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17 July 2007
Alabama's Math & Science Teachers Attend Workshops for AMSTI Certification of their Schools

Shelly Roberts, a teacher at Saks High School, puts the finishing touches on her mousetrap car during the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initative workshop. Photo: Trent Penny/The Anniston Star

By Steve Ivey
Star Staff Writer

Reprinted here in its entirety.

AMSTI Helps Teachers Find New Ways
to Deliver Lessons

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 Initiative (AMSTI).

“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 equipment.

“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 sessions.

“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 different.”

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.

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