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Tips & Connections

KSN staff and teachers have offered tips and recommended the following websites and resources that complement classroom kit use. Browse the current subjects below, and keep your eye out for emerging new topics, as we post your recommendations.

air and weather | astronomy | balancing and weighing | chemistry | chemistry: pH | designs and models: race cars | design technology: robotics | earth science: caves | earth science: rocks for the classroom | earth science: guest speakers and field trips | electrical circuits | electrical circuits: diodes | electrical conductivity | environments | experiments with plants | food chemistry | food and nutrition | inquiry method | landforms | magnetism | magnetism: MRI information | microbes I | microbes II | microbes III | microbes IV | microworlds | motion and design | neuroscience | physics: photocopying technology | plant growth and development | new plants | space | weather/ocean images | website assessment

Air and Weather (from issue 9, volume 3 of The Weekly)

Kit Use Through a KSN Teacher's Eyes: Air and Weather and New Plants (FOSS)

Rebecca (Becki) Fry, a first grade teacher at Mifflin Elementary School in Big Springs School District (part of the Capital Area Math/Science Alliance), was kind enough to share her impressions of working with two kits: FOSS's Air and Weather and New Plants.

In the Air and Weather kit, students study the properties of air. They examine its effects on other materials and use basic tools to gather information about air and weather. New Plants provides students with the opportunity to study some of the diversity of forms in the plant kingdom. They observe and describe the changes that occur as plants grow and develop, and they organize and communicate their observations on a calendar and in a journal.

Becki's school district recently adopted a new science curriculum in conjunction with the Capital Area Math/Science Alliance, and their kits are provided through the Alliance. Fortunately, the Air and Weather and New Plants align nicely with what Becki needs to teach in the curriculum. At the moment, Becki and her colleagues are teaching two kits per grade, and next year they'll be increasing to four kits per grade. The Alliance trained Becki to use the kits, and this is her third year teaching them.

Regarding both kits, Becki reports, "The preparation is usually very easy. It is so convenient to have everything together in the same place and also have almost everything provided. I really enjoy teaching from the kits and the students love it." Specifically, she says: "I really like the recording that is part of the activities. I feel that is a very important part to the science concepts."

Becki says that some of her students' favorite Air and Weather activities are those that use syringes to help them explore air as a gas mixture, finding out that it is matter, that it occupies space, and can be used to move things around. She adds, "They really get into some good conversations about what is happening."

When working with the New Plants kits, Becki says that her students love it, and that they get the biggest thrill from planting their seeds and looking after their plants as they grow, commenting, "It's amazing to see that the first place they go every morning is to check their seeds and plant growth."

Looking at the kits pragmatically, Becki says that she finds the teachers guides to be very helpful, and she shares, "I do read the information provided before I begin a lesson just so I am not teaching any inconsistencies." The student pages are also good to use as well, she says, and adds that it's nice to have them pre-prepared. Becki says that the main difficulty she encounters is not having enough time to do all of the activities included in the kits. She skips some activities so her students don't feel like they're being rushed through the science, giving them time to reflect on the activities that they do cover. However, she affirms: "I really feel the kits do a great job of helping me get the main science concepts across to the students. Some students get much more than I intend for them to attain and others don't get as much." So, even though the strength of educational impact varies, the overall learning experience is strong.

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Astronomy (from issue 12, volume 1 of The Weekly)

The following article is courtesy of an e-mail we received from Deanna Wilkinson of the West Chester Area School District:

For 8th grade at Stetson we will be using SEPUP modules - Solutions and Pollution and Toxic Waste. Pam and I recently attended a LASER K-8 Science Education Showcase at Rider University...and we are anxiously awaiting the publication of several of the "promised" kits. Middle school seems to be the poor stepchild in the development process.

However, in an astronomy unit in which my students have been involved for almost two months now, we used the Internet very effectively to research information about a constellation. Students had to "design" a 3-D constellation showing the variables of light year, magnitude and stellar class in their models. Additionally, they also had to know something about the myth associated with their constellation.

Two dynamite websites: http://www.dibonsmith.com and http://www.seds.org. The latter also has some excellent links.

Students were very excited about what they could find on the Internet and we had a running list of "new" websites posted in the room. The challenge was getting them to effectively chart the needed information that they found so they could evaluate it to build their model. This was a valuable learning experience for all of us.

Great assessment question in addition to the model itself: If time was Not an issue and you could visit your constellation, what would you find?

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Balancing and Weighing (from issue 23, volume 2 of The Weekly)

This recommendation is courtesy of Kathy Porreca of the Pennsbury School District.

Balancing and Weighing

"I overheard some of our second grade teachers complaining about having to start the balancing and weighing kit so I went online to see what I could find to help them. I found a wonderful site that is directly geared to 2nd grade and was developed by National Science Resource Center and distributed by Carolina Biological Supply Company. It is called the HASP Balancing and Weighing Module. There are technology links to web sites that show balance and weighing, including the Alexander Calder site and a nail experiment that the students are having a great time trying to duplicate. (I had my husband get the materials for me so I could do the experiment the first time with the students.) There are specific lessons that can be used if you should so chose and I imagine they coordinate quite well with the kits that we are using. I also took the students to a site called Cirque Du Soleil and we went to one of the shows that I have seen and looked at the acts. The majority of the acts involve balance in some way and are truly amazing. The students were fascinated and have gone back to the Cirque site. I think that even the most skeptical 2nd grade teacher is now enjoying the unit."

