Uncovering the Fountain of Youth
The Quest Network is planning a trip for fourth- to eigth- grade teachers and students. The virtual trip to a cluster of Central American villages where inhabitants live some of the longest, healthiest lives on the planet is scheduled for January 2007.
The interdisciplinary journey comes with a number of perks. Travelers experience a free trip to the tropics and receive a curriculum guide aligned to national standards for language arts, math, science, health and geography.
During the three-week interactive quest, students will vote to direct a team of scientists about which facet of longevity to explore-diet, climate, air quality, etc. Participants will analyze written dispatches, video and photographs to determine why villagers live long, healthy lives.
Student collaborators will decide on final results and recommendations and create the end product-a recipe for longevity, says Quest Network founder Dan Buettner. He predicts that participants will discover the ingredients of a healthy lifestyle like limiting television and daily exercise.
Classes can participate in the quest in as few as five to 15 minutes daily or one hour weekly. Educators can extend the quest with Blue Zones Challenges with a variety of related activities such as physical fitness and financial literacy. www.bluezones.com
Inspiring the Next Generation of Explorers
NASA is on a quest. The space agency is attempting to develop a pedagogy of exploration by taking teachers to the ends of the earth. Last June, the space agency took seven middle school teachers to the barren Atacama Desert in Chile to immerse them in scientific exploration.
The mission served two purposes, says Spaceward Bound Co-Principal Investigator Liza Coe. The teachers learned about science and scientists by working with a team of scientists. Planetary experts, technologists and teachers worked together to conduct experiments about extreme environments and used robot rover technology to explore the region, which is similar to the moon and Mars. In addition, the educators provided feedback to help NASA develop a curriculum related to exploration of remote and extreme environments.
Other educators were invited to share the experience via Web casts and virtual field trips. This year, one of the participating teachers is extending the experience with regular distance learning teleconferences with NASA engineers. During the teleconferences engineers are helping middle school students design and build a robot.
Next March, the quest continues. NASA will take another group of middle school teachers to the Mojave Desert for a weeklong interdisciplinary science seminar.
AP Science Goes Cutting Edge
Last May, the National Science Foundation awarded the College Board a $1.8 million grant to redesign Advanced Placement courses in biology, chemistry, physics and environmental science.
The project is guided by several goals: increasing scientific literacy and encouraging more students to pursue advanced degrees and enter science professions.
The College Board will complete the redesign in December 2007 and launch the courses in fall 2009.
Elements of the AP redesign include:
An interdisciplinary approach that exposes students to scientific advances that span multiple disciplines, such as biotechnology and nanotechnology.
A "less is more" approach that emphasizes depth understanding and limits the amount of content.
Touring National Parks in The Digital Era
Last April, 37 million schoolchildren made history with technology as they participated in the largest simultaneous virtual national park visit ever. Students from 49 states and seven countries explored the history, science and geology of caves in their "visit" to Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico.
The trip is part of Ball State University's Electronic Field Trip program, which combines a Web site, classroom activities and live television broadcasts.
The university and its partners, the National Park Foundation and the National Park Service, helped educators prepare for and extend the virtual trip with online, multi-disciplinary, standards-based lessons and activities.
Upcoming electronic field trips will delve into the science of speed at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and visit the Manzanar War Relocation Center to relive the experience of interred Japanese Americans.
Educators also can view dozens of archived broadcasts online.
Blogging the Pacific Rim
The Discovery Educator Network took geography and social studies education to a new level last spring. Teacher Josh Wolff, a member of Discovery Educator Network, connected to classrooms across the United States as he spent three months traveling through the Pacific Rim.
Wolff held weekly live videoconferences from exotic locales like Australia and Thailand to immerse American students in the experience. Kids learned about G-force as Wolff parachuted in New Zealand and were introduced to an exotic array of produce at a Chinese market.
Weekly blogs and "webisodes" served a dual purpose: immersing students in the cultural experience and introducing them to the concept of digital storytelling, says Wolff. Kids also participated by logging in and voting on sites for Wolff to visit and asking questions about the experience. "This program is a way to encourage and teach kids to transition from passive consumption of media to more active use like video production," explains Wolff.
Discovery Educator Network provided support to participating K-12 classrooms with standards-based lesson plans on related subjects like marsupials and the ecology of the Great Barrier Reef.
The network is continuing its Educator Abroad program and invites classes to log on and tag along on new trips to South Africa and China.