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Articles: Teaching & Learning

 

Dear Educator:

I invite you to participate in the upcoming Disney's Planet Challenge, a hands-on, environmental learning experience for grades 3-8.

 

What is Disney's Planet Challenge?

Disney's Planet Challenge is a free, project-based environmental and science competition for grades 3-8 that encourages students to make a difference in their schools, their communities and at home.

 

The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) plays an important role in ensuring that Disney's Planet Challenge conforms to rigorous educational standards and appeals to the widest range of teachers and students.

With one year under its belt, Hillsborough County (Fla.) Public Schools embarks on its second school year of collecting data to evaluate teacher effectiveness. The two-year project, currently underway in five other districts nationwide, began in fall 2009 with a Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The data collection strategies include digital video recording, student assessments, student surveys, and teacher surveys.

Due to heightened vigilance regarding minority achievement, districts across the country are under scrutiny. One of these is the Wake County (N.C.) Public School System. Recently the Wake County school board decided to change the way it handles student assignments and busing between schools. Board members voted 5-4 on March 23 to end forced busing, a method initiated in the 1970s to promote diversity in public schools.

In Oshkosh, Wis., second and third graders build houses out of milk crates, the teacher simulates a flood, and they talk about how home insurance works. In Chicago, high-school social studies classes take field trips to places like the Chicago Board of Trade and the Federal Reserve, to learn about markets and banking.

"In our district, every four years we lose 45 percent of our students, Mr. Chairman," Western Heights (Okla.) Public Schools superintendent Joe Kitchens testified in April before a U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor hearing entitled "How Data Can Be Used to Inform Educational Outcomes." "We have to do something about this. We have to retool America's schools to deal with this issue of mobility," he urged the committee. Over the past five years, Kitchens and the administration of Western Heights have done just that.

 

Third-grader Makenzie Melton's artistry will ensure that students in her Missouri school district will have access to scores of top-quality recertified computers from CDI.

Through the efforts of a group of fifth-graders from Morningside Elementary School in the Granite (Utah) School District, House Joint Resolution 5 was passed by the Utah House of Representatives, the purpose of which was to eliminate car idling and to encourage walking and biking as forms of transportation. "Travel Wise Get Exercise" was a project entered into Disney's Planet Challenge, a project-based learning competition.

From selecting appropriate curricula and teachers to providing classrooms with bathrooms easily accessible to 4-year-olds, public preschool programs present challenges to districts that run the programs, which are designed to prepare children to get off to a good start when they enter kindergarten.

Spending an additional six cents on lunch may seem like a nominal burden. But multiply six cents by the 31 million children who receive school lunches daily and it’s a lot of extra fries as Washington faces reauthorizing the Child Nutrition Act this fall.

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