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Close up with science

Fifth graders at Clanton Intermediate School got up close and personal with science this week as the school partnered with the University of Montevallo for a hands-on, three-day project on symbiosis.

Two AMSTI science specialists visited the classroom of Trisha Karn and filmed the students as they learned. Karn agreed to pilot the lesson plan, which was observed by the UM College of Education, the STEM (Science Engineering Technology and Mathematics) faculty and Alabama Science in Motion.

Throughout the project, students observed specimens from nature and learned about the three different types of symbiosis, the relationship between two different types of species or organisms.

Students also took a virtual tour of Ebenezer Swamp in Shelby County and participated in a distance learning session with the university.

The project was funded through a federal math and science programs grant as part of the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative.

“Symbiotic relationships are all around us,” said Martha Gothard, AMSTI science specialist with UM. “The children have them in their backyards and in their homes. In the Ebenezer Swamp, there are many examples of symbiotic relationships.”

Gothard said an important aspect of the project was the opportunity it presented for students to see and touch real-life examples of what they were talking about in the classroom.

“It always means a lot to the children when they can actually put their hands on real science activities,” she said. “We know research tells us that the best teaching plans are when children are working with hands-on science, and that is true in math as well.”

Karn thanked Gothard, AMSTI science specialist John Woolard, and the participating UM faculty and staff for working with her students.

“This has allowed the students to be able to engage in opportunities that they might not otherwise have had a chance to engage in,” she said. “It’s been a good chance for the school system and higher education to work together. John and Martha have worked very hard creating and implementing the lesson.”

Gothard also recognized Dr. Mike Hardig and Dr. Jenifer Moore of UM, the state Department of Education, Clanton Intermediate Principal Dennis Cobb and all the CIS faculty and staff.

Videos of the project will be used for teacher training at the university. The project will culminate in May as students visit Ebenezer Swamp for an educational field trip.