Teachers integrate fun in math, science curriculum

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 25, 2010

NATCHEZ — Armed with lessons learned at a Thursday workshop, a few local teachers can now teach mass, mode and median using marbles, tin foil and a bucket of water.

The demonstration was part of a program training session at Robert Lewis Middle School, where instructors from Tupelo Middle School showed local teachers how to integrate fun activities in their math and science curriculum for students in kindergarten to eighth grade.

The Mississippi Department of Transportation-sponsored program, Roadways in Developing Elementary Students, seeks to introduce children to careers in transportation, such as civil engineering, while improving academics throughout the state.

For the activity teaching mass and averages, 12 teachers split in groups and built their own sea craft from foil. Then each team guessed how many marbles its dinghies could hold before sinking in a bucket of water.

The simple experiment resulted in a whiteboard filled with data, an array of new concepts and an opportunity to practice teamwork through competition.

Other creative activities included making ice cream to teach chemical and physical properties, constructing paper airplanes to teach Newton’s laws and racing clay cars to teach friction.

In addition to the activities participants were shown at the two-day demonstration, each teacher will receive a binder filled with 100 activities and lesson plans.

Not only did teachers learn to apply hands-on activities to the classroom, but they had fun too, McLaurin fourth grade teacher Elizabeth Tanner said.

She said hands-on activities are effective because children learn better by doing rather than studying textbooks.

“If you can make it real and apply (math and science), you have a purpose of learning rather than just passing the state test,” Tanner said.

Tanner said the interactive nature of the RIDES workshop helped teachers stay engaged, unlike many workshops she attends.

“I had a blast,” Tanner said.

“I’m ready to dig into the notebook (distributed by the program) and see what activities I’ll use.”

Kindergarten teacher Susan McKinnie, who attended the workshop from Vicksburg, said teaching students teamwork is also valuable because students often work individually or with computers.

“That’s what our children need. They need to learn to work together,” McKinnie said.

Each classroom will also receive a trunk filled with approximately $1,200 worth of materials for the activities.

In addition to nurturing the state’s future civil engineers, the program also benefits Mississippi Department of Mental Health’s Region 8 Work Activities Center. Mentally disabled adults at Region 8 assemble and deliver the trucks to schools, providing them with work and an opportunity to practice work-related skills.