Here are the links:
HASP Balancing and Weighing Module: http://www.dcs.edu/hasp/Balancing/
Cirque Du Soleil: http://www.cirquedusoleil.com/en/index.html

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Chemistry (from issue 7, volume 1 of The Weekly)

CELEBRATE this week, November 7th to the 13th, as National Chemistry Week (NCW), a community-based program sponsored by the American Chemical Society (ACS). NCW is designed to enhance public awareness of the importance of chemistry to the quality of our daily lives. The annual event is celebrated the first full week of November, Sunday through Saturday, by volunteers nationwide. Visit the ACS website at: http://www.acs.org/ for general information about the scope of this organization. To access immediately K-8 educational resources that offer an array of chemistry challenges for kids, parents, and teachers, visit http://www.acs.org/wond ernet/ and explore the different sections of the left-column navigation bar.

Teachers who plan to use the 3rd grade STC kit "Chemical Tests" can find a great deal of support information at the K-8 Wondernet site. Most STC kits recommend that teachers set up Learning Centers that are appropriate to the kit in use. A worthy online addition to this center for those Keystone teachers connected in their classrooms is http://www.acs.org/wondernet/whatsup/react/wu_react98. html. The "Chemical Reactions" section has riddles that use photos or drawings to engage students actively in thinking and choosing true chemical reactions. Another useful section of this website can be found at http://www.acs.org/wondernet/activity/react/reactions. html. The "Lose the Indicator Blues" activity describes a student-method for making Cabbage Indicator solution. Since the STC kit uses prepared solutions, it may be beneficial to have students make "baggie-solutions" to help them understand the real source of the chemical reactions. Also, be sure to visit the "Send Stuff" link in Chemical Reactions at http://www.acs.org/wondernet/sgststuff/sg_react98.html . Here you can sign up to receive free science prizes for your students who mail in investigation results or poems. Your students' submissions can be posted on ACS's Wondernet site!

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Chemistry: pH (from issue 15, volume 1 of The Weekly)

Carol Strough of Northeastern School District will be featured for her classroom kit practice next week on KSN's journal page.

A webpage called: "The pH Factor" supports the STC kit "Chemical Tests" by introducing acids and bases to elementary students. The science of pH is not specifically taught to third grade students because the concept is complicated. However, the kit has activities using red cabbage as an indicator which dovetail nicely with the website content. Within this site there are a number of avenues to explore. Teachers can get ideas for introducing chemical concepts or target approaches to classroom practice. Students can access interactive activities that help promote their understanding. Information is organized around a framework called the "Seven E's" which is essentially an educational model of inquiry science. Teachers may want to explore this site for pedagogical reasons as well as content because the format is interesting. For example, teachers who use the classroom computer as an online workstation can allow either individual students or groups to use any of the "E" interactive activities that will enrich the student's connection to the kit content. In addition, that same "E"-button will provide the teacher with a breakdown of student and teacher objectives that may be helpful for planning. The site has workable resources and is worth investigating.

Here's the link: http://www.miamisci.org/ph

Teachers who would like background information about pH and general chemistry may find this site helpful:
http://library.thinkquest.org/3659/acidbase/ph.html

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Designs and Models: Race Car Design (from issue 11, volume 1 of The Weekly)

This report is from Joyce Hubert-Theriot, Science Educator at The Franklin Institute.

Recently we visited the Lancaster School District and observed Larry Warmingham implementing the FOSS "Models and Designs" module, (grades 5-6). Just as Larry's class did, others may find that during the third activity (called "Go-Carts"), the students will often apply race car designs to their models. Most students want their models to go fast and far. Therefore, extending an "Indy 500" imagery may generate considerable excitement and interest from the most reluctant learners. Before initiating the Go-Cart activity, set up the room with visuals as described in the NOVA Online "Fast Cars" Teacher's guide. Ask the students to bring in pictures or drawings of race cars to warm-up their thinking about the topic, then set the stage for brainstorming ideas about designing successful cars. Have students perform the NOVA "soup race" to remind them of the conceptual techniques used in the first FOSS activity with the black box.

Teachers like Larry who use the computer as a resource station during kit usage can continue the NASCAR theme by setting up the website called "Rockets on Wheels." It allows students with classroom internet access to build a race car online. This helps students to consider the design intent of various car parts and become more reflective about their own car structure. Details such as the physical forces that affect the car's motion, the monetary constraints, and the names of car parts are addressed. Additionally, this site offers specifications on actual race cars which the teacher can use as an example to show students how to record their own design changes. The excitement of the NASCAR world gives a new perspective to the students. Race car drivers are required to list exact information on the parts of their cars and this can be motivational for students who resist writing or cataloging design features.

As a final "Day at the Races" event, decorate the room with flags from each of the "racing" teams using their chosen car colors. You can simulate an atmosphere for your own style Indy-(replaced by name of school)-500. Each team will run their final-version go-cart in an actual race. Post-race discussions should include descriptions of the best feature from each car (using their design "spec" sheets), which will then be combined to design and build the ultimate class model.

NOVA Online: Fast Cars Teacher's Guide:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/teachersguide/fastcars/

Rockets on Wheels website:
http://www.pbs.org/tal/racecars/

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Design Technology: Robotics (from issue 14, volume 1 of The Weekly)

A description of Larry Warmingham's classroom kit practice will appear this week on the journal page. Specific connections to model car designs were previously published in the December 13, 1999, edition of the Keystone Weekly. Please look at "Teacher and Kit Connections" if you'd like to review those sites.

Those teachers interested in a more advanced facet of design technology may wish to engage their students through robotics. Currently, there are many shows on PBS that feature design specifications of robots that are entered in various competitions such as "Robot Wars." Although robotics materials are costly, it is possible to create plans for the design of specific robotic jobs. A website that supports this type of investigation is listed below. Use the site to generate ideas for your class such as the "Technology Timeline" that will enrich kits that focus on models and designs.

