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franklin county times

ASIM engages students in science labs

Emma Humphres performs a precision calculation as chemistry teacher Richie Hester and lab partner Makenzie Lawler look on.
Emma Humphres performs a precision calculation as chemistry teacher Richie Hester and lab partner Makenzie Lawler look on.

In a Vina High School chemistry class recently, students used analytical balances and micropipettes, learning to determine the accuracy and precision of various scientific instruments. This kind of lesson is made possible for Richie Hester’s class – and for students throughout the county and across the state – because of Alabama Science in Motion.

Candace Golliver is the chemistry specialist for the UNA branch of ASIM, which serves Vina, Red Bay, Phil Campbell, Belgreen and Tharptown schools.

“Any teacher in a public school can participate by attending eight days of summer training for two years,” Golliver explained. “Teachers come to training in the summer or to training days scheduled throughout the school year. When school starts, they let me know which labs they want, and I drop them off for a two-week period and then pick them up to be refurbished and taken to another school.”

Science in Motion is a “revolutionary project (that) originated at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Penn., in 1986,” explains program history on the ASIM website. “Seven years after the Juniata SIM program started, a story appeared on ABC News World News Tonight with Peter Jennings about the program. Sen. Fred Horn from Alabama saw the story and was determined to start a similar program in Alabama. Six months later on May 3, 1994, the governor of Alabama signed the Alabama Science In Motion program legislation, and Alabama became the first state in the nation to institute a statewide Science in Motion program.”

In 2005, incorporation with the Alabama Math Science and Technology Initiative allowed Science In Motion to grow to its current capacity, Golliver said.

Across the state, 33 Science in Motion specialists housed at a public college or university serve 11 in-service regions. Each of the sites provides resources and training to area high schools. Funding for the program is administered through the State Department of Education.

“They enable small schools like Vina to be able to participate in several different types of hands-on labs that we wouldn’t be able to because we couldn’t afford the equipment,” Hester explained. “I only have good things to say about the program from a teacher point of view.”

Golliver said teachers who coordinate with ASIM have the opportunity to have her come in and help teach the lab and can also refer to her with questions, aligning with the stated goals of Science in Motion to “provide high-tech laboratory experiences for students and effective professional development for teachers. In many instances the cost of the equipment involved would be prohibitive for individual schools or even systems to acquire. Sharing this equipment through Science in Motion offers equally enriching opportunities to students from different backgrounds and schools. Professional development workshops improve teacher mastery of subject matter and equipment use. Through these workshops teachers from different school systems gain the opportunity to network with peers, sharing both content knowledge and teaching techniques,” the website explains.

Golliver works with 37 schools in her coverage area to provide science education. Biology and physics specialists also provide aid in science education at Red Bay and Tharptown; Belgeen and Vina also take advantage of the biology labs.