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Teachers Learning To Pull Together Math, Science Instruction

Educators Participating In Three-Year Workshop Program At University of Arkansas by Rose Ann Pearce | July 24, 2014 at 1:30 a.m.
STAFF PHOTO ANDY SHUPE Larry Buell, left, a teacher at West Fork Middle School, helps Karnesia Kelly, right, and John Barton, both teachers at Osceola STEM Academy, to adjust and weigh a radio-controlled car Wednesday before racing it against another during the workshop in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- With a loud pop, a plastic bottle filled with water blasted beyond the treetops Wednesday outside the John A. White Engineering Building at the University of Arkansas.

Springdale teachers huddled to watch the bottle descend. They laughed about the successful launch of their 2-liter bottle "rocket" and discussed how to improve the plastic pipe launcher activated with air from a bicycle tire pump.

At A Glance

Inquiry Based Learning

Indiana University defines inquiry-based learning as an “instructional model that centers learning on solving a particular problem or answering a central question.” There are several different inquiry-based learning models, but most have these several general elements in common:

• Learning focuses around a meaningful, ill-structured problem that demands consideration of diverse perspectives.

• Academic content-learning occurs as a natural part of the process as students work towards finding solutions

• Learners, working collaboratively, assume an active role in the learning process.

• Teachers provide learners with learning supports and rich multiple media sources of information to assist students in successfully finding solutions.

• Learners share and defend solutions publicly in some manner.


Their assignment was to create an experiment to demonstrate Newton's Second Law of Motion, which is force equals mass times acceleration, said Marla Kreider, a seventh-grade math teacher. Newton's Laws are in the seventh-grade science curriculum.

Kreider, Tracy Campbell and Kristi Smith, all teachers at Hellstern Middle School in Springdale, are among 86 instructors wrapping up a two-week workshop learning how to integrate math and science into middle school lesson plans. Most of the teachers are from Northwest Arkansas schools, and some traveled from Forrest City and Mena.

"Research tells us to get the students hooked on math and science or they turn away by middle school," said Bryan Hill, assistant dean in the College of Engineering. That is especially true of girls and minority students, he said.

A $1.2 million federal grant funneled through the Arkansas Department of Education over three years is paying for the workshop. The focus is to help fifth- through eighth-grade teachers understand inquiry-based learning and integrate math and science as they implement Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation of Science Standards. The teachers attend a lecture in the morning and spend the afternoon designing projects or experiments.

"We as teachers never get to work together in a vertical collaboration," Campbell said. "We've taught our subjects in isolation. Kids really get into this."

Danita Gann, a sixth-grade science teacher at Mena Middle School, and her group demonstrated a balloon-powered car in the hallway of the engineering building. An inflated balloon was taped to a small car, and as the air released, the car moved forward. The teachers timed and measured its distance to demonstrate what the students will be doing in the classroom.

It's a demonstration to show that for every action, there is a reaction, Gann said.

"Students see a real life application with this project," said Robin Ponder, a sixth-grade math teacher from Mena.

Two teachers from Randall G. Lynch Middle School in Farmington were working using enameled wire and nails in an electromagnetic test.

"We're designing projects for our students with a real world application," said Willie Williams.

His colleague, Caen Dowell, said, "Hands on is the only way to get some students involved."

NW News on 07/24/2014

Print Headline: Teachers Learning To Pull Together Math, Science Instruction


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