowledge gained from these activities, students work together in groups to design and develop a game in which a player interacts with objects on a tablet screen. Students make extensive use of logic as they create a working game using an event-based model.

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Third Grade Module One: Stability and Motion-Principals of Flight

  • In Third Grade, the students are learning about the principals and dynamics which permit flight to occur.  Click on the video below to learn about the Four Forces of Flight!

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Third Grade Module Two: Variation of Traits

  • Students investigate the differences between inherited genetic traits and traits learned or influenced by the environment. They explore the phenomena that offspring may express different traits than parents as they learn about dominant and recessive genes and also investigate how predicted outcomes compare to experimental results. Students model how the gene for stem color is passed on and expressed among sample sets.

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Third Grade Module Three: Stability and Motion-Forces and Interactions

  • Students explore simple machines such as wheel and axles, levers, the inclined plane, and more. They investigate the effects of balanced and unbalanced forces on the motion of an object. Angelina, Mylo, and Suzi go on a field trip to the zoo and are faced with the design problem of how to rescue a trapped tiger. Students then apply their knowledge of forces and devise a way to rescue a heavy zoo animal while keeping it safe throughout the process.

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Third Grade Module Four: Programming Patterns

  • Students begin to move beyond basic sequential computer programs to discover the power of modularity and abstraction. Starting with computer-free activities and progressing to programming in a blocks-based language on a tablet, students learn how to think computationally about a problem. They gain appreciation for the powerful computing practice of reducing programmatic solutions sothey are generic enough to be reused in a variety of specific circumstances. Building on this transformational way of thinking, students create a final program using modular functions and branching logic.

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Fifth Grade Module One: Infection Detection

  • Students explore transmission of infection, agents of disease, and mechanisms the body uses to stay healthy. Through a simulation, they compare communicable and non-communicable diseases. In the design problem, Suzi comes down with a fever and sore throat, and her friends wonder how this illness might have spread across the school. Students tackle the design problem by examining evidence to deduce the agent of infection, the likely source of the outbreak, and the path of transmission through a school. They design and run an experiment related to limiting the spread of germs and apply results to propose appropriate prevention methods.

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Fifth Grade Module Two: Infection-Modeling and Simulation

  • Of all the things computers can do, one of the most helpful is the ability to process a lot of information very quickly. Students discover this and other powerful ideas about computing as they investigate models and simulations. Exploration begins with students acting out a simulation in which they are agents following rules of a given model. Applying their new understandings, they program their own models and collect data by running simulations with different parameters.


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Fifth Grade Module Three: Automation and Robotics

  • The students in Fifth Grade are learning about automation and robotics.  Their final task will be to design and create a robot that will have a specifc task to accomplish.

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Fifth Grade Module Four: Robotics and Automation Challenge

  • Students expand their understanding of robotics as they explore mechanical design and computer programming. This module focuses on developing skills needed to build and program autonomous robots. Students work with a group to apply their knowledge to design, build, test, and refine a mobile robot that meets a set of design constraints.

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