You are here


Curriculum Update

The Latest Developments in Math, Science, Language Arts, and Social Studies

Students Get to the Heart of the Matter

In Oklahoma City, 25 Putnam City High School students escorted their health science teacher, Larry Winnard, to the hospital. Necessary, yes. Emergency, no. Because of his family history of heart disease, the 51-year-old was prompted by his doctor to undergo a heart scan (or electron beam tomography)--and he thought his students should be able to watch.

The field trip to Integris Baptist Medical Center provided career exploration and a chance to see how healthcare workers interact with patients and use technology. The students were also able to offer their teacher moral support as he got his test results. Cardiologist Charles Bethea revealed Winnard's score of 65, which is "more than we'd like to see for someone his age." Bethea further noted, "This is the only test you'll ever take where you really want to get a zero."

The concept is about a thousand times more exciting than studying a traditional textbook diagram of a heart. Through technology and hands-on career programs (as well as teacher immodesty), students today are experiencing what it's like to be a part of the action in hospital operating rooms and testing facilities.

Putnam City High School is one of six pilot sites nationwide for a health career occupational program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Another aspect of Putnam's program gives students the chance to witness organ removals and transplants. Near the end of one school day last year, senior Julie Valentine's pager alerted her to an impending surgery. She rushed to the hospital to observe the six-hour process of inserting a new heart into a patient.

It's something that Chicago-area students (and those nationwide whose schools have videoconferencing equipment) will be able to view simultaneously, through the Live...From the Heart program beginning Sept. 24. The weekly cardiovascular education program, created through a partnership between Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry and Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill., is designed to offer students and teachers in grades 6-12 a dramatic exploration of the human heart.

The program's highlight is a live broadcast of a low-risk coronary artery bypass graft surgery. Students will use an investigation journal to track questions and answers about the patients. Collaborative activities prepare students for the broadcast and help maximize the learning experience--one they will not likely forget.

More Cities Celebrating Same Book

One book" projects, initiated by the Washington Center for the Book in 1998, are spreading fast. The projects feature multiple events, such as meet-the-author readings, reenactments and theme parties, around a single book selection.

"It just proves that people are hungry for community," says Nancy Pearl, director of the WCB at the Seattle Public Library. "Bringing people together to talk about good books is a wonderful way of beginning to overcome the 'otherness' we all feel in today's helter-skelter society."

Only a handful of these events have been organized primarily by the K-12 community, since often the book choices are most suitable for teens and adults. The greater Seattle area has found a way to involve the younger set, though. "What If All Kids Read the Same Book?," launched in 2001-2002, is expected to continue this school year, says Chance Hunt, youth services coordinator at the Seattle Public Library. (Last year, budget and staffing shortfalls halted the program.)

Saint Paul (Minn.) Public Schools developed a unique strategy for ensuring kids' participation in their recent One Book project featuring The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963, by Christopher Paul Curtis (Delacorte Press, 1995). "Reading police," real police officers from the city, randomly stopped children to ask what they're reading. Students mentioning the selected book got a T-shirt that said, "I Got Caught Reading by the Saint Paul Police." Those who hadn't read the book were sentenced--to "an enjoyable read."

California Students to Study Courage of Hmong

It's a forgotten Vietnam War story. More than 40,000 Hmong and Iu Mien tribesmen helped the CIA fight Communists in Southeast Asia. At one point, though vastly outnumbered, the tribesmen blocked the Ho Chi Minh Trail and rescued more than 100 downed U.S. pilots.

In California, where there are 100,000-plus Hmong, Gov. Gray Davis has signed a bill requiring development of a curriculum on this "secret war." And history teachers are being asked to include the events in existing units.

Aiming to promote Hmong appreciation and pride, the bill was authored after the suicides of a dozen Fresno-area Hmong teens between 1998 and 2002.

Approximately 300,000 Hmong Americans resided in the U.S. as of 2001.

Math and Science Teachers: 'I'll Do It My Way'

Teachers have a strong sense of autonomy in carrying out lessons. That's one major finding of the recent report, Looking Inside the Classroom: A Study of K-12 Mathematics and Science Education in the United States.

While the content of most lessons is reportedly guided by external factors, such as curriculum standards, teachers indicate significant latitude in selecting instructional strategies. As one eighth-grade advanced biology teacher puts it, "The state tells us specifically what is to be taught, but I can teach it any which way."

The report recommends that administrators provide opportunities and incentives for teachers to deepen their understanding of content and how to approach it in the classroom.