The American Modeling Teachers Association (AMTA) is an organization that supports teachers and provides professional development in a style of student-based, inquiry education known as “Modeling”. This method is so-called because it naturally elicits student development of different representations, or models, to describe the world around them. (Models include tables and graphs of data, equations, figures, motion maps, particle diagrams, and others).
Every year, the AMTA offers workshops that are attended by teachers from around the world. These workshops are frequently taught by experienced teachers, providing instantly a robust network of teachers who support each other throughout the school year. I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in two workshops in Columbus, Ohio at New Albany High School. Each was three weeks in duration – and have been the most transformative professional development in my career.
Last weekend I attended Modelpalooza in Columbus, Ohio. This is an annual gathering of teachers who have attended modeling workshops in the past. This year, I was asked to also lead a session on the curriculum my team created during our workshop last summer. (We called it the “moving charged particle model”, and it was about circuits – focused on Ohm’s and Kirchhoff’s Laws). As is the norm, our session time was primarily spent with our teachers in “student mode”, trying out the activities we developed, and discussing how those activities fit into a broader storyline of a course, such as physics or engineering.
This year, Modelpalooza was attended by about 60 teachers who teach physics, chemistry, and biology (mostly), with a smattering of experience also earth science, astronomy. The executive officer of AMTA (Jeff Hengesbach) was also in attendance, and I had the opportunity to chat with him about the modeling style materials I have been working on for Earth Science.
If you are looking for a professional development opportunity, consider finding an AMTA workshop near you. Many also incorporate graduate credit for teachers who complete the course, and some have really nice perks like free tuition for the credit hours and free or subsidized rates for hotels at the workshop – plus membership in the AMTA and access to their curricular materials.