Here's the link:
ROBOTS ALIVE!: Almost Human (from Scientific American Frontiers)
http://www.pbs.org/saf/4_class/45_pguides/pg uide_705/4575_human.html

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Earth Science: Caves (from issue 14, volume 1 of The Weekly)

The following article is courtesy of an email we received from Deanna Wilkinson of the West Chester Area School District. Dee included the following comments with her submission:

"This was sent to me by a friend who teaches at Eastern. The website of the Educational Home Page is dynamite…a fantastic resource for students researching caves. I know this is not one of our inquiry based units…but the information may prove helpful for some earth science or geography units that some of our group may teach."

The Borneo Caving Expedition Online Educational Project is up and running! This effort is a project of the Gunung Buda Project, which in turn is a project of the National Speleological Society in the US. The website is composed of dozens of pages designed for students and includes information on the jungles and caves of the area, lessons for teachers and students, a photo gallery, and much more. More pages will be posted in the next two weeks. The web site features the fifth caving expedition in the last six years to travel to Gunung Buda (White Mountain) in the Malaysian state of Sarawak. The upcoming expedition begins on January 31 and will involve more than fifty Malaysian, American, and British cavers, researchers, local experts, government officials, and support staff. The group plans to explore, survey, and photograph caves in the area. Research projects and sections of the website involve bats, cave biology, geologic history, and human health. New, updated information concerning cave exploration, research projects, local weather, and National Parks will all be added to the site during the expedition. This will involve the use of on-site cell phone and modem technology, or as a backup, trips into a nearby town.

Use of the site is free. The Educational Project has been designed and coordinated by veteran teacher and caver Robert Childs. Much of the information for students and teachers on the site is designed to be used offline and thus computers in the classroom are not required to use the site. Lessons are aimed at seventh through ninth grade students (12 to 16 year olds), but could be adapted for use by many age groups.

For the Educational Project Home Page:
http://www.northcoast.com/~rchilds/

For a newspaper article about Robert Childs and the project (Warning: this takes a long time to load):
http://www.times-standard.com/indepth/indepth.html

For the Gunung Buda Project Home Page:
http://www.pwpconsult.com/buda.site/index.html

The Borneo Caving Expedition Online Educational Project has received support from the Richmond Area Speleological Society, the Gunung Buda Project, and Eureka City Schools, Eureka California, USA.

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Earth Science: Rocks for the Classroom (from Susan Holmes)

Tips on Finding Additional Earth Materials for the Classroom

When you are looking for some more hand samples of rocks to use in your classroom, don't miss out on the opportunity to go check with any local monument/gravestone cutters in the area. In the course of cutting the stone, they are often left with scraps or mistakes, so they are a rich source of pretty igneous and metamorphic rocks (many with at least one polished face where you can see nice crystal structures).

Another source of nice rocks is home building/improvement stores. They sell igneous and metamorphic rocks for paving pathways, making floors, siding buildings, building walls, etc… And sometimes their wares break and must be discarded.

More never-miss opportunities for great rock hand samples:
* If you are near a construction site, especially of an expensive office/university building or such, ask the foreman if there are scraps left from facing the building, lining the lobby, creating the planters...
* Garden supply stores usually have nice collections of very attractive rocks (usually a mix of sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic) for rock gardens at bulk prices. And keep their marble/limestone gravel in mind if you are investigating the chemical weathering of carbonates in acid rain!

As for other earth materials:
* Raw clay is often available at arts and crafts stores.
* And don't forget to collect some real beach sand next time you go to the shore (or on an exotic vacation). Take a couple of samples though (and label them!), since the characteristics of the sand will often be different even across the face of one beach. Look at the differences below the water-line, above the high-tide line and in the dunes.

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Earth Science: Guest Speakers and Field Trips (from Susan Holmes)

Guest Speakers in the Classroom

The world is full of people who would love to share their careers and passions with your students. Invite individuals to your classroom to share their knowledge and experience. Brainstorm with the students as to who these invited "experts" ought to be.

Here are some ideas:

  • Any student's relative working in a related industry
  • Geologist, environmentalist, naturalist
  • Geology teacher from local high school or graduate student from a local college
  • Member of a local gem and mineral/rock club, self-proclaimed "rock hound"
  • Persons participating in earth-related activities: rock climbers, cavers, gardeners
  • Mining historian
  • Mining engineer, civil engineer, consulting geologist, mine inspector
  • Spokesperson from local mining, oil and gas, sand and gravel, recycling Company
  • Spokesperson from local environmental organization such as Friends of the Earth or the Sierra Club
  • Spokesperson from state/federal agencies: State Geological Survey, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, State Bureau of Land Management, Department of Mines/Mineral Resources, U.S. Forest Service

These persons might be willing to be called on for classroom materials as well!


Field Trips

Classroom instruction is always enhanced when you can leave the four walls of your classroom and experience learning in another part of the school, the neighborhood, at the local business or industry, or at a nearby museum.

Here are a few ideas for learning in informal education settings:

  • Mining operations: rock quarry, sand and gravel or coal operation
  • Refinery
  • Natural history, history, or art museum
  • Historical/state parks
  • Community composting center, construction site, reclamation site
  • Recycling plant
  • The immediate sidewalks and buildings around the school, a downtown/city walk
  • A local cemetery
  • Even the supermarket!

(Although these types of sites can all be visited safely, please always remember to be cognizant of related safety and liability issues.)

