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Curriculum Update

Research, trends and developments

High School Students in Kansas Studying Oceanography

Oceanography is alive and well in the center of the continent," says Carol Williamson, science coordinator for Olathe (Kan.) Unified School District. Williamson is referring to the 21st Century Learning program's three-year geosciences concentration that covers meteorology, paleontology, geology and space science.

When they're not studying microorganisms in the marine lab, students could be tracking or predicting storms in the weather center, observing jellyfish in the freshwater tank, or studying marine and aquatic life in the saltwater tank. Or they might be checking out fossils in the geology lab, such as the triceratops donated by the University of Kansas, or learning how to use and care for telescopes. Students also practice data manipulation, file management and graphing skills to satisfy the district's initiative to teach technology skills.

As seniors, they can do projects or internships, such as working with scientists in Kansas City's GIS department as two kids are currently doing. For the three years, students also participate in extended learning activities like field trips, such as the annual Spring Break visit to a Texas beach to conduct ongoing scientific investigations, summer internships or environment-related community service.

Williamson says the program was designed in part to provide the students with opportunities to pursue interests and contribute to society.

Sarah Coddington, the geoscience facilitator, expects that a lot of the programs' graduates will go into science, but stresses the importance of learning to make scientific decisions for any adult activity. "Overall, we want the kids to be lifetime learners," she says. Being part of an exciting program like this is a great start.

Educational Road Trip Raises Barriers To Geography

British philanthropist Robert Vallier wants to reinvigorate student interest in geography, history, math and science. To do so, he's flying his single-engine plane to landmarks and cities in every state, based on student recommendations. The trip starts in Santa Monica, Calif., in April, and ends in Hawaii in September. District Administration spoke with Vallier before liftoff.

Q: How did you come up with this idea?

A: I grew up with all sorts of wonderful stories about the United States from relatives and comic books and thought it was time to combine my love of flying and my love of exploration. One day, an idea came to me: Why not tack something else onto seeing the big cities that everyone knows about?

Q: What kind of feedback are you getting?

A: People think it's got potential and I'm getting great suggestions of where to go. A couple of schools from different districts are getting involved. It's rather exciting.

Q: How would you like teachers to participate?

A: One of the strengths is that it opens up possible discussions on history and science as well as geography. It's a way for teachers to do lessons that have direct bearing on something out of the class.

Q: What do you hope children will gain from their involvement?

A: I hope students will appreciate how many wonderful things the U.S. has within its borders. If my travels can fire a little of their imagination and help them remember what their teachers are telling them, that's not such a bad thing.