Imagine you are in the 4th grade, and when your teacher pulls out the science book you fully expect the usual redundancy of a lecture. But instead, you are handed a pile of K’Nex construction pieces and told you will be building a car!
With the AMSTI “Motion in Design” module, that is exactly what Ms. Allison Miles’ 4th graders at Lincoln Elementary are working on right now.
“They don’t want to miss class,” remarked Ms. Miles, who has seen the success of her students for several years after working with AMSTI (the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative). Schools participating in AMSTI receive a pre-packaged, themed module every nine weeks that contains all the materials and guides they need to engage their students with hands-on instruction.
“We often have parents call us before scheduling medical and dental appointments to be sure their children don’t miss the activities,” stated the Assistant Principal, Dr. Cynthia Watts.
According to the recently released national study by the U.S. Department of Education, AMSTI schools are among those that showed statistically significant student achievement on the standardized tests. (Click here to link to a companion piece on the study).
“It’s not just the stuff,” explained Ms. Anna Jones, 3rd-grade science teacher at Lincoln Elementary. “It’s the pedagogy behind it. The methods of instruction and activities work so well together that it fully engages the student. They have so much fun that they forget they are learning very complex concepts.”
Ms. Jones helped to first implement AMSTI at Lincoln Elementary seven years ago. “My classroom was the pilot, and we were able to show in the first year how much our students progressed and achieved. Martha Goddard, the AMSTI Specialist from the State Department of Education, was – and continues to be – a huge support for us.
“If we don’t have something we need,” continued Ms. Jones, “we just call Martha and she gets it. And then she makes sure it’s not missing again in future modules. She even drove the long distance to our school once to bring us good dirt for a project!”
The partnership between the school leaders and ALSDE is key in successfully integrating AMSTI into the curriculum. The Alabama Best Practices Center (ABPC), an arm of A+ Education Partnership, also collaborates with AMSTI in providing professional development to its staff. Mutually, AMSTI provides professional development to the ABPC Powerful Conversations Network.
“Last spring, I was fortunate to co-facilitate an instructional round at Lincoln Elementary,” said Dr. Sandy Ledwell, AMSTI Science Administrator for ALSDE. “I was most pleased with the level of AMSTI involvement. From kindergarten on up, I could see evidence of science instruction in lessons, on bulletin boards in classrooms, and in student work in the halls and classrooms. All too often that is not the case, as many schools concentrate heavily on reading and math, so Lincoln Elementary is to be commended for their hard work to teach the whole child!”
Lincoln Elementary and Talladega County Schools are involved in all facets of ABPC programs and networks, continually finding more innovative ways to help their students excel.