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Electrical Conductivity (from issue 13, volume 1 of The Weekly)

Modeling Electron Flow in Circuits
Teachers like Suzanne McClellan who are teaching content related to electrical conductivity may be searching for adequate models to explain the complicated notion of resistance. Kits that highlight conductivity as an activity may be enriched by an electronic workstation focusing on resistance. Allow students to access the classroom computer that is set on the website listed below this section. This interactive display provides a visual model of a car traveling across a variety of roads. The type of barriers encountered represents the degree of resistance in an electrical circuit. This visual model promotes understanding even for young students, and the interactive display is very engaging. More complicated content related to how electrons move in a complete circuit can be accessed by clicking the arrow. Overall, this site is excellent for interactive use in order to advance an understanding of many concepts in electricity and magnetism.

The "Traveling Car" Model of Electron Flow:
http://ippex.pppl.gov/ippex/module_4/moving.html
Note: This website requires Shockwave.

Teachers who wish to access another model that explains resistance and other electricity content areas may find this website useful. The nature of electron flow is visualized by using the mouse and cheese model. Although the text is too complicated for students, teachers may find that this site promotes their own understanding of difficult concepts.

The "Mouse and Cheese" Model of Electron Flow:
http://franklin.icsd.k12.ny.us/highschool/swirt/science/phys ics/lesson/07electr/mousechz/mousechz.htm

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Electric Circuits (from issue 16, volume 1 of The Weekly)

Electricity Connections: (STC Kit: "Electric Circuits" Fourth Grade)

Teachers like Jason Gish of Conewago Elementary School who like to enrich the house wiring activity of "Electrical Circuits" may find the following websites useful. Jason used real blueprints in his classroom to highlight real-world connections of house building. More background information about blueprints for teachers may be found in the first listed website. In addition, Jason asked his students to consider all details possible when they were wiring their houses, just like real electricians must follow electrical codes. Start at the next listed site and click through a series of slides that show the eventual overload of a circuit. Although the content is too complex for fourth grade students, the schematics may offer the class some ideas (or questions) about the number of appliances that they can plan for their simple circuits. Another site providing real-world diagrams is also listed below. The PBS show: "This Old House" offers printable floor plans on this website. Students could either look at the floorplans on the classroom computer or teachers might display some prints as examples of how the experts detail their designs when building houses. The children may also find it interesting to view the finished houses.

Here are the websites:
http://www.physics.udel.edu/wwwusers/watson /scen103/house/house0.html
Access information about circuit overload.

http://www.codecheck.com/eleccode.htm
Scroll down to see the 19 sketched figures that pictorially explain the intent of electrical codes.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/thisoldhouse/projects/sanfran/floorp lans.html
An example of house plans drawn up for a "This Old House" project.

Electric Circuits: Diodes (from issue 17, volume 1 of The Weekly)

Marie Hammond from Conewago Elementary of Northeastern School District uses the STC kit Electric Circuits in her fourth grade classroom. Marie finds that covering the activity on diodes in the unit poses several problems for her. First, understanding of electronic components for this grade level is very limited. In addition, most elementary teachers are uncomfortable with teaching more complex physics content. Marie treats this dilemma with her usual calm approach. In her classroom she simply introduces the concept of diodes as a device that only allows electricity to flow in one direction. Then Marie guides her students into a brainstorming discussion about when engineers and electricians might need to use the one- directional diode. For teachers like Marie who want to keep the lesson on diodes at appropriate level for her fourth graders and yet have more background information for her own understanding, try the last two sites that are listed below. Those who would also like to adopt Marie's calm and light-hearted approach may also want to check out the first site in order to lead the class in an amusing and fun song courtesy of SchoolHouse Rock.

SchoolHouse Rock's Electricity song:
http://genxtvland.simplenet.com/SchoolHouseRock/song.hts?lo+ electricity

Background and Activities:
http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/g_knott/ele ct12.htm http://www.dl.ket.org/physics/companion/thepc/compan/Current /index.htm

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Environments

Heroes for the Planet: Time for Kids (TFK) Newspaper

http://www.timeforkids.com/TFK/heroes/index.html

Susie Brobston reports:

My fourth grade class subscribes to TFK which included booklets about adult and kid environmentalists called Heroes for the Planet. We read them and discussed our plans for a local project for Earth Day.

Then we started checking Time.com/Heroes for the Planet and discovered how rich it is. In addition to the inspirational profiles of EcoKids and EcoAdults, you can also find, by clicking on the items in the left margin:

  • Photo essays on the Aral Sea's destruction and the threats to the Everglades' existence
  • Green Gallery of eco-friendly design projects in housing, clothing, and transportation
  • Eco House--materials needed to build planet-saving buildings
  • Map Room that marks and explains places on earth which show evidence of global warming
  • Web resources offering informative links and access to ecologically-minded organizations
  • News and archives listing Time magazine's ecology articles, past and present
  • Timeline listing milestones in environmental history from 1769 to 1997

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Experiments with Plants (from issue 10, volume 3 of The Weekly)

Kit Use Through a KSN Teacher's Eyes: Experiments with Plants (STC)

Working with students in an Emotional Support class, Gloria McPherson has creatively integrated and adapted several kits for use in her curriculum. Gloria teaches at Capital Area IU 15 Mansberger School, part of the Capital Area Math/Science Alliance, and has worked with several STC and FOSS kits. We'll begin by discussing her experiences with STC's Experiments with Plants.

