I have the pleasure of working with workshop facilitators who live in different cities throughout the United States. Care Butler, who has facilitated countless workshops for AIMS, resides in Arkansas. She works hard to design teacher days that will empower educators to be more effective in their classrooms and ultimately have positive effects on student engagement. During an AIMS workshop we share unique tasks/investigations that can be immediately implemented into the classroom. Care is careful to help clarify and enrich teachers’ math and science content knowledge, help teachers align the tasks/investigations explored to national or state standards, and help workshop participants build questioning and inquiry techniques.
On August 9th and 10th, 2016, the AIMS Center team facilitated a day of math and a day of science professional learning for three grade spans at the SER-Niños Charter School in Houston, Texas. Care Butler was one of the facilitators of these workshops. She discussed her experience with me about her two days with the middle school educators. Here are a couple of reflections that stood out.
During the Algebraic Thinking Day, a math teacher who had a former career in Cuba as an Engineer was enthusiastically exploring the algebra patterns emerging from real world investigations and shared his feelings about the day with Care. “I feel like a student again. I’m using math to problem solve and stretch my brain. In my old job I only used proportions all day long, and after a while I felt math was just being memorized.”
A coach (participant) attending the Earth and Space Science Day was unfamiliar with topography concepts and took great interest in an activity that had him mapping the features of his hand while making a fist. He did not want his colleagues to “demonstrate” for him the sample of erosion patterns by spraying his “fist map” with water. He insisted on predicting the flow of water, carefully analyzing the topography and making inferences about how water would affect the region shaped like his fist. Eventually he allowed his peers to spray water over his “fist topography” and the response to his predictions resulted in meaningful class discussion. Care was touched that he later remarked that he wanted visit the Grand Canyon now, as he would understand the erosion process better.
Spending time on your own professional learning means you should be able to explore, ponder, and investigate. Our AIMS workshop facilitators are diligent in their efforts to provide these really meaningful experiences for our participants. I am really proud to work with colleagues like Care Butler who make these days come alive for teachers! I look forward to introducing you to more of our AIMS workshop facilitators through this blog.