AMSTI Spotlight: Tammy Thorpe

Tammy ThorpeSince 2012, Aetos has provided Web Support Services to AMSTI, the Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative. AMSTI is an internationally recognized hands-on, inquiry-based, math and science program which provides training, materials, and support to over 20,000 teachers in Alabama. Aetos is proud to play a small part in the success of this initiative.

Tammy Thorpe has been a math and science teacher in Grades 4-6 for 28 years, most recently in the Madison (AL) City Schools.  She has been actively involved in using the Alabama Math and Science Technology Initiative (AMSTI) program as a basis of tools for STEM education activities in her classroom since 2005.  Mrs. Thorpe notes that “AMSTI motivated me to come up with creative, hands-on lessons to foster creativity and stimulate learning.”  She noted that these tools were so important to her and the students that a few years ago when the AMSTI program was in trouble, the students asked if they could write letters to the State expressing how much they enjoyed it and how important it was to the school and their learning.  Mrs. Thorpe facilitated helping the students write those letters, further demonstrating her commitment to keeping innovative teaching practices in the school system and available to all teachers.  

Mrs. Thorpe recently sat down for an interview with Aetos CEO Donna Coleman to discuss her teaching career and the importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education in elementary grades. Here are some of the thoughts gleaned from that interview: 

"Students love competition.  When studying about different types of energy, Ms. Thorpe came up with a lesson plan for students to build a working windmill that would harness the most energy and rotate the fastest.  She incorporated the Math element into this lesson by providing access to a variety of materials for the windmill development.  Each item had a cost associated to it and the students were required to stay within a budget.  This exercise encouraged students to assess the materials, plan their project, collaborate on most effective methods and work within budgetary constraints.  All very valuable skills for preparation for their future. In a similar unit regarding Wind energy she brought in a book well known to the students, “The Three Little Pigs”.  She challenged the students to build a house for the “3rd Little Pig” that could withstand hurricane force winds and used a fan and hair dryer to mimic the strong winds.  In this unit students learned how to design the house developing design drawings, calculate the energy force of wind, collaborate, and if it failed – try again!  Mrs. Thorpe encouraged students through their failures noting that failing is actually an opportunity to learn.  She referenced Thomas Edison’s failures and how he had to try and try to ultimately develop the lightbulb, continuing to note that Failure is a Positive step to making the solution work.  This type of integrated teaching that encourages students to embrace all situations as an opportunity to improve their skills both technically and emotionally is a tremendous asset in developing well rounded, self-motivated and technically capable adults."

"In another example, during the Rover Design Challenge, Mrs. Thorpe enhanced the requirements to include the ability for the Rover to carry a certain “load” or “payload”, if you will, a specific distance within a certain amount of time.  This enhanced the basic curriculum to include motion, design, measurements and weight, which in turn broadened their mind and approaches. Students worked together as teams which promoted collaboration, teamwork, investigative and creative skills.  Again, all very valuable tools in preparation of their future."

"Lastly, I’ll share a Unit Mrs. Thorpe developed in regard to Sound and Vibrations.  She challenged the students to design their own musical instrument.  She gave very little boundaries and left the designs up to their individual imaginations.  This motivated the students to fully exercise all levels of STEM elements, advancing their capabilities in applying what they had learned about sound and vibrations to create an instrument that could actually demonstrate sound and vibrations.  She noted that the range of instruments included, string instruments, drums, blow instruments complete with reeds and that the instruments were different shapes and lengths thus displaying different sounds and types of vibrations.  Each student learned something from the other students during this exercise as they were able to hear and play the results of the different types of instruments." 

Mrs. Thorpe’s dedication to STEM education and the development of customized classroom lesson plans that promote thinking, reasoning, teamwork, investigative and creative skills that students can use in all areas of their lives, is a tremendous asset to her students and to this community.  We at Aetos are proud to recognize her achievements in the classroom and her enthusiasm for AMSTI.