OMIS students become researchers with Heather Montgomery

OMIS students observe and collaborate during a March 2 workshop led by naturalist, scientist and author, Heather Montgomery. (Reporter Photo / Molly Davidson)

OMIS students observe and collaborate during a March 2 workshop led by naturalist, scientist and author, Heather Montgomery. (Reporter Photo / Molly Davidson)

By MOLLY DAVIDSON / Staff Writer

NORTH SHELBY—Heather Montgomery held up a mysterious-looking animal bone and asked the Oak Mountain Intermediate School students gathered in the Media Center what questions the artifact inspired.

“Your questions are powerful,” Montgomery said, encouraging the students to brainstorm and question. “The book that I have coming out next fall is a result of one question.”

On March 2, Montgomery, a naturalist, scientist and published author, led a select group of fourth and fifth graders in a research workshop. The one-hour session focused on the importance of questioning and finding answers through observation.

After coming up with questions about the bone, the students got to put their skills to the test as researchers. Each table of students received a collection of objects from nature, armed with a pencil and a piece of paper, the students worked together to discover what each object was.

“It’s about real research,” Montgomery said. “Observation is the key to solving problems.”

In addition to the small-group session, Montgomery also presented to each grade throughout the school day.

“There’s a teaching tool in every aspect of what (Montgomery) is doing,” OMIS Media Specialist Linda Sears said. “I’m very interested in taking (what they’re learning) and helping them use all the tools we have for research.”

Sears said the sessions with Montgomery also provided the students with important “life skills” and confidence to discover “where their passion is.”

“When you’re 9, 10 and 11, the whole world is in front of you,” Sears said. “One of these kids might observe and look and discover the cure for cancer.”

Montgomery also led OMIS teachers in a professional development workshop following the school day.

“(Montgomery is providing) tools that will help (the teachers) get the kids excited about science, writing and my personal favorite, reading,” Sears said. “It’s so worthwhile.”

The teachers’ workshop was similar to the small-group research session with the fourth and fifth graders, Montgomery explained, noting she hoped to help teachers learn to encourage their students’ curiosity and channel questioning.

“Our job as educators is not to answer questions, but to start them,” Montgomery said. “If we let them be curious… if we guide it, the kids will go amazing places.”