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Curriculum Update

? A Dynamic LearnSpace ? Academy Chooses Evolution ? Saturn's Rings Rewriting Science ? Playing with Heart


A Dynamic LearnSpace

Jeff Mao, educational technology coordinator for the state of Maine, has made a safe, educationally collaborative online place called Studywiz Spark by Etech available to students, teachers and parents. "No longer do our teachers need to patch together 21st-century online technology solutions-they are able to incorporate RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds, podcasting, real-time polling and other multimedia components into their teaching, with one place to organize it," says Kathleen Alessandro, technology committee member for the Southgate Community Schools, Mich., which uses Studywiz Spark. It also provides iPod synchronization, e-Lockers, e-Bulletins, multimedia galleries, messaging, chat, discussion, and even testing and reporting. While Studywiz is new (November 2007) to the United States, it is already known in 15 countries, including Great Britain, Australia and China. Etech calls it "the first and only Dynamic LearnSpace for K-12 education."


Academy Chooses Evolution

In January, the National Academy of Sciences ( published Science, Evolution and Creationism, a booklet which states that the evidence for evolution, with DNA and fossil records, is overwhelming. "Evolution is one of the bedrock theories in all of modern science, and we are coming to understand better and better as to why that is," said NAS president Ralph Cicerone. Recently, Chris Comer resigned as Texas education curriculum director after forwarding an e-mail to science teachers and professors announcing a speech by Barbara Forrest. Forrest is critical of the intelligent design theory, which says certain features of the universe are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than natural selection. Comer's e-mail may have been seen by some as too supportive of evolution or not neutral enough for her position, even though Texas biology requirements ask students to know the theory of evolution. "Our public schools should present both evolution and creationism," says Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. It seems that this debate will continue.


Saturn's Rings Rewriting Science

NASA's Cassini spacecraft landed on Saturn in 2004, may be rewriting an astronomy page or two. The rings once thought to have been formed during the age of the dinosaurs may actually be 4.5 billion years old, from a time when the universe was still forming. Data collected by Cassini's instruments indicate that the rings were not formed by one event but instead seem to change by recycling the raw material of cosmic pollution and meteoric dust continually falling into them. This may be the reason Saturn's rings look brighter or darker on different occasions. The NASA Web site ( provides additional updates on unmanned as well as manned investigations that continue to challenge science curricula for our students.


Playing with Heart

Imagine a student in a physical education class soccer game being congratulated for contributing points to the team by keeping her heart rate within range. Such a thing is happening at Fargo Public School District ( in North Dakota and other schools around the country. Teachers at FPSD are using E Series Polar heart rate monitors ( as part of a "new PE," which is a far cry from the "feel the burn" and "no pain, no gain" curricula students were accustomed to in the past.

Athletes and recreational runners have long known the importance of training with heart rate monitors and staying within individualized heart rate guidelines to make training more beneficial. Heart-training students who see attending PE as a painful weekly occurrence and waste of time may have a reason to do more physical activity. "The use of heart rate technology allows us to apply direct formative feedback. Students get results immediately and can apply the results to their personal goals and lifestyles," says Lois Mauch, physical education specialist for FPSD.