Innovative Tool to Teach Science Used by 65 Schools
For many teachers and students, science is a challenging subject to teach or to learn but a new hands-on science kit program, supported by BMW Manufacturing Corp. and 15 other businesses, has prompted an innovative approach in elementary and middle school classrooms in 65 South Carolina schools.
It is called L.A.S.E.R. (Leadership Assistance for Science Education Reform), an integrated inquiry-based science kit program designed to help teachers instruct students more effectively. It also makes learning science more fun for students.
The program, sponsored by the National Science Resource Center at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington and the National Science Foundation, began showing up in South Carolina schools in 1997.
Sixteen South Carolina companies, school districts and universities are funding sponsors for the project. BMW Manufacturing has been a funding sponsor since 2000 and has funded two, five-day training institutes to introduce the teaching tool to teachers, administrators, business representatives, colleges and universities.
And last year, BMW Manufacturing presented four $10,000 grants to South Carolina school districts to recognize their use of the hands-on approach to teaching science. Those school districts were Dorchester County School District Two, the School District of Newberry County, Orangeburg County School District Five and the Pee Dee Math-Science Hub, which includes 21 school districts.
“The hands-on activities offered to students through this project makes learning about science fun and relative. It helps children remember what they have learned and will keep them interested in science,” said Robert Hitt, BMW’s manager for media and public affairs.
“Science is an important educational element for South Carolina’s future work force. This partnership is just one tool to ensure that businesses and industries have a strong skilled pool from which to draw future employees.”
L.A.S.E.R. focuses on five components: curriculum, professional development, assessment, materials support, and administrative/ community support. Although the program’s focal point is science, it is integrated with reading, writing and math to make classes more interesting and engaging for students.
Under L.A.S.E.R., the state is divided into 13 regional centers or “hubs”. These hubs are funded by the S.C. Statewide Systemic Initiative, which is charged with improving math and science education in the state, local school district grants, and supplemental money from contributing partners.
In addition to BMW Manufacturing, other businesses providing support are: American Honda Foundation, Bayer Corporation, Carolina First Bank, Carolina Power & Light, Clemson University, College of Charleston, DuPont, Francis Marion University, Low Country Institute, Michelin North America, Precision Southeast Inc., Santee-Cooper Electric, South Carolina Department of Education, Winthrop University and the University of South Carolina Aiken.
Each hub consists of a resource center and a full-time resource director who trains teachers and ensures that the science kits are updated with exciting and up-to-date information and lesson plans. Teachers use the kits to create hands-on lesson plans that enable science to “come alive in the classroom,” as one area teacher said.
“Most teachers have wanted to teach science this way, but because of time constraints or lack of materials, it has been difficult,” fifth-grade teacher Brenda Morrison said. “This program provides the materials, the organization and the creative lesson plans to make it possible.”
Each science kit contains 15-30 activities related to a specific science topic. Included is a manual that relates the topic being discussed to practical, every day activities. Each activity builds on another so students’ learning progresses.
“Our kids love it,” said Mary Seamon, assistant superintendent for instruction at Spartanburg School District Three. “We are seeing improved scores and a stronger interest in science. We hope it carries over into course selection in high school, and later into college.”
For more information on Project L.A.S.E.R. contact your local hub director, or visit the project’s website at www.si.edu/nsrc/.
BMW Manufacturing Corp. is a subsidiary of BMW AG in Munich, Germany. Its website address is www.bmwusfactory.com. In addition to the South Carolina manufacturing facility, BMW’s North American subsidiaries include sales, marketing and financial services operations in the United States, Canada and throughout Latin America; an information technology consulting and systems integration firm in South Carolina; a production facility in Mexico; and a design firm in California.