AMSTI bolsters student success

Published 10:48 pm Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A new program at the Linden schools has students changing their minds about which subject is their favorite. Wylene Jones, a fourth- and fifth-grade science teacher at Linden Elementary, is seeing students get excited about her class in a way they never had before.

Thanks to the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative — commonly referred to as AMSTI — Jones’ class has shot through the roof in popularity, and students are learning at a faster pace and retaining the information better.

That’s because AMSTI is a hands-on educational program, teaching students about animals by actually watching, caring and handling them.

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“It’s a hands-on approach to teaching science and math,” said Jones. “It helps to bridge what they learn in textbooks to the ability to actually experience it.”

Situated in four stations throughout the classroom, students on Wednesday were tending to environmental habitats they made for fiddler crabs, dwarf African frogs and millipedes. The students have been feeding the animals and studying how they are different.

In her fifth-grade class, her students have been observing microscopic organisms.

“This approach to teaching has really made a huge difference,” said Jones. “It used to be that the students would grumble about having to come to class. Now, they are learning to like science and love learning. When it’s time to wrap things up at the end of class, instead of getting in a hurry to get out of here, they are grumbling about wanting to stay and continue learning.

“They are figuring out that hands-on science can be fun, and it involves a great deal of observation using their senses.”

At the end of the session they are currently studying, the students will be able to take the animals they are studying home.

“I like feeding the crabs,” said fourth-grader Paula Munoz.

Munoz’s classmate, Tyler Prince, said he really likes learning about millipedes and feeding them. “I’ve learned that millipedes eat apples, lettuce, and oranges.”

“My favorite part is when we got to see a new baby frog,” Imiya Agee, another classmate, said. “We learned that frogs do not have a tongue and does not have any eye lids.”

These students, like the rest of the class take what they are now learning in Jones’ class very seriously. When jokingly asked if any of them would consider slipping a millipede between the sheets of the sibling’s bed, the students plainly pointed out why that would not be a good idea at all.

“Millipedes can secrete a poison that can be harmful to the skin,” said Munoz.

“That’s right,” chimed in Prince. “If you get it on your skin it can burn and takes months to get off.”

Demopolis and Marengo County schools are also AMSTI schools.

“Each year we will be able to incorporate more hands-on lessons in the classroom,” said Jones. “So far, it’s working even better than I thought it would. It’s great.”