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SMATH: How to Turn 2 Subjects Into 1 Super-Class

Ed Surge – Amanda Cooper and Brandi Todd

“As educators, we always encourage our students to work together; we promise them two heads are better than one. But with so much happening in our individual classrooms, we teachers often don’t take our own good advice. Last year at Piedmont Elementary in Alabama, we decided to finally try it. We took our respective subjects—science and math—combined forces, and created one super-class: what our students affectionately call smath.”(more)

Elementary engineers

Vestavia Voice – Grace Thornton

“Many people look back on third grade and think of cursive writing or chapter books. They don’t think of engineering projects. But the third-graders at Vestavia Hills Elementary West always will, thanks to a Makerspace program that teaches elementary students to harness their problem-solving skills from a young age. “This year has been a huge push toward thinking like an engineer, thinking like a problem solver,” said Megan Humphries, a third-grade teacher at VHEW. “For the students, this is a very new experience.””(more)

Alabama offers high school students – and their parents – tuition-free community college

The Hechinger Report – Meredith Kolodner

“As states focus on increasing the number of low-income students who go to college, Alabama has added another target group – their parents. Last year, Alabama promised 10,000 sixth and seventh graders at more than 50 schools in a poor area of the state free community college tuition, along with extra tutoring and mentoring. This fall, state officials are holding meetings at six community colleges in the region to recruit the parents of those students, who will also be able to enroll tuition-free. “We believe this to be a real game-changer,” said Lawrence E. Tyson, a professor who is leading the initiative. “One way to change the culture of not just a community, but also a home, is to involve the parents.” The schools whose families are receiving this offer are in a region of Alabama known as the Black Belt, which historically has had some of the highest poverty rates and lowest levels of formal education in the nation. More than one-quarter of African-Americans in the region live in poverty. In most of Alabama’s Black Belt counties, fewer than 15 percent of adults have bachelor degrees. Students whose parents have graduated from college have a better chance of getting a degree themselves, research shows.”(more)

This school is using ‘Shark Tank’ to teach research and presentation skills

E-School News – Trent Moore

“Teachers at Holly Pond Middle School are turning to a popular reality TV show as inspiration to get students interested in flexing their research and presentation skills. The school used public funding to add an eLearning library environment for students this year. Principal Chuck Gambrill and teacher April Dean worked throughout the summer to convert an old classroom into a collaborative learning environment, and they have added a suite of Samsung Galaxy tablets and iPads allowing students to download books from a virtual library. Aside from the obvious benefits of offering a wide array of reading materials, school officials say the devices have also created a fresh opportunity to teach students how to research, create and apply their knowledge via the internet and Google applications.”(more)

What can the arts add to technical fields? How about innovation?

AL.com – Lee Roop

“Art and mathematics are traditionally two very different things. Putting them together – or more specifically, using the arts to teach math – is the subject of a workshop for teachers in Huntsville next week. Teaching teams from area schools will meet at the Arts Council of Huntsville for three days with Georgia artist and master teacher Jeff Mather. Six visual and performing artists from Huntsville will also attend to explore possible teaching partnerships. The Arts Council won a state education grant to conduct the workshop. It’s part of the movement to add an “A” for Arts to the much-discussed STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math. The effort to guide students toward those fields is often called STEAM today, reflecting the Arts insertion.”(more)

The E in STEM also stands for ‘energy’ education: guest opinion

Alabama.com – Daniel Tait

“Last week NerdWallet, a national financial ranking website, proclaimed that Huntsville is the best place in the United States for a science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) career. Huntsville claimed the title due to plentiful STEM jobs and a low cost of living ahead of other high profile STEM hubs including California’s Silicon Valley and North Carolina’s Research Triangle. Coming as no surprise to anyone who has lived in Huntsville for longer than two weeks, the ranking is a testament to the vitality and potential of our community. Traditionally, Huntsville’s economic fortunes leaned heavily on NASA, the Department of Defense and their related support structures. Recently, STEM innovators like the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology have exploded onto the scene and expanded STEM opportunities into diverse fields beyond those of the aerospace and defense industries. If this success is to continue, Huntsville’s must include a broader spectrum of STEM-related careers. Differentiation in the STEM field enables our city to build on a positive track record of innovation and cements our status as technology leader in the 21st century.”(more)