In Experiments with Plants, students investigate some of the variables that affect plant growth and development, and then design and conduct a controlled experiment to answer a specific question of their own. This is the main thrust of the kit study; Gloria adjusted and extended it to better suit her students' needs. Gloria says, "I selected this kit because I had previously worked with the FOSS Environments kit, and I wanted to compare the two. Our science curriculum is being revised to conform to the standards, but we still must adapt and modify content to fit the needs of the students in our Emotional Support program. . . . The study of plants is an important one, it is part of the standards, and it is relevant to students' daily lives to be aware of how things grow and what they contribute to life."

Gloria comments on STC's accessibility, comparing it to her experiences with FOSS kits: "I discovered that STC is more difficult to adapt for my students. I have students who are generally functioning slightly to moderately below grade level expectations, and who have very little motivation to complete academic tasks. I found the STC kit required more intense individual or small group work than my students were willing or able to tackle."

Gloria reports that the set-up for Experiments with Plants is somewhat involved, but not really difficult. "The kit has some fairly complicated physical components, because of the need to have all the separate plant containers, the watering systems, and the special lights."

In using the kit, Gloria says that both she and her students liked working with the fast plants, and they especially enjoyed them because they "could actually see the growth cycle in a reasonable short period of time." She says, "Most of my students responded very positively to this aspect of the kit." But the kit also leaned heavily in the direction of recording and journaling, which is a real challenge for her students: "This was a good point, but I had trouble getting quality writing out of my students because they would much rather look at things than record what they see!"

Gloria supplemented this STC kit with lots of materials from other sources to provide the information. She says, "I needed to focus on the content of what is a plant, what does it do for us, why do we need plants, what different kinds of plants are there, what are the parts of plants, etc."

The kit and extension activities Gloria devises does succeed in sparking curiosity about plants in general. She explains, "I think my students were able to make good connections between the plants and the printed information as far as the basic life cycle and the parts of the plants. They also were able to generalize this information to some other plants that we started from seeds. They have gone on to plant some squash seeds, and are very interested in them. We also planted some herbs, and I have a sweet potato plant that may live—they just broke off a couple of stems and put them in water, so wish us luck."

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Food Chemistry (from issue 6, volume 3 of The Weekly)

Kit Use Through a KSN Teacher's Eyes: Food Chemistry (STC)

Carolee Waite, a fifth grade teacher in the West Chester Area School District, shares her experiences working with STC's Food Chemistry kit. This kit explores basic concepts related to food and nutrition. Students perform physical and chemical tests to identify the presence of starch, glucose, fats, and proteins in common foods.

A colleague introduced Carolee to Food Chemistry at a time when she was looking for a way to stimulate more interest in science among her students. She'd had no previous experience with this kit, but it fit nicely into her curriculum, as they have a unit on chemistry that loosely uses food as the medium of instruction.

Although Carolee enjoys teaching the kit, she explains that it's quite time-consuming to prepare all of the packages and packets for use. But after that, it all goes fairly smoothly. The students love it, and she says, "It's one of the more stimulating kits I have seen."

Carolee likes to see her students' reactions to the activities, and especially enjoys seeing their excitement and enthusiasm when they see the foods change based on things they did. The kit helped her facilitate the science behind the activities because, as she says, "The kit allowed the children to predict, test, and conclude on their own. We were then able to relate this to concepts we had discussed from the textbook."

Carolee is happy to use this kit again and recommends it to others, although she reports that, in covering the main science topics, "more practical extensions would be good."

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Food and Nutrition (from issue 11, volume 3 of The Weekly)

Kit Use Through a KSN Teacher's Eyes: Food and Nutrition (FOSS)

The last time we discussed Gloria McPherson's kit practice, we covered STC's Experiments with Plants, and this time we'll talk about FOSS's Food and Nutrition.

In Food and Nutrition, students investigate properties of foods. They conduct investigations to determine the amounts of certain nutritional chemicals in foods, and think about relationships between the foods they eat and personal health.

Gloria began using Food and Nutrition a few years ago with her Emotional Support and Alternative Education classes (ages 12 through 21), with good success. She says, "I found this to be an interesting kit for my students. I really enjoyed teaching it, and found it was easy to supplement it with a lot of different information and activities."

Due to some of her students' special needs, Gloria and her students cannot do all of the activities included in the kit, but there is still a nice selection they can do to help convey key science topics. In particular, Gloria shares that her students are most interested in the activity that focused on feeding yeast and then measuring the volume of gas that the yeast produced. She says, "They really got into the whole concept of seeing what happened when you changed the amount of `food' they gave the yeast."

To extend the kit's theme, Gloria uses parts of a food and nutrition curriculum, produced by Penn State University. These activities tie in well with the kit, and offer fun activities such as baking chocolate cupcakes using the package recipe and two different substitutes for the fat, to compare taste and nutritional value. Gloria discusses the appeal of this activity: "This offered a chance to look at the food pyramid with real food. And most everyone likes chocolate cake." There are also a few surprises for the student bakers: "Part of the fun for the students who did the baking was when they got to tell the tasters that the `secret ingredient' in the one batch of cupcakes was prune juice!" Gloria is also able to introduce the unit by sharing some MREs (meals ready to eat, used by the military), "which got the kids hooked on the whole idea of food and nutrition from the beginning."

Regarding the kit materials, Gloria says, "I like the format of the teacher's manual and the student worksheets. I felt the information was presented clearly, and the teacher information was presented in a way that made it easy to teach." The relevance of the topics covered and the high interest level of the activities for students makes Gloria gladly recommend Food and Nutrition to other teachers.

Gloria is glad to have the kits, as they comprise the bulk of the science program that she is able to offer. In fact, she says, "I really like the kit format and the fact that it provides the necessary materials, because we have very little in the way of science equipment or resources," adding, "Without the kits, our science materials and resources would be limited."

