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Laying the Foundation: Hands-On, Real-World Connections


Teachers see through a student’s eyes at NMSI’s Laying the Foundation training.

“You work through the lessons as a group and see the problems students would come across and what sets off a lightbulb for them,” says Brad Midgley, a third-grade teacher at Sloan Elementary in Murrysville, Pennsylvania.

At other professional development sessions, Midgley typically stares at a PowerPoint while one person lectures. He says LTF was a nice change of pace, giving teachers a chance to collaborate and experience hands-on activities.  

In elementary school, teachers may expect lessons to come easier for students, but Midgley says that’s often not the case. The LTF training provides perspective on different ways students solve problems. “Maybe a student doesn’t understand it conceptually, but they can get it visually,” he says.

One hands-on LTF activity Midgley’s students enjoyed relates to learning area and perimeter. Students measure how much space zoo animals need in their enclosures. This helps them understand how math equations apply to real-life situations.

“I’m always getting the question, ‘Why are we learning this?’ so helping them make a connection to something tangible like making a zoo work better is important,” Midgley says.

Jarita Roundtree, a third-grade teacher at Benesch School in Cleveland, Ohio, agrees that LTF lessons are more meaningful to real-world situations and go beyond paper and pencil. Her students enjoyed an LTF activity that asks students to think about what it would be like to grow up during the Dust Bowl.

“Talking about how Dust Bowl kids were mistreated facilitated a bigger discussion about bullying,” Roundtree says.

Another LTF lesson Roundtree used focused on Ruby Bridges, the first African-American child to desegregate an all-white school in Louisiana. Students thought critically about discrimination and how it feels to be the only person of color in school.

Along with a “wealth of information and materials,” Roundtree appreciated connecting with teachers within and outside her district during the LTF training to share different methods and ideas.

“If any teacher has the opportunity to go to a training, they should definitely try it,” Midgley says. “It’s a great experience and something that’s outside the box.”

NMSI’s Laying the Foundation, for teachers in grades 3-12, provides the resources needed to raise expectations and develop advanced levels of thinking and learning. Research shows students of LTF-trained teachers score better on math and science assessment tests. Since 2009, more than 50,000 teachers across the country have benefitted from LTF’s hands-on training, classroom-ready resources and instructional best practices. Find out more here.