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By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
Area high school science teachers are on the other side of the classroom this week as they participate in Teachers for a Competitive Tomorrowâ€™s summer workshop at Mississippi State University.
MSU is one of only five universities in the country to receive the Teachers for a Competitive Tomorrow grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The grant helps to place highly qualified science teachers in local schools.
â€śIts purpose is to improve the quality of science teacher education so that weâ€™re producing teachers for high schools that have a strong background in education and in their choice of science, which are physics, biology and chemistry,â€ť said Project Coordinator Jennifer Weir. â€ś... one aspect of the grant is training students to be really strong teachers and really have a strong knowledge of research and lab base to take into the classroom. Weâ€™re getting students much more interested in science to bridge that gap.â€ť
Besides training education majors, the program also offers an annual summer workshop for current high school science teachers which gives hands-on experience to show how they can incorporate lab-based activities in their own classrooms. Two Starkville High School teachers and one Oktibbeha County teacher participated in the workshop, along with several teachers from around the state.
â€śItâ€™s a good opportunity and we learn a lot. Itâ€™s all hands-on science,â€ť said Torri Clay, a human anatomy and physiology teacher at Starkville High School. Clay has participated in the workshop for several years and takes many of the activities and skills she learns there to her own classroom.
â€śWe talk about how we can adapt the classroom activities. Of course, we donâ€™t always have the resources and materials that they have, but we can figure out ways to use what we do have.â€ť
The workshop also shows the teachers how they can incorporate different scientific concepts into their own subjects, like bringing in a bit of chemistry into a biology class. The teachers are encouraged to be creative in their lessons to get students excited about science. Even teachers with decades of experience are learning something new.
â€śIâ€™m trying to get information that I can take back to the classroom â€” new ideas, interesting topics â€” that I can relate back to the subjects Iâ€™m teaching,â€ť said Debbie Tolbert, who also teaches at Starkville High School. â€śThe main thing is that itâ€™s been a long time since I graduated from college, and Iâ€™m just looking for some new ideas. Kids have changed a lot in the last 25 years, and they need something a little different from the way children were taught when I started out.â€ť
Throughout the week, instructors worked on labs that are fun and engaging for students, but still cost effective for schools. On Wednesday, they spent the afternoon digging for fossils on campus.
â€śThis is an activity that many of them wouldnâ€™t have thought to do before, and itâ€™s free to them,â€ť said Renee Clary, a professor with the geosciences department. â€śItâ€™s something they can go and do out at their own schools.â€ť
Although the labs and classroom activities have been a great learning experience, many of the teachers said theyâ€™re learning the most from each other.
â€śItâ€™s a great way to get to know the other teachers in the area and share ideas,â€ť Clay said. â€śWe get a chance to bond and talk about what goes on in the classroom.â€ť