Terry Jacobs spends a lot of her time washing test tubes.
She’ll now have more hours for other pursuits after learning a cost-saving trick Wednesday — build the tubes for her students out of straws anchored upright in clay on a paper plate.
It was one extra lesson Jacobs took away from a training course about using the body to teach aspects of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines. About 150 teachers from across southern Idaho have flocked to the College of Southern Idaho campus this week for a few creative lessons in the subjects.
The teaching seminar has been filled with lectures, hands-on experiments and classes that connect the subjects in imaginative ways.
On Wednesday, the kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers split into different groups across campus to focus on subjects like wind energy and the human body.
Jacobs, a science teacher at the Idaho Science and Technology Charter School in Blackfoot, appreciated the handmade way to measure the acidity of liquids.
“Our funding has been cut too, so this would be way cheaper to buy 100 straws than more test tubes,” she said.
I-STEM is in its second year of bringing teachers to North Idaho College in Coeur d’ Alene and CSI to help them learn more about the STEM subjects and collaborate with other teachers. The seminar started on Sunday and will end today.
Between the two campuses and another seminar that will take place next week in the Treasure Valley, around 400 teachers, administrators and presenters will take part in i-STEM.
Louis Nadelson, a researcher for i-STEM, said results from last year’s testing of teachers before and after the seminar showed that educators gained significantly more confidence in teaching the STEM concepts. This year, he is interested in measuring how the seminar affects students in the classroom.
“How will we do that? It’s a really good question because everyone has been battling how to measure students’ knowledge,” Nadelson said.
According to Change the Equation, a nonprofit that focuses on STEM concepts, only 38 percent of Idaho eighth-grade students scored at or above proficiency standards on national math scores in a 2011 report.
Nadelson said the STEM subjects are key to a student’s future and making quality decisions in careers, lifestyles and beyond.
For Mary Towler, a junior high math teacher in Idaho Falls, the week has been a way to learn how to incorporate more science activities into her classroom so the two subjects resound.
“There have been a lot of hands-on opportunities to teach us how to combine science and math,” she said. “The collaboration has been great.”
Amy Huddleston may be reached at 735-3204.