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Instructors learn to teach with help of TOYS program

A group of local teachers visited Ironton High School Thursday to learn a new method of teaching science that will have them looking at their Legos and Slinky in a whole new way.

The TOYS (Teaching Our Youth Science) program was designed at Miami University of Ohio. The program is practice for science teachers - practice that has teachers utilizing toys and everyday objects to get basic scientific principles across.

Instead of using a chart to teach about atoms, TOYS shows teachers how to use Legos, or trains them in using celery to teach about capillaries. Tri-State teachers could take the eight-day course for free, and receive two hours of credit from Miami University of Ohio as a result.

In order to get credit from an Ohio school, some of the training had to be done in Ohio, so the 18 teachers enrolled in the course took over a home economics classroom to practice their playing skills.

Marathon Ashland Petroleum's (MAP) Catlettsburg Refinery is sponsoring the class.

MAP also brought the class to the area two years ago, and the reaction was so positive the company decided to pay the $25,000 necessary to offer the class again.

Dianne Clement, advanced community relations representative with MAP,

said the response has been so good because the TOYS method does what almost seems impossible: getting children excited about science.

"We all know that we enjoy and have fun and it's interactive," Clement said. "It's too late for them by the time they get to high school to take an interest in science, and we want them to learn that science is fun."

Clement said that MAP continues to be involved not only to help area teachers, but to help them train MAP's next generation of workers.

"In the refining industry, science is very important to us, so we look at this as an investment in our future employees," Clement said. "We see these kids who are going to benefit from this program as potential future employees."

Irontonian Stephanie Waginger will be teaching fourth grade next year at McKell Elementary in Kentucky.

Waginger said she wanted to take the TOYS class to give her every teaching advantage.

"I want to help them learn more about science instead of just teaching out of the textbook," Waginger said. "It's been wonderful so far. We have learned so many different ideas; how to teach with just everyday things."

Waginger said the unorthodox method of TOYS is a good fit for science instruction which requires some abstract thinking from students.

"It teaches thinking skills; it's a discovery," Waginger said. "I think it's an opportunity for children to discover answers. It's not one where the answer is just right there; they have to search and learn."