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Thomas Jefferson Middle School teacher Joseph Flanigan and Mount Zion High School teachers C.J. Barksdale-Woodard, middle, and Neysa Downs enjoy a light moment while participating in a hands-on investigation of samples of polymer substances Thursday during an all-day teacher workshop sponsored by the Education Coalition.

DECATUR – Kelley Harms wants her students to be more invested in their own learning in her Meridian High School classroom.

She was one of several area teachers to attend the I-BIO Institute workshop at Richland Community College's National Sequestration Education Center on Thursday, where Karen Lindebrekke, director of programs, discussed the upcoming changes in science learning standards and how to put the responsibility for learning in the students' hands. The Education Coalition of Macon County co-sponsored the workshop.

Harms teaches physical science, chemistry and physics at Meridian. “It's my first time attending an I-BIO workshop,” she said. “This year we went 1 to 1 with our students – they each have their own Chromebook – to incorporate student learning through that and make it more student-centered instead of teacher-centered, because sometimes it's not circular learning. I'm just excited to give them more hands-on experience.”

Normally there are students in any classroom who always take the lead, but putting learning in their own hands brings the quiet ones forward, too. By giving students the opportunity to create their own experiements and ask their own questions, said Liz Bartimus, who teaches at Johns Hill Magnet School, it brings kids out of their shells.

“Now they're scientists, whether they realize it or not,” Bartimus said.

The new science standards will focus on how technology has changed the requirements of life in the United States, and that the careers growing at the fastest rate require a higher level of education and skill than in former years. Many of those careers require skills in science and math, and ease with communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking. Students who don't master the basics early will be facing real challenges in college and career, Lindebrekke said.

The Sequestration Center hosts a number of teacher workshops, said David Larrick, director of the sequestration program, and students often take tours where they learn about renewable energy. The Center also provides teachers with lesson plans, developed through the experience with Decatur's public schools' summer camps held on the site.

“These lesson plans are kid-tested,” Larrick said. “We know they work.”

Richland has developed the first degree programs in the world with emphasis on carbon capture storage, Larrick said, and the center demonstrates renewable energy with solar and wind, the environmental prairie and other low-carbon technologies. In July, the Center will host its third annual K-12 teacher workshop on clean energy. Teachers earn continuing education credits as well as learn how to teach hands-on lessons on renewable energy sources, which could inspire students to pursue careers in those fields.


Education Reporter

Education reporter for the Herald & Review.

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