Md. educators learn new ways to teach

October 24, 1993|By Michael A. Fletcher | Michael A. Fletcher,Staff Writer

Michelle Catterton and Pamela Genco were faced with a list of problems, and they had only a compass and their wits with which to solve them.

First they had to figure out the compass location for the church steeple on Light Street. "Which way is Light Street?" Ms. Catterton asked. Finally pointing herself in the right direction, she spotted the steeple in the distance, adjusted her compass and noted the direction.

"Two fifty-eight, west," she barked, as Ms. Genco dutifully jotted down the information.

Next, they had to go 38 meters in a specified direction and from that spot note the location of the conning tower of the submarine across the Inner Harbor. Knowing it took them seven paces to walk 10 meters, and following their compass, they were off -- in the wrong direction, as it turned out.

But no matter. The lesson was still valuable.

Ms. Catterton, a teacher at Bel Air's Southampton Middle School, and Ms. Genco, an education major at Towson State University, were among 250 people who took part in the seventh annual Maryland Science Center Teacher Camp-In.

The point of the camp-in was for elementary and middle school teachers and education majors to learn new ways to teach math and science to their charges. It also gave participants, who came from all over Maryland, an opportunity to network, share ideas and have fun.

Participants browsed the Science Center's exhibits, visited the planetarium, attended workshops and were treated to a virtual festival of IMAX films. The program also included an ice cream social and the chance to camp in a sleeping bag on the Science Center floor.

The participants seemed to love it. Despite their failed expedition outside the Science Center, Ms. Catterton and Ms. Genco said they would offer a similar compass drill to their students. They said it's a great way to introduce students to the basics of compass use and estimating distances.

"I came here for ideas, new ideas," Ms. Catterton said. "This helps."

Ms. Genco said she could "spend a whole day" teaching students how to use a compass.

Robert A. Finton, a science specialist in the Science Center's education department, led the compass class, which also offered an introduction to map reading and what promotional materials called "general stuff regarding not getting lost."

He said there is virtually no limit to how the material can be tailored in a classroom, depending on the ages, backgrounds and sophistication of the students. "You can take a compass out and all of a sudden you are mapping magnetic fields," he said, pointing out that compasses are thrown off by power lines and metal objects.

Paul Darring, a middle school science teacher in Baltimore, attended a session called "Horsing Around With Data." A workshop activity calculated the amount of horsepower generated by people and was designed to help students collect and analyze data.

"The challenge for me is packaging science in a way that makes sense and has relevance for children," he said. "This [camp-in] offered a good variety of experiences and some good approaches to teaching."

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