Class was in session as local teachers went back to school today, and it was all in the name of science.
For the second year in a row, southeastern Idaho elementary school teachers are engaged in science and math training through Idaho State University.
The teachers are in their second year of a three year program that gives them hands-on strategies for teaching math and science together. They each get $500 to make the labs they do take flight in the classroom.
During Wednesday's session, teachers were tasked with calculating neutral buoyancy; they have to figure out how many paper clips will balance a hydrogen balloon mid-air. Once the teachers achieve neutral buoyancy, they'll combine each group's work to see how accurate their calculations were. Then they have to figure out how many balloons it would take to lift them.
Zoe Jorgensen teaches 5th and 6th grade at Bush Magnet School. She said they don't just learn the concepts, they learn how to teach them, too.
"We also do the math behind it, and how to chart it, how to record it, how to report it, just like how we'd have our students do," Jorgensen said.
Fort Hall Elementary School teacher Garth Carlson said he's found his students learn best that way. He's figuring out how to cater to them.
"Kids are smarter today. They learn more, and we have to be prepared to teach them," Carlson said.
As the teachers tie on their paper clips, they're also cranking out calculations. The thrust of the program is integrating science and math together, so students develop a passion for both. With the national emphasis on STEM teaching, Jorgensen said teachers have to instill that.
"Everything has to do with engineering. Velcro was an engineer, zippers was an engineer, a bridge is an engineer, so we have to be able to build these new things and really create an innovative society to keep us on top," she said.
Jorgensen and Carlson agreed: the summer training is crucial, because as the teachers succeed, so do the students.
"If you learn to like it at an early age, you're probably going to stick with it," Carlson said.
ISU is able to put the program on through a grant, it also enables them to give teachers materials to stock their classrooms.
Last year, teachers concentrated on chemistry, this year it's physics and next year the focus will be electricity.