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Marathon works to make science fun

Jo Biehle has seen a lot of changes during her 42 years in the classroom.

But one of her favorite additions has to be toys. Well, actually it is TOYS.

Marathon Petroleum Company LLC officials hosted an informational meeting Thursday to announce the return of its successful TOYS — Teaching Our Youth Science — program that shows teachers how to use everyday items and toys to make science fun. The program resumes Oct. 19-23 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.

“The TOYS program will empower your students. It will inspire your students and it will invigorate your students,” said Biehle, a fourth-grade teacher at Worthington School who has participated in the program and taught it as well.

“This is a train-the-trainer program that shows teachers how to teach science with household items and even toys,” said Dianne Clement, senior community relations representative for Marathon’s Catlettsburg Refining, LLC. “I love to read but if I am going to learn something, I need to do it with my own hands.”

From tennis balls to magnets to a coffee can, Biehle explained how the TOYS program would give teachers the knowledge and also the bag of goodies to approach science from a different angle.

Nearly two dozen school administrators and educators from Kentucky, West Virginia — and one from Ohio — came to learn about the program and determine if it can help their students succeed in science.

And the track record shows that the TOYS program can do just that.

“It is a good program. Our science scores have shot way up since we participated,” said Tom Kouns, principal of McKell Elementary in Greenup County. “It may not be 100 percent that but it is part of what we do.”

A partnership with Miami University that even gives participants the chance to earn graduate credits, the TOYS program focuses half on chemistry and half on physics

Marathon organizers said they hope to get more Ohio schools to participate in the program, something that has been minimal in the program’s early years.

But no one will have to ask Kim Wells twice.

Wells, director of teaching and learning for Chesapeake Elementary and Middle schools, was impressed with the program and said the district will send four teachers to participate for the first time.

“This is student involvement, hands-on learning and project learning,” Wells said, adding that this flows seamlessly into the curriculum alignment Chesapeake has been working on. “It fits right in to our strategic plan.”

For Biehle, this program is a cost-effective investment that pays dividends by getting parents involved and focusing on the youth in a way that still leads toward the standards-based goals.

“It is out-of-the-box thinking for children. I tell you it is out-of-the-box thinking for adults too,” she said. “… I think you will find that the TOYS program will put life into your teaching.”

In the past, Marathon has put together the program for two weeks during the summer. After a hiatus last year, the company has re-envisioned it as a one-week program during the school year.

And during these tough economic times for many school districts, one of the key points may be that the professional development program won’t cost schools a dime other than providing for substitutes for the week their teachers will be out of the classroom.

The classes will be hosted at Marathon’s Catlettsburg Training Center. Marathon even provides breakfast and lunch.

Only 24 seats are available. They will be filled on a first-come, first-serve basis.

For more information, contact Karen Kazee at (606) 921-2738 or via e-mail at krkazee@marathonpetroleum.com.