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Inquiry (from issue 6, volume 2 of The Weekly)

The Inquiry Method
We talk about inquiry quite a bit, but some of you may be looking for resources that explain the inquiry method's principles in detail, so we recommend the following links.

The website of the Institute for Inquiry (at http://www.exploratorium.edu/IFI/index.html) offers a great description of inquiry (click on the "About the Institute" link) as well as inquiry activities and information about taking part in the workshops and programs the Institute offers.

Some of you participated in our most recent Summer Institute and received a copy of the National Research Council's "Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards: A Guide for Teaching and Learning." For those of you who don't have a copy already, or would like to read it online free of charge, go to http://www .nap.edu/books/0309064767/html/. It illustrates how inquiry-based education helps students learn science content, master the "doing" of science, and truly understand the nature of finding out about new things. Especially relevant to those who help others understand why science can't be taught "the way it used to be."

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Landforms (from issue 17, volume 3 of The Weekly)

Kit Use Through a KSN Teacher's Eyes: Landforms

Maureen Benner teaches fifth grade at Manor Elementary School in the Pennsbury School District. For the past five years, Maureen and her students have worked with FOSS's Landforms kit, which aligns to her school's earth science strand.

In Landforms, students use stream tables to investigate the variables that influence erosion and deposition of earth materials and the subsequent creation of landforms. Students invent topographic maps and use them as a means for representing landforms.

Maureen reports that it can take some time to set up the stream table for the first time that they'll be used, but after that, the rest of the activities are easy to prepare for and use. She has never encountered any difficulties. She's also noticed improvements over the years, commenting, "I have the current teacher's guide, which is awesome. It's improved a lot in five years. The FOSS stories do an excellent job of relating the concepts to real life situations."

Maureen enjoys teaching Landforms, and her students respond very well too. Maureen really likes the way this kit allows the students to experience the main science concepts first- hand, saying, "The students were able to see everything. They saw what erosion does to the land. They saw what a mountain looks like through a model. The topographic maps and aerial photos are very helpful." She was particularly pleased when they were able to relate their stream table activities to the formation of the Grand Canyon.

To extend the unit, Maureen asks the students to attempt to construct a bridge to go over a landform. As an additional innovation, the students use Legos to build the schoolyard models.

Although Maureen definitely wants to continue to teach Landforms, she does have an idea for something she'd like to change next time. She says, "I would let the students plan more than one investigation. They were only able to plan one of their own. They did the standard, flood, and slope investigation. You can eliminate some activities and the students will still understand the concepts." She says this kit takes a lot of time, but she does recommend it to other teachers.

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Magnetism (from issue 12, volume 1 of The Weekly)

Investigations by first grade students need to be focused on basic materials and simple concepts. Whenever possible, the science topic should have some connections to the reading program so that additional time for processing the concepts may be attained.

The following ideas are offered as enrichments for a first grade inquiry on magnetism. Teachers who want to gather a supply of iron fillings to use for further investigations about magnetic poles may want their students to do the collecting by using the process described in the site listed below. If teachers would rather keep the children from sifting through the soil they might want to make a sand box available during recess or during designated "outside work" time (even a bucket of beach sand will do). The students can separate the iron fillings from the sand or soil by using a permanent magnet. It's best to put the magnet in a zippered clear baggie to avoid the clinging dust. The children can deposit the "stuff that sticks" into another larger zipper bag. The collected ore can be used effectively for classroom explorations.

For teacher background information about this type of exercise, as well as resources (including where to order magnets), try this website: http://www.scitoys.com/scitoys/scitoys/magn ets/magnets.html#magnetism

Another possibility for interdisciplinary work is to offer a "magnet poetry" opportunity to the children in the classroom. Students can create poetry (perhaps about magnetism?) while using magnets in a very fun way. Teachers or parent helpers can make the "magnet words" by using material purchased from a craft store and/or Radio Shack.

Pre-made poetry magnets can be ordered from this web site: http: //cmp1.ucr.edu/museum_store/Magpoetry.html

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Magnetism: MRI (from issue 6, volume 1 of The Weekly)

For teachers who are STC Magnets and Motors kit users: Try this site out for medical applications of magnets via the MRI.

How MRI Systems Work http://www.howst uffworks.com/mri.htm MRI systems give doctors an incredible window into the human body. From an MRI scan a doctor can see 2-D slices or 3-D models of organs and tissue inside the body. The technology that makes this possible is fascinating, and in this article by Todd Gould you learn about everything from the gigantic (and unbelievable!) magnets that set up the main field, to the atomic level responses in the magnetic field!

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Microbes (from issue 8, volume 1 of The Weekly)

STC Microworlds users, please don't miss the PBS series "Intimate Strangers" which began last Tuesday but continues November 16, 23, and 30, 1999. Check your local listings to be sure of the time. Explore the PBS website for more information about this fascinating series on Microbes: http://www.pbs.org/opb/intimatestrangers/

"Microbes are everywhere, but we can't see them. They make us sick, but we can't live without them. Microbes are an integral ingredient in this planet's ecosystem, but we understand so little about them."

Middle school teachers: More microbe connections appropriate for higher grade levels will be posted in the next newsletter.

Microbes (from issue 9, volume 1 of The Weekly)

STC Ecosystems users: Have your students join Microbiologist Sam Sleuth as he unravels the mysteries of microbes. Investigate how microbes are able to 'work for us' and clean up polluted systems:
http://www.microbe.org/microbes/mysteries.asp

Look up more information on the role of microbes in ecosystems in the "The Wonders of Microbes" on the MicrobeWorld Website:
http://www.microbeworld.org/

For more microbe websites, visit The Franklin Institute Online:
http://www.fi.edu/qa96/spotlight12/

Microbes: Infection (from issue 10, volume 1 of The Weekly)

Joyce forwarded us this email from Susie Brobston about the following website.

