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3 March 2008

Local Schools Learn New Tricks
in Alabama Math and
Science Technology Initiative

Kohan Lovett, left, and Eric Ausborn, second-graders at Kitty Stone Elementary School in Jacksonville, lie on the floor to look at their balancing-beam project. Photo: Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star

By Dan Whisenhunt
Star Staff Writer

Reprinted here in its entirety.

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 fulcrum.

"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 classroom.

"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 School
Alexandria Elementary School
Ohatchee High School
Weaver High School
Weaver Elementary School

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt covers K-12 schools and higher education for The Star.

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