Gathered in groups of five at round tables in their new classroom, science students at East Carter High School collaborate on projects in anatomy, physiology, earth science and other disciplines.
Using iPods wired into the room’s computer network, they post their work and results on flat-screen monitors on the wall.
From her control station at the room’s perimeter, teacher Lisa McNeal monitors each table’s work. If she wants to call the room’s attention to one group’s work, she can punch it up on all the screens with a couple of taps on her own touch-screen monitor.
The new studio classroom at East Carter leads students to work like modern scientists, McNeal said. “Scientists today don’t work alone, they work in teams. There’s no Isaac Newton off working by himself.”
The room, which students start using this week, is part of the school’s commitment to the STEM concept, which stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
It is designed to encourage critical thinking and problem-solving.
McNeal records lectures or assigns other background materials the students review at home. When they enter the studio classroom they are actively engaged in their projects, and that leads to higher learning.
Because students at each table work independently of the other tables, teams can work on multiple projects during the same class period.
McNeal can circulate through the room to offer guidance at each of the tables, and can also work with them from the computer at her workstation.
From a ceiling-mounted document camera near the front of the room, McNeal can project page images or demonstrate lab procedures.
The classroom is in one of the oldest sections of the school, which was built in 1971, and was a well-worn art room before being remodeled.
The remodeling cost about $33,000 in federal Rural Low Income School Program money. Schools can use the money for technology upgrades, professional development, teacher recruitment and a number of other ways.
West Carter High is remodeling a studio classroom of its own, Superintendent Ronnie Dotson said. That project will start this month.
MIKE JAMES can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2652.