SAKS — Toss a beach ball painted as a globe back and forth.
Catch it with hands spread wide, and on average only three fingertips will
touch land. Fitting, since about 70 percent of the earth’s surface is water.
About 500 teachers from 31 schools are at Saks Middle and High schools this
week to find similarly engaging ways to deliver their math and science lessons.
The training is part of the expanding Alabama Math, Science and Technology
“Hands-on is how children learn the best,” said Tanya Barnes, AMSTI
coordinator at Jacksonville State University. “If you let the kids go, they know
a whole lot more than you give them credit for. They’ll come up with ways to
solve a problem you never thought about. It’s about discovery.”
The Saks schools are two of 16 sites this summer where about 6,000 Alabama
teachers will receive two weeks of training.
They become the students, designing mousetrap cars, testing water and soil
samples, and learning the mathematics of billiards.
Schools must agree to send all of their math and science teachers to the
institutes for two summers to be certified as AMSTI schools.
Once that’s complete, they gain access to as much as $8,000 in classroom
“I’ve been to workshops before, when they show you how to do these things,”
said Becky Henderson, a science teacher at Alexandria High School. “But then
they send you off and you have to go pay for the materials yourself.”
Steve Ricks, the state AMSTI coordinator, said the teacher resource center at
McClellan provides more than 7,000 different items teachers can use, from
graphing calculators and global positioning systems to paper plates and straws.
“That way, they’re not having to run to Wal-Mart the night before an
experiment and spend their own money,” he said.
Kitty Morgan, a math teacher at Homewood High School in Birmingham and one of
the trainers this week at Saks, said administrators must also attend the
“We try to get across an effective way to let kids talk to each other and
explain their thinking,” she said. “We have to stand back from the traditional
lecture style, how many of us were taught. … It can get quite loud, but it’s
purposeful noise. Administrators need to understand why it looks and sounds
The Legislature this year set aside $35.8 million for AMSTI, up from $22
million last year, to put the program in 589 schools. Gov. Bob Riley hopes to
have all the state’s 1,526 public schools using it by 2011.
“I like anything that gets the kids out of the textbook,” said June Jackson,
a science teacher at Hokes Bluff Middle School. “They can apply science, see how
school connects to everyday life. What they do, they won’t forget.”
About Steve Ivey
Steve Ivey covers education for the Star.
See story at The Anniston Star's website: www.annistonstar.com