The site should work well in the classroom to support "Microworlds" or any Human Body or Microbiology content.

...I first used this material in booklet form; sent to me as a special edition of a weekly student newspaper. The kids loved it and learned a great deal. The website contains additional information and includes the following intermediate elementary-level articles and activities:

  • Meet the Microbes; Bacteria, Viruses and Protozoa
  • Bacteria in the Cafeteria, a look at harmful and beneficial bacteria
  • Infection!, a discussion of germs and the immune system
  • How Lou got the Flu; tracing the flu virus from a duck farm in China to a child in the USA
  • The Amazing Microbe Hunters; a game that teaches kids about six scientists who have contributed to our knowledge of disease and its prevention
  • Can you solve the Mixed-up Microbe Mystery? The kids put events of a CDCP case in order after reading about epidemiologists' jobs
  • The Prevention Convention; a printable poster that reminds kids how to combat infection

Each of these sections is visually appealing to kids and includes an activity to help students learn health/science information. Most also include links to related sites for further research.

Here's the link: http://www.amnh.org/explore/infection/index.html

Microbes

The following article is courtesy of Kathy Porreca from the Pennsbury School District.

Welcome to Webcytology! This is a website designed for students in 5th through 12th grade and fits into the Microbes unit. The site is packed with information and can be found at: http://library. thinkquest.org/27819/. The site has four major sections and I will give a brief description of each.

1. Reference: This section has a Guide, Glossary, Quizzes, and This Week in Biology History. The guide and glossary are great references for information on unicellular biology.

2. Teacher's Forum: This section has suggestions and materials to help you incorporate Webcytology into your curriculum.

3. Message Boards: In this section you can communicate with others around the world, share ideas, and ask questions.

4. Simulation: This section is the main interactive feature of the site. It allows you to create your own unicellular organism. You need to create an account, but it is free. Students could use this as the final activity in the unit and track the organism for the rest of the school year. Go to http://library.thinkquest.org/27819/sim.shtml for the introduction and an explanation of how the simulation works.

You could design a scavenger hunt from the glossary and/or guide and the simulation is a great idea, but students need to have learned about the organisms before they try this.

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Microworlds (from issue 19, volume 3 of The Weekly)

Kit Use Through a KSN Teacher's Eyes: Microworlds (STC)

Maureen Benner, fifth grade teacher from Manor Elementary in the Pennsbury School District, is back with more to share. She's been teaching STC's Microworlds for three years with good success.

In STC's Microworlds, students use a variety of magnifying devices (including hand lenses, acrylic spheres, water drops, and microscopes) to examine everyday objects and microorganisms.

Microworlds relates nicely to Maureen's school's life science strand, and the district selected it. Maureen reports she finds the kit to be easy to use, requiring little preparation, and what work there is to do is made easier because, as she says, "We get our kits from The Invention Factory. Everything is included—we don't have to supplement or cut out the newsprint pieces."

Maureen's students love working with Microworlds, and Maureen likes it because it "provides a hands-on experience that helps the students understand the concepts." Maureen approves of all of the topics that the kit covers. She cautions that the "hay infusion [in which students grow cultures] is smelly but very interesting," and comments that her students were particularly thrilled with studying the living organisms. To make the microscope activity more accessible and fun, Maureen says that they "use the flex-cam to view them on the TV after the students view them with a microscope."

Speaking of the microscopes, Maureen comments, "The microscopes provided are fragile. They [the students] need to be careful with the lens. It can be easily scratched." To enrich the microscope time, Maureen also sets up a station with a high-powered microscope* in the back of the room that the students can use as well.

This year, Maureen plans to use interactive web resources to supplement the kit, and she also plans to add a research project. (See the Organisms and Their Needs Curricular Companion for Microworlds-related ideas.) In the past, she's found that it helps to come up with new activities if you need to have a substitute teacher, and some of the teachers in her district have created classification activities that she finds ideal for this purpose.

(* Perhaps you may be able to contact a high school in your district if you don't have ready access to a high-powered microscope in your school.)

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Motion and Design (from issue 16, volume 3 of The Weekly)

Kit Use Through a KSN Teacher's Eyes: Motion and Design

Kathy Massey, a teacher at Fugett Middle School in the West Chester Area School District, has used STC's Motion and Design kit to augment science curricula over several grade levels.

Motion and Design challenges students to explore the physics of motion and relate these concepts to technological design. Students design and build vehicles of their own, applying concepts of such as friction and kinetic and potential energy.

Kathy's district purchased this kit along with several others to supplement the elementary science curriculum. Motion and Design is a fourth grade kit, and Kathy was able to use it with two different sets of students at different grade levels. It proved to be a useful complement to her Force and Motion unit in seventh grade science, and she also used the kit as a Summer Science curriculum for third and fourth graders.

"Using the entire kit was fun and held the interest of the students in Summer Science," she says, adding, "Just doing the activities let them learn basic physics concepts without realizing it." And even though the kit was intended for that age group, it translated well (and was sometimes even better suited) to the work of the older students. She notes in particular that "it was fun for the seventh graders to explore potential energy using the K'NEX vehicles," and using these vehicles "helped solidify the concept of transfer of energy."

Working with her seventh graders, Kathy skipped to the schematic (Lesson 4) and she reports that "several groups had difficulty making the vehicle as per the schematic."

