This week, almost 300 teachers with Surry County Schools are completing training to learn how to make science more applicable for students as well as how to use math to help that process along.
All kindergarten through fifth-grade teachers and science and math teachers in sixth through eighth grade have gone through the Activities Integrating Math and Science training at Gentry Middle School. They have learned about different hands-on activities they can use with their classes, been given materials to take back to their classes and also received a $50 voucher for resources from the AIMS catalogue.
“We’re trying to teach them activities to get students engaged and provide them with the materials they need,” said Jennifer Scott, director of professional development and communication for the school system.
Teachers spent time with trainers completing activities in their focus area for each grade level as well as learning what questions to ask students about the activities and how to increase higher order thinking skills in their classrooms. Each grade level had a focus module that is based on their curriculum. Kindergarten teachers focused on weather and each could get a weather kit which includes a barometer, cloud charts, immersion thermometers and rectangular tubes to take back to their classrooms. First-grade teachers focused on solids, liquids and mixtures. Second grade deals with sound. With AIMS, physics starts in second grade so those teachers could get a “Primarily Physics” book.
“We’re learning different ways to teach vibration and sound. We just made guitars and talked about how you can change pitch,” said Misti Bartley, second-grade teacher at Rockford Elementary School. “She’s given us great lessons. Not having taught second grade before I am so excited we’re getting to do all this. Science is an area where I struggle with how do you show them, how do you make it visual and hands-on.”
Third-grade teachers focused on the skeletal and muscular systems of the human body, using songs to help remember the names of the bones and muscles. Fourth grade worked with electricity and magnetism. They each could get a magnet lab. Fifth grade worked mainly with force and motion and could get a simple machines Lego kit.
“There’s lots of hands-on activities. I’ve learned lots of great strategies today so far and we’ve focused on vocabulary, critical thinking skills and problem solving,” said Nicole Hazelwood, fifth-grade teacher at Dobson Elementary School. “In fifth grade, we focus on math and science. We have the science EOG (End of Grade test), so it’s really important to reach those students. She’s given us new and inventive ideas and new perspectives.”
Middle school math and science teachers focused on chemistry during their two-day session. They each received materials to do all of the activities they learned during the training session as well as a “Chemistry Matters” book.
AIMS, which began in 1981, has changed through the years and now connects its materials to a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM, focus. The program focuses on doing, writing, illustrating and thinking by using real-world manipulatives, number abstract, graphing representations and generalizing formulas.
“It’s not all science, it’s math-related skills, too,” said Scott. “Incorporating math and science and real-world opportunities is an important part of that.”
The AIMS training is part of the school system’s STEM initiative that was built into the Race to the Top grant proposal and scope of work. That funding is enabling the school system to provide not only AIMS training but training for Project Lead the Way and sending high school advanced placement teachers to subject-specific institutes this summer as well.
“In Surry County, one of our main focuses has always been to build human capacity and we have sought additional money for that. To help a classroom teacher be the best they can be is the best thing we can do,” said Scott. “That’s the reason we’re helping teachers with these strategies. All of that feeds back into the measurable areas (of the Race to the Top plan).”
Scott noted that if teachers are trained well, it can help increase student achievement and college readiness and enrollment of students as well as hopefully increase graduation rates. Those are the four measurable areas outlined in the state’s Race to the Top plan.
Contact Morgan Wall at email@example.com or 719-1929.