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Atkinson ‘cheers’ workshop participants

GASTON – When North Carolina State Superintendent of Department of Public Instruction Dr. June Atkinson visited Gaston Middle School last Thursday, she came upon school administrators and teachers investigating a crime scene.

A mock crime scene that is.

More than 50 teachers and administrators from six different school systems were making their rounds to crime scene labs a part of the Middle Grades in the 21st Century: Science & Mathematics workshop.

The workshop focused on supporting educators in their efforts to impart technology into mathematics and science teaching.

The workshop is supported by North Carolina State University College of Education’s The Friday Institute for Educational Innovation in partnership with Northampton County Schools, Halifax County Schools, Roanoke Rapids Graded School District, Weldon City Schools, Franklin County Schools and Granville County Schools.

“I’m here to be a cheerleader for what they’re learning in the workshops,” said Dr. Atkinson. “I’m appreciative of the teachers taking time out of their summer. It shows that they care about the students.”

Dr. Atkinson also commended the superintendents that participated in the activities as well.

When Dr. Atkinson made her visit, the teachers were acting as forensic scientists, seeking out the “suspect” among them.

The day before they were getting a lesson on alternative fuels and participating in car labs, the theme for the week.

Each lesson for the teachers in the workshops can be carried over into the classroom using technological materials such as laptops, cameras and interactive “smart” whiteboards.

“It’s fun activities, but at the same time (it has) math and science concepts,” said Director of Learning Technologies of College of Education Lisa Grable.

Grable said skills data, analyzing and communicating results can be studied by students involved in the activities.

Dr. Atkinson spoke to the educators about how important it is to engage middle school students in lessons, especially now days when teachers not only have to compete with raging hormones, but the latest technologies such as MP3 players, video games and computers.

“The beauty of technology is it can engage the student,” she said.

Dr. Atkinson used examples of how technologies could be used to connect students to education, like using MP3 player to learn a foreign language while taking part in an activity like walking.

“How many of you are going to remember (what happened on) ‘CSI’?” she asked the crowd, “It’s because you’re engaged and involved.”

Northampton County Schools’ teachers and administration who participated in the workshop were enthusiastic about the workshop.

“I love it because we get to experiment with the materials,” said Terri Harris, a Gaston Middle School AIG (Academically Intellectually Gifted) teacher.

According to Harris, she has already applied the lessons she has learn in the workshops to her classroom as well as the materials, like the interactive whiteboard, a touch-sensitive display that connects to a computer and digital projector.

Harris added she was glad to see Dr. Atkinson visit northeastern North Carolina.

“I’m amazed,” she said about the state superintendent’s visit.

Gaston Middle School Principal Martha Paige was equally star struck by Dr. Atkinson’s visit.

“I think she’s a great lady,” Paige said.

She added seeing the state superintendent boosts teacher morale.

As for the program, Paige said the “cutting edge” workshop is nothing like what she has seen in her 25 plus years as an educator, but none the less important in education.

“Once you give them (students) a little taste they’ll go with it,” she said.

Northampton County Schools Network Administrator Mel Cherry, who was on hand to make sure the technology used during the workshop was working accordingly, said he wished his school had this type of lessons when he was a kid.

“Kids like gadgets,” said Cherry. “It keeps them motivated.”

Cherry added Atkinson should visit each county in the state.

“I hope she learns about the unique (issues rural) teachers and students are facing,” he said. “It’s a little different environment than Charlotte, Mecklenburg (County), that area down there.”