Teach­ing teach­ers, reach­ing kids

Lo­cal science teacher writes for teacher’s re­source book

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - By Jenny Thompson

New­ton County res­i­dent Frieda Aiken is such a great science teacher, she was asked to write a chap­ter of a teacher re­source book.

Cor­win Press Ed­i­tor Randi Stone con­tacted Aiken — a 20-year teach­ing vet­eran — af­ter she won the pres­ti­gious Toy­ota Ta­pes­try Grant in 2005. Stone asked Aiken to sub­mit two or three ar­ti­cles for the science edi­tion of her se­ries, “Best Prac­tices for Teach­ing.”

“In her se­ries, she’s been us­ing award-win­ning teach­ers to write chap­ters in her books,” Aiken said.

Aiken sub­mit­ted three ar­ti­cles — one about co­or­di­nat­ing Butts County Fam­ily Science Nights, an­other about help­ing to es­tab­lish­ing a school trail sys­tem and out­door class­room and the last about au­then­tic or hands-on learn­ing.

Stone se­lected Aiken’s ar­ti­cle about Fam­ily Science Night.

“It’s kind of like go­ing to a mu­seum and not hav­ing to pay,” Aiken said.

In the win­ter of 2000, Aiken or­ga­nized a school science night. Butts County el­e­men­tary school stu­dents now en­joy Fam­ily Science Nights ev­ery other year as it ro­tates with Fam­ily Read­ing Night.

The Ge­or­gia Youth Science and Tech­nol­ogy Cen­ter pro­vides boxed science ex­per­i­ments for teach­ers to use at the event.

“It’s a real easy night in that teach­ers just pick out a box and set it up on a ta­ble,” Aiken said.

Aiken listed the most pop­u­lar fea­tures as the Star Lab — a por­ta­ble plan­e­tar­ium — and a life-size model of a Right Whale.

“It was the length of our cafe­te­ria and it was made of trash bags,” Aiken said.

Chil­dren and par­ents could walk through the whale from tail to mouth.

“It’s a won­der­ful way to re­al­ize how huge the an­i­mal is — they loved it,” Aiken said.

Fam­i­lies could then pe­ruse other aquatic fea­tures set up in the cafe­te­ria such as other an­i­mal mod­els and sea shells.

“Some chil­dren never get to the ocean,” Aiken said, “and rather than read it in a book, they get to re­ally ex­pe­ri­ence it.”

Other pop­u­lar science ex­per­i­ments in­clude plac­ing a stu­dent in a gi­ant bub­ble with a hula hoop, mak­ing hair stand on end with a Van de Graaff gen­er­a­tor and see­ing what side of a penny can hold more drops of liq­uid.

“It’s amaz­ing how many drops you can put on a penny,” Aiken said.

Live an­i­mals have also been brought in from lo­cal dairy com­pa­nies and the Char­lie El­liott Wildlife Cen­ter.

She said what started as a school event has turned into a county-wide af­fair that stu­dents, par­ents and teach­ers ea­gerly an­tic­i­pate.

Aiken also co­or­di­nates a third, fourth and fifth grade trip to Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala. ev­ery year.

“I’ve got it down to an art,” Aiken

In 2005, Aiken was awarded the Toy­ota Ta­pes­try Grant for her “Ecol­ogy in a Box” pro­gram. The kit she cre­ated is packed with ev­ery­thing a teacher needs for her stu­dents to con­duct school-yard ex­per­i­ments such as dis­sect­ing mi­cro­scopes, dip nets and wa­ter qual­ity testers.

Aiken was also named Jack­son El­e­men­tary Teacher of the Year and Dis­trict Science Teacher of the Year, both for the 2001-2002 school year.

She was first pub­lished in a 1992 edi­tion of the science mag­a­zine “Odyssey” for her ar­ti­cle en­ti­tled “Twin­kle, Twin­kle Lit­tle Star.”

The ar­ti­cle out­lined how to es­ti­mate the num­ber of stars vis­i­ble in the night sky by cut­ting a 4-inch square out of a piece of card­board, hold­ing it a foot away and view­ing the stars vis­i­ble in the square with one eye closed.

The av­er­age num­ber of stars counted through the square mul­ti­plied by 57 gives an ap­prox­i­mate num­ber of vis­i­ble stars.

Aiken said the ex­per­i­ment re­minds her of the stars she sees in the day­time — her stu­dents. She in­structs gifted stu­dents in kinder­garten through fifth grades in science for one hour per grade level.

Re­cently her stu­dents made “sticky paste” and solved a fic­tional CSI mys­tery in class. She said she en­joys the nat­u­ral cu­rios­ity her stu­dents ex­hibit, and it in­vig­o­rates her to use her best prac­tices ev­ery­day.

“In the gifted pro­gram, I can teach science and read­ing and writ­ing at the same time, and it’s so nice when you are flexible and can tie it all to­gether — and the chil­dren love it,” Aiken said, “and I just love teach­ing chil­dren.

“It doesn’t mat­ter what school you go to ev­ery child needs to be ex­posed to science.”

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