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Curriculum Update

The latest developments in math, science, language arts and social studies

Trout in School

Classroom aquaria most often contain pet fish, but classrooms from Maine to California at all grade levels are raising trout to make a real life connection to ecological curricula and a local environmental impact. Students raise the trout (or salmon depending on the school's location), from eggs to alevin to fry to fingerlings in their classroom. Through grants, gifts from parents and school groups, local wildlife or state departments of environmental protection and Trout Unlimited organizations, the $1000 set up is usually covered. These partnerships make finding a place to put the tank more of a problem than the cost. The great thing is that once a school has the equipment it can be reused for future classes.

Jerry Rickart, a Trout in the Classroom Northeast regional coordinator, oversees twenty school trout tank projects and says supplies include the tank (usually 55 gallons), chiller (the most expensive item), sterilizer, filter, pump, aerator, and of course, trout eggs, which are usually supplied by the state or local environmental organization.

While the project differs slightly depending on the state, or the sponsoring agency, the outcome is always more than science and lab notebooks. Students learn ecology and a respect for life, with curriculum connections in math, language arts, and even art and music. Some students have sung trout release songs, or recited poems while emptying a fondly named fingerling from a plastic cup into its new river home.

Rivers, like the Pootatuck in Newtown, Connecticut, have been sites of ecological study and clean up. Students, through the Trout in the Classroom project, play a part in actually replenishing these resources. That makes classroom science more concrete.

Dr. Anthony Salvatore, assistant principal at the Reed Intermediate School in Newtown, Connecticut, says it's a perfect connection for their sixth grade Water and Weather, Population and Ecosystems, and Science and Technology units. He adds, "Teachers and students think it's a great idea and it's thrilling to watch them grow".

At release time, students and trout take a field trip to a designated river or lake, where students splash and fish swim free.

Sharing Curriculum Ideas

Carla Baird, began the Web English Teacher site in 2000 when her student teacher was spending hours trying to find language arts and literature ideas for classroom lessons. This media specialist/English teacher from Connersville, Indiana thought that someone should make that information more accessible. Well, Carla did just that, and the Web English Teacher Web site was born.

Today, Carla's site is unique in the way it shares specific curriculum links, lessons, sources, and ideas for writing and literature. Instead of a listing of links, curriculum specialists and teachers can use this free online source to complement their existing literature, writing, English, and language arts curricula, as well as share ideas. "Think of it as the faculty library and workroom on a global scale," says Carla. Teachers can search a subject, book, or author and get quick results.

Crime Science

Forensics in the Classroom is biology for the CSI generation. Teachers, like Caitlin Engle at Norwalk High School in Connecticut, have been developing a forensics curriculum, and filling classes by creating motivating lessons and labs. These classes parallel traditional biology courses, but with a "crime solving" twist.

Unusual items add realism to discussions and case studies, such as catalog-purchased glass fragments, ammunition casings, as well as skulls and skeletons from "Bone Clones" ( Guest speakers, working in forensics, and field trips to local police departments offer real world connections.

It is best to have an advanced science teaching degree, advises Engle, who is working on a degree in molecular and cellular biology. She also says some upper level chemistry is helpful. "The best thing about my class is that I can actually see the learning happening...instead of giving up, students have this insatiable thirst to figure out 'Why'."

If you are interested in a forensics curriculum, you can preview a similar concept for free by using Court TV's Forensics in the Classroom (FIC). It offers middle school and high school level units, developed in collaboration with the National Science Teachers Association. Teachers can register for online crimes and course supplements provided by Court TV's education division. These classes also offer ways for other subject disciplines to collaborate. Think of the language arts and social studies possibilities in a mock trial sparked by a forensic science unit. Court TV also offers a free "Forensics Day" for schools using FIC. Application information can be found at Court TV's FIC online site.

Force = Mass x Acceleration

FMA Live presents Sir Issac Newton's three laws of motion to middle school students featuring high-energy actors, dancers, music and video demonstrations. Sponsored by Honeywell and NASA, Sir Isaac and hip-hop seem to be the right combination to engage middle school math and science students into learning about forces and motion and the process of scientific inquiry.

FMA's science delivers and supports National Science Education Standards for grades five through eight. FMA action gets an upbeat student reaction.The live show has reached 232 middle schools throughout the U.S., and requests from teachers this year will surpass that number.

National University Virtual High School

National University Virtual High School (NUVAS), located in California and established in 2004, strives to provide students the opportunity to achieve academic excellence through an online medium. The idea came about when the university chancellor Dr. Jerry Lee realized that while his son had access to AP classes for college credit in high school, his son's friend did not. To address this issue Lee created NUVHS, where any high school student can take online classes and jump-start their college career.

In addition, the school can benefit students who don't learn well in a classroom environment, and those who need flexibility in terms of time and scheduling. It may even be a district's homebound student solution, as well.

The online curricula are designed to meet or exceed national standards and are taught by all certified instructors. The online transition was easy for NUVHS, since National University is a large provider of teachers and administrators, says director of NUVHS, Nancy Rohland-Heinrich.

Students are able to enroll in NUVHS courses throughout the year. They can complete a full semester course in as few as four or as many as 16 weeks.