Alabama Science in Motion
Jill Shearin Driver
Alabama Science in Motion (ASIM) is a visionary educational program
established in 1994 by the Alabama Legislature to address problems
Alabama teachers face in teaching high school science. As a discipline
rooted in experimentation, science requires an understanding of the
scientific method that is acquired through "hands-on, minds-on" laboratory
Equipment, supplies, lab preparation time, and knowledge of science
are essential elements of an effective laboratory program. Many, if
not all, of these qualities are often lacking in science classrooms
in Alabama. Few schools have the equipment and supplies needed to run
an effective laboratory program and high percentages of science teachers,
particularly in chemistry and physics, are teaching outside their major
field of study.
Science teachers, like most other teachers, teach multiple subjects
during the day. Running a laboratory component for each different subject
requires preparation time that most teachers do not have. Moreover,
without appropriate equipment and supplies, teachers are not motivated
to prepare lab activities.
ASIM is a network of resources designed to provide equipment, supplies,
training, and preparation support so that secondary science teachers
may run an effective science laboratory program.
ASIM currently consists of eleven regional sites in Alabama; every
high school in the state is served by one of the eleven sites, thereby
giving equal access to all of Alabama's teachers and students regardless
of their schools' economic status. Each of the eleven sites has two
vans (one for each of two disciplines chosen from chemistry, biology,
or physics), as well as a master's-level teacher for each of the two
The ASIM program has two primary components: (1) providing teacher
training, and (2) providing equipment and supplies to the participating
teachers and their students.
The teacher component provides 15 days of training per year--10 in
the summer and 5 throughout the academic year. Training is designed
to update and strengthen teacher content knowledge, to familiarize
teachers with the operation of ASIM equipment and labs, and to model
effective teaching strategies. Labs are designed to align with objectives
of the state's course of study for science and with teachers' needs.
The master's level "van driver" delivers equipment and prepared labs
to participating teachers based on scheduled requests. The "van driver" typically
stays with ASIM beginning teachers and team teaches the lab until the
classroom teacher feels confident in using the equipment and conducting
the lab alone. Veteran ASIM teachers just have the requested equipment
and supplies for a lab dropped off. Typical equipment used in physics
experiments is given in the table below.*
16 - Laptop Computers
Match the Graph
12 - PASCO Interfaces with Sensors
Newton's Second Law
12 - Dynamics Cart and Track Systems
Conservation of Momentum and Energy
12 - Projectile Launchers
Projectile Velocity and Range vs. Angle
6 - Rotational Motion Apparatus
Central Force and Rotational Motion
10 - Oscilloscopes
12 - Electrical Circuit Boards with Meters
12 - Optics Kits
Reflection, Refraction, and Lenses
12 - Emission Spectra Power Supplies
*Table provided by Paul Helminger, Department
of Physics, University of South Alabama
Many of the Physics experiments are based on the use
of laptop computers equipped with "works" and plotting programs. PASCO
computer interfaces are used to automate data taking and analysis.
The Physics vans also carry a good selection of other laboratory equipment
for experiments in sound, electricity, and light. A number of the Physics
laboratory experiments written for ASIM are in discovery-based "exploratory" format
with follow up questions included to lead students to form their own
conclusions about the data.
Impact: School Sites
The information below details the number of individual school districts,
schools, teachers, and students that ASIM impacted during 1999-00:
School Districts: 118 (of 128 in the state)
On average during the 1999-00 academic year:
- ASIM equipment was used by 41 teachers per day;
- Teachers used the equipment 13.4 days;
- Students used the equipment 9 hours.
Impact: Teacher Development
The following summarizes the ASIM teacher training conducted during
- 574 teachers participated;
- 400 teacher training days were offered.
- On average, each of eleven sites held 36.4 teacher development
days with 10.1 teachers present each day.
Alabama Science in Motion is a nationally recognized model for secondary
science outreach which provides services to students and teachers on
a cost-effective basis. Funding from the Alabama legislature currently
provides $125,000 per van per year; cost-sharing is provided, in addition,
by the universities at which each ASIM program is housed. Funds pay
for the following costs: master's-level "van driver;" equipment and
supplies; substitutes, mileage, and per diem for teachers on training
days; consultant costs for providing training; technical support to
assist "van drivers" in lab preparations; part-time clerical support;
professional development for the "van drivers."
ASIM provides the opportunity for instruction and laboratory experiences
that few students, especially in rural and poor school districts, could
ever hope to receive without such a program. Additionally, the program
fosters cooperation between high school teachers and university faculty
who typically lead the training sessions. Moreover, ASIM impacts pre-service
teachers at the university who, as part of their methods course in
teaching science, work with "van drivers" to learn about laboratory
safety and management, lab preparation, lesson planning, and effective
instructional strategies using technology.
Dr. Jill Shearin Driver is Director of the University of Alabama
Inservice Center as well as Director of the Alabama Science in Motion
program at UA.