Brigett Vernon's second grade class at Jacksonville's Kitty Stone Elementary
learned about balance and weight Friday; but they didn't get it from a textbook.
The school, which is part of the statewide Alabama Math and Science
Technology Initiative (AMSTI), learned about balance by sitting on their hands
and knees. They played with colored blocks and a tiny "see-saw" balanced on a
"They get to make discoveries on their own," Vernon said.
Seven more county schools will soon be making discoveries of their own. This
week, AMSTI announced a list of additional K-12 schools that will receive the
specialized science and math training.
Steve Ricks, the program's state coordinator, said the program eventually
will be in every school in the region served by Jacksonville State University.
JSU facilitates the program, providing an AMSTI building at McClellan. The
five AMSTI math and science specialists, and the rest of the local staff, are
employees of JSU, which receives its funding for the staff from the state.
Ricks said the state allocated $35 million for the program last year. This
year, Gov. Bob Riley is proposing a $15 million increase. Calhoun County's share
of the AMSTI pie is about $2.8 million, Ricks said.
Local project Administrator Tanya Barnes said the program locally has almost
run out of room; the warehouse at McClellan is filled with colored boxes and
other items. Some of them would look more at home in a pantry or a zoo than a
"We drive purchasing crazy," Barnes said.
The program's specialists say they're a well-traveled bunch, providing
support to classrooms and teachers wherever needed. Schools that participate in
the program send their teachers and administrators to a two-week training course
for two summers to learn the ropes.
Some schools are considered "control groups" until they receive the first
round of training. The program, which began in 2002, is now part of a $3 million
study by the U.S. Department of Education, Barnes said.
Alexandria Elementary Principal Sarah McClure, who heads up one of the seven
county schools named this year, said earning control-group status was a bummer.
"That was kind of not good for us, because that kept us from being able to
jump in and do some of the techniques we wanted to do," McClure said.
They, like the other schools named this year, will get their chance.
"It's going to help us raise the level of teaching and learning as far as
math and science are concerned, and we're excited here about it," Anniston
Middle School Principal Lynwood Hawkins said. "We really, really are."
2008 AMSTI schools in Calhoun County
• Anniston Middle School
• C.E. Hanna Elementary School
• Oxford Middle
• Alexandria Elementary School
• Ohatchee High School
• Weaver Elementary School
About Dan Whisenhunt
Dan Whisenhunt covers K-12 schools and higher
education for The Star.
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