Summary of the Summer 1996 Mentor Teacher Workshop as appeared in the Fall 1996 MCTP Quarterly newsletter...


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As the hot air balloon took off over Anne Arundel Hall on the College Park Campus, eight adults cheered like middle school students. Despite several discouraging starts and close encounters with a nearby fountain, the tissue-paper-and-glue balloon, powered by a propane stove and the wind, eventually achieved lift-off. Now if the cheerers had just been able to get a line-of-sight on the height of the balloon, the related mathematics could have been tackled before the bell rang.

The balloon was part of a lesson presented by three participants in this summer's MCTP Mentor Teacher Workshop. The lessons, a culminating activity of the program, allowed teachers to create or polish a mathematics/science lesson and try out their mentoring skills. Each team of participants had a chance to teach a lesson, use their mentoring skills to provide feedback on another lesson, and assume the role of students in yet a third lesson.

Twenty-four teachers of grade 4-8 mathematics or science spent ten days sharing and enhancing their knowledge and skills in areas such as coaching and mentoring preservice teachers, using micro-computer or calculator-based laboratories, and integrating science and mathematics in the classroom.

Two participants from last year's workshop, Donna Smith and Judith Anderson, led the group in what became known as "the bone lesson." Each person measured his or her own height and thigh bone length, and determined the relationship between the two. After sharing data with one another, they predicted the height of another person, given the length of that person's thigh bone. They used methods ranging from a hand-generated scatter plot, to a plot executed on a graphing calculator, to an equation generated by a calculator.

Here is just a sampling of other workshop events:
A day-long session during which the teachers and their principals planned ways to integrate mathematics and science at their schools and learned tips for making student teachers both welcome and successful;
A trip to the Smithsonian Naturalist Center in Leesburg, VA; and
An afternoon in Mary O'Haver's computer lab at Fairland ES, examining the many products her 5th graders created using computer technology.

The mentor teachers' journals and workshop evaluations indicated that they feel better prepared to serve as mentors for student teachers. Delighted to have found new colleagues, these two dozen teachers from six counties have exchanged e-mail addresses. They are looking forward to their reunion workshop on November 14, and ultimately to serving as mentors to MCTP students.

- Dr. Anna O. Graeber