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Local teachers to get lessons in math, science
School leaders want to ensure educators grasp concepts in crucial subjects
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  • Board members Sammy Smith, Willie Mitchell and Maria Calkins were sworn in for their next term. Mitchell was elected chairman, Calkins as vice chairman and Delores Diaz as treasurer for the board. Smith was chosen as legislative liaison.
  • School lunch program participation is up significantly at all schools since the school system invested in Provision 2, a program that provides free lunch to all students. Participation increase has been seen most at the high school, where some days the number eating doubled from 2010. 

Over the next decade, 80 percent of jobs will require some form of math and science skills, according to the National Science Foundation.

Gainesville City Schools officials are well aware of that statistic. Jamey Moore, director of curriculum and instruction for the school system, worked with science teachers to determine what steps need to be taken.

But instead of working with students, they're starting with teaching the teachers.

"You have all of these initiatives and all of these resources, but if teachers, especially elementary, don't understand how to teach the basic fundamentals and make it have meaning, then all those things you do, there's nothing to hook it to," Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said. "Elementary teachers are not taught to teach science to the depth that (the curriculum) does, particularly physics and chemistry."

Moore and Christine Brosky, director of grant administration for the school system, worked to identify the areas where professional learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics is needed most.

Because science topics build on themselves from grade to grade, Moore asked elementary teachers to identify middle school concepts they were less comfortable teaching, and middle school teachers to do the same with high school concepts.

Gainesville High School's greatest areas of need include learning how to manipulate variables in equations, natural selection, electromagnetism and topics about projectiles. At the middle school, students are struggling most with basic atomic structure, as well as density, basic cell structure and how energy moves through ecosystems, according to documents from the school system.

"Our main priority this year is using the resources we have at hand, the experts in-house, letting them impact the teachers that are less comfortable with the main topics of science," Moore said. "Our next step will be working with those teachers setting up peer-to-peer training getting them more comfortable with teaching those items."

Teachers will be collaborating with one another to develop key concepts of knowledge for these areas, and they will also be introduced to new language arts standards that place an emphasis on reading and writing about science and technology.

"We have taken a very firm and diligent approach to incorporate STEM into all of our academic areas," Brosky said. "We are working on a small academy this summer to work on matching the Common Core Standards with STEM."

The academy, tentatively set for June, will be done with Elachee Nature Science Center, Northeast Georgia Youth Science Technology Center and the LEGO Education Academy.

Kindergarten through fifth-grade teachers will get training in Earth and physical science, problem solving and exploratory learning to better teach STEM concepts. 

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