- Associated Press - Monday, June 20, 2016

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) - Vigo County School Corp. teachers Mary DeBard and Donna Henson were busy collaborating on Thursday to build a Lego “click-clock,” which uses gears and a pendulum to measure time.

They carefully studied the instructions as they assembled it. “We haven’t played with Legos for a long time,” DeBard said with a laugh. She is an Otter Creek Middle School science teacher.

The two were among 46 VCSC middle and elementary math and science teachers who have gone back to the classroom, this time as students learning to incorporate new STEM ideas into their lessons.

They were participating on Thursday morning in the PRISM program, a partnership between VCSC and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology that uses a state Math/Science Partnership grant. Rose-Hulman professors and staff provide the instruction for the program, which has been offered for several years.

The program involves an intensive summer workshop that lasts three weeks; each week, the teachers spend four days at Sarah Scott Middle School and Fridays at Rose-Hulman. Separate programs are provided for elementary (grades 4-5) teachers and middle school teachers (grades 6-8).

According to DeBard and Henson, a teacher at West Vigo Middle School, the hands-on projects teach students more than science, technology and engineering. Students have to work together and troubleshoot together, just as they would in today’s workplace.

“It’s not the end result, but the process kids need to learn,” DeBard said.

For teachers, the Prism program provides them with training and more ways to integrate science, math and technology into the curriculum, DeBard said. “Kids really like the hands-on experiences, and with the professional development and grant opportunities, we are given hands-on activities to take back to our classrooms.”

Also working on the Lego click-clocks were Kelly Stout and Brenda Rector, science teachers at Honey Creek Middle School. “Every year there is something completely different I can take back to the classroom to use,” Stout said. What she learns will help her as she teaches her students on problem solving skills and “deeper thinking.”

This is the second week of the program. Middle school teachers are using Lego “classroom packs” to study forces and motion and simple machines, taught by Maarij Syed, RHIT associate professor of physics and optical engineering. Elementary teachers are learning about physical sciences.

Tina Hudson, RHIT associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, is helping elementary teachers incorporate into their classrooms basic concepts of electricity, electrical circuits and batteries. Projects that showcase the conservation of energy and light bulb technologies are part of the workshop experiences.

Patricia Carlson, PRISM director, said nine RHIT professors are involved in the program this year. The first week focused on math; this week, physical properties; and next week, elementary teachers will study ecological systems, while middle school teachers will study biomedical engineering; after studying lungs and the respiratory system, the middle school teachers will build artificial lungs and hearts.

“Everything is aligned to Indiana’s academic standards,” Carlson said. “It’s a very rich program.”

The goals are to increase student learning and promote career awareness. “The fundamental fact is, if you want to go on to a career in a highly technological world, you’re going to have to be able to do the math and the science - not just be really fond of math and science,” she said.

She noted that many teachers attend year after year.

Among them is Dianna Cooper, Otter Creek eighth-grade science teacher. The summer’s efforts will help make a difference when she returns to her science classroom, she said. The lessons and hands-on activities “add another component to teaching because students can conceptualize it, they can build it, they can test it and then they can write about what they’ve done,” she said.

She’s giving up part of her summer, but, “It’s a lot of fun,” she said.


Source: (Terre Haute) Tribune-Star, https://bit.ly/1UdrkEw


Information from: Tribune-Star, https://www.tribstar.com

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