Paper No. 8
Presentation Time: 2:50 PM
TUSCALOOSA, ALABAMA, CITY SCHOOLS AND THE PARTNERSHIP PROGRAM: A SUCCESSFUL ENRICHMENT PROGRAM FOR EDUCATORS AND STUDENTS
In the fall of 2009, the Tuscaloosa City School System opened Tuscaloosa Magnet School - Elementary (TMSE). TMSE draws students from across the city and serves a population where over 60% receive free or reduced lunch. The instruction at TMSE centers on a project-based learning model, a process by which students develop interest-based questions that drive the learning through hands-on, experiential collaboration. A partnership program between the University of Alabama (UA) and TMSE was implemented as a key aspect of the project-based learning model. Students could choose from a variety of disciplines, including art, dance, engineering, technology, and science. Classes are offered once a week for a semester, allowing for 12 sessions. Courses are offered twice a year. The program allows UA students to earn service credits for teaching, while faculty members volunteer their time. The Partnership program quickly grew to encompass other community members – small business owners, patrons of the arts, and state agencies. The volunteer teachers and the classroom teachers work together to provide the best learning environment for their students. Fundamental to all the classes is cross-disciplinary integration.
The authors have had the pleasure of being a part of the Partnership since its inception at TMSE. The geology class has always been hands-on and immersive – it was not unusual for another teacher to walk by the classroom and wonder why all the students were playing with Slinkies (demonstrating seismic waves) or sorting candy (to illustrate the difference between rocks and minerals) or playing “Plate Tectonics Battleship” (to help understand the relationships between earthquakes, volcanoes, and plate tectonics).
The success in the geology partnership class has been demonstrated in its popularity. While many classes had fewer than 10 students, the geology class typically had 15 or more, with the coordinator often asking if we could just “fit one more in.” The classroom teachers came away with new ideas for lesson plans. The authors heard from many different parents about how much their student looked forward to the class each week, and how much they, the parents, were learning from their child about geology. Through this partnership, the entire community has better recognized the importance of geoscience education.