Teachers learn new methods for math and science class

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 17, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Does your teacher eat candles? She could after attending a science workshop this week at the Natchez-Adams School District building.

Teachers from the district, ranging from third through ninth grade, were learning all about the AIMS program &045; Activities Integrating Math and Science.

Morgantown Elementary teacher Sandra Washington loves the idea of integrating her two favorite subjects to teach.

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&uot;It is one of the coolest workshops the Natchez School District has ever brought,&uot; Washington said. &uot;Any skill and concept you learn in other subjects is being put into math and science.&uot;

AIMS was funded through a National Science Foundation grant and started as a project for the middle school level. Now, the program reaches kindergarten through ninth grade.

The program provides a supplemental book of activities for all grade levels and all curriculum needs. In each book is a Chinese proverb that symbolizes the concept of AIMS.

I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.

And all week the teachers have been &uot;doing&uot; and &uot;understanding.&uot;

Wednesday, the teachers made 3-D topographical maps.

But first, facilitator Eric Bull helped the teachers understand the maps they see with rings that show the elevation of mountains.

He took cellophane and placed it over the balled fist of a teacher to look like a mountain. He then told another teacher to draw circles around the hand, going up the fist or mountain.

After there were rings all the way to the top, he took off the plastic and laid it on the table. There in front of them was what most maps show &045; the lines of elevation of a mountain.

But this time, the teachers had performed the activity and understood now that those rings represented more than just circles on a page.

All of the activities were performed with materials found at home.

And the teachers said they are learning to teach problem solving and activities like these that will make their students think.

&uot;I teach special education, so my students need a lot of hands-on activities,&uot; Doris Malone, special education teacher at Central Alternative School, said. &uot;These are things that will amuse our kids and get them interested in science.&uot;

And these teachers were very excited.

&uot;I’m having fun,&uot; Washington said. &uot;I’m enjoying this week.&uot;

Playing the teacher’s role, Bull walked around the makeshift classroom for the teachers, asking, &uot;Are you pleased with this? Is this something your kids can do? Are you proud of that?&uot;

The teachers were getting not only a lesson in AIMS, but also learned &uot;magic tricks&uot; from their facilitator, Bull &045; like eating a candle.

Bull has a philosophy to &uot;make science approachable to all kids.&uot; His way of doing that is to make kids think and make science fun and hands-on learning.

This former elementary and middle school teacher-turned-college professor performs what the teachers have called &uot;magic tricks&uot; every day.

&uot;It looks like a magic trick but there is really a scientific experiment behind it,&uot; Kimula Wallace, an eighth-grade teacher from Robert Lewis Middle School.

Bull explained he used to challenge his students to make a candle at home. The top challenge, worth 50 bonus points, was to make a candle that they could eat, wick and all, while it was lit.

Bull said some students would make a candle, while others would complete the various steps along the way for more points like making an edible candle and putting a wick in it.

He never reveals how it is done, making the kids go home and really think about how they can accomplish this task. Another reason he does not give the answer &045; there is not just one answer or one way.

He remembered that one year 14 students finished the experiment.

Using these hands-on activities helps the students and teachers understand.

&uot;When you do it for yourself and reason through it, you get the concept,&uot; Bull said.

The activities will also help prepare them for the state science test Mississippi schools must take starting in 2005.