Kathy finds that set-up takes a bit of time, but says the manual does an excellent job of showing the teacher how to prepare. Basic content information is useful too. "STC does a wonderful job of giving background information to the teacher to help him or her better understand the concept. The step-by-step directions are very understandable," she says. Due to time constraints, Kathy finds it useful to rework some areas, as she explains, "I don't use the student manuals cover-to-cover. I extract forms and often rewrite the procedure to consolidate or streamline my lesson. It's not that I don't like the student manuals; it's a matter of the time I have for the lesson."

One of the major difficulties, Kathy found, lay not with the kit or lessons but with the students' ability to read and follow directions. Kathy recommends Motion and Design to other teachers, but does caution that she finds it important to try the activities yourself beforehand, and warns that prep time may increase. Keeping time in mind, Kathy recommends "picking and choosing lessons if [you] do not have time to use the whole kit."

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Neuroscience (from issue 9, volume 1 of The Weekly)

Neuroscience for Kids: Explore the Nervous System
Note from Susie Brobston from the William Penn District:

I don't ever remember seeing a more comprehensive site than this one. It's incredible! Even though this site is written for kids, I found it a perfect source for background information for teachers too! It's just plain fascinating.

There is information here that is applicable to most subjects:

  • Science/medicine (of course!)
  • Strong math strain through the entire site
  • Career section
  • Drug-abuse education piece
  • Research on medications for disorders and brain function enhancement
  • Parenting segment, explaining brain development and the key role parents play in it
  • A search engine
  • Newsletter for kids
  • Games and activities to enhance learning
  • Teacher information for teaching the subject
  • Many resources and links

Here's the link:
http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/introb.html

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Physics: Photocopying Technology (from issue 16, volume 1 of The Weekly)

Middle school teachers looking for links that contain information about technology will want to access the following site. Photocopiers are a commonly used form of technology and most students have access to this relatively modern device. However, few of us have any understanding about how a copier works. Actually, the machine uses electrostatic charges applied to toner particles and has understandable science behind the technology. Middle school teachers who are reviewing content regarding electricity prior to teaching electronics may want their students to view this website. The steps of the process used for photocopying and laser printing are visually displayed by clicking on the arrow to advance through each page.

Here's the address:
http://www.physics.udel.edu/wwwusers/watson/scen167/xerox/xe rox0.html

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Plant Growth and Development (from issue 5, volume 3 of The Weekly)

Kit Use Through a KSN Teacher's Eyes: Plant Growth and Development (STC)

Joy Slavin, a third grade teacher from Abington School District, shares her experiences working with STC's Plant Growth and Development. In this kit, students observe each stage in the life cycle of a simple plant. As well as following a plant through its life stages, students observe the interdependence of living things, as they cross-pollinate the flowers with dried honeybees.

Joy was part of the staff selection committee that worked on developing their new science program, and the team felt that Carolina (STC publisher) suited their need to provide a hands-on learning program. The third grade curriculum includes life cycle of a plant and so, as a third grade teacher, working with Plant Growth and Development fell to her.

Having worked with Plant Growth and Development for four years, Joy finds this kit to be one of the least complicated to prepare and use. The water and dirt is a little messy, but there are only a few lessons in which there are many materials to distribute. Joy shares that Lesson 3—which is the seed-planting lesson—should be done in two days. On Day 1, the students prepare the quads (the mini-plant containers); put in wicks, fertilizer, and soil; and water the soil. She stops there and they put their quads on the watering tray. This helps her to see which student's quads are not getting enough water before they plant the seeds. By breaking the process up into two days, the students seem to have a better success rate in growing the seeds.

Joy also recommends making some lesson additions. She shares:
"I add a few lessons at the beginning in which my students observe various seeds, rather than just the lima bean seed in Lesson 2. Later on, I also add another lesson on bees so that the children may learn more about them. I also do Lesson 3 first, and then as the seeds are germinating, I do the lesson with the lima bean. It seems to help the children connect what is happening to their own seed that they have planted."

Although Joy enjoys teaching this kit, she explains that keeping up with the fast-growing plants requires her to teach science nearly every day, putting other subjects on hold for a few weeks.

Joy's not the only one who enjoys Plant Growth and Development. Every morning, her students check on the health and growth of their plants. Working on this kit gives them a rare opportunity to interact in small groups, the responsibility to follow directions if they want to get the desired result, and the freedom to pose questions and follow their senses of wonder.

* * * * * * * *

Want to see what using STC's Plant Growth and Development looks like in the classroom? Check out Toni Newman's and Kay Buffaloe's site visit journals.

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New Plants (from issue 9, volume 3 of The Weekly)

Kit Use Through a KSN Teacher's Eyes: Air and Weather and New Plants (FOSS)

Rebecca (Becki) Fry, a first grade teacher at Mifflin Elementary School in Big Springs School District (part of the Capital Area Math/Science Alliance), was kind enough to share her impressions of working with two kits: FOSS's Air and Weather and New Plants.

In the Air and Weather kit, students study the properties of air. They examine its effects on other materials and use basic tools to gather information about air and weather. New Plants provides students with the opportunity to study some of the diversity of forms in the plant kingdom. They observe and describe the changes that occur as plants grow and develop, and they organize and communicate their observations on a calendar and in a journal.

Becki's school district recently adopted a new science curriculum in conjunction with the Capital Area Math/Science Alliance, and their kits are provided through the Alliance. Fortunately, the Air and Weather and New Plants align nicely with what Becki needs to teach in the curriculum. At the moment, Becki and her colleagues are teaching two kits per grade