A longtime tradition in Alabama education that at its height drew teachers together by the thousands came to a close this year: the annual Alabama Education Association conference.
The decision by the AEA to halt the event, which originated in 1856, was made because of declining attendance in the past few years, said Paul Hubbert, the executive secretary and treasurer of the union. "The convention is just not attracting the crowds that it did at one time," he said.
Even Vice President Al Gore drew only about 1,500 teachers to hear him speak at this year's gathering. At its height in 1970, the event attracted about 9,000 members, Mr. Hubbert said.
The AEA will continue to hold a leadership conference and a delegate assembly each year.
Historically, AEA Week, as it was known in Alabama, was the period in which most public schools there scheduled their spring breaks. Teachers viewed it as more than just an opportunity for professional development; it was also a time for fellowship, socializing, and even shopping, Mr. Hubbert said. "The stores would have AEA specials," he said.
What do you get when you give a biologist, a chemist, and a mathematician a soda can? Three experiments that demonstrate a principle from each discipline.
Add a live audience to the mix and give the contestants only 10 minutes to concoct their experiments, and you've got the "Iron Science Teacher" competition hosted by the Exploratorium, a museum in San Francisco.
The competition is part of the center's professional-development program for math and science teachers.
"The point is that you can teach science on a shoestring, which is all they get anyway," said Linda Dackman, a spokeswoman for the museum.
With a simultaneous broadcast on the World Wide Web, the contest is held once a week in the summer and once a month during the school year. Ten to 12 contestants perform in front of a studio audience and are judged by the volume of applause.
And the prize? "They win the glory of being 'Iron Science Teacher of the Week,' " Ms. Dackman said.
The last contest of the summer was scheduled for late this week, Aug. 6, from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Pacific Time at www.exploratorium.org.
--Erik W. Robelen & Michelle Galley
Vol. 18, Issue 43, Page 3