Seminar Seeks to Enliven the Instruction of Science
By Steve Ivey
Star Staff Writer
Reprinted here in its entirety.
|Laura Weinkauf teaches an IMPACTSEED workshop at
Jacksonville State to give high school science teachers ideas on how to make
learning more fun for students. Photo: Trent Penny/The Anniston Star.
JACKSONVILLE — A classroom full of high school science teachers braced and
shifted in their seats as Nouredine Zettili jammed a wire into an exposed
He tapped the other end to assure them it was the cold wire, with no
dangerous charge running through it.
But then, once safely elevated, he did the same with the hot wire, avoiding
110 volts of electricity.
So long as he remained off the ground on a wooden platform, he was safe.
“Otherwise I would be break dancing right now,” said Zettili, a physics
professor at Jacksonville State University.
The demonstration was part of a two-week seminar to teach 30 high school
physics and chemistry teachers how to liven up their lesson plans.
“Teachers tell us they’re asked to teach in a hands-on approach,” Zettili
said. “But they often have nothing to put their hands on.”
A federal grant administered by the Alabama Commission on Higher Education
pays for the program known as IMPACTSEED—Improving Physics and Chemistry
Teaching in Secondary Education—now in its fifth year.
This year JSU provided a $19,270 matching grant to $137,500 in federal money.
Zettili said JSU is the only site in the state that offers the training
“The need is really justified,” he said. “We have a terrible shortage of
physics and chemistry teachers in this area.”
He said JSU offers only a graduate degree in general science education, not
specialized in any subject. When assignments shift teachers to either physics or
chemistry, they often aren’t completely proficient.
“Students who came to us as (college) freshmen were really unprepared,” he
said. “Trying to deprogram the few who had taken classes in high school was very
“Now, the students are in good hands. The transition is quite seamless.”
Carolyn Nevin, a physics teacher at Southside High School in Etowah County,
said she was looking forward to learning some new technology to take back to her
“To understand the technology of a laptop, I’ve never had much chance to work
with that,” she said. “And it’s always good to let the students know what to
expect once they leave for college.”
Teachers in the program will leave with about $2,500 in equipment to take
with them. They’ll also attend five Saturday workshops later this year to build
prototype lab experiments to teach their students.
Those include a box with rotating magnets that create enough energy to light
a small red bulb, and other magnets that cause a coil of wire to spin — just
like a motor —once attached to a battery.
“It’s science out in the open,” Zettili said. “It really demystifies what can
be an intimidating subject.”
Hilarie Howard, a physics teacher at Spring Garden High School in Cherokee
County, said she enjoyed the program because she’ll be eligible for some on-site
visits from Zettili and others during the school year.
“Teaching at a rural school, they don’t have a lot of chances to interact
with college professors,” she said. “As soon as he comes in and makes his first
joke, they really relax and get interested in science.”
About Steve Ivey
Steve Ivey covers education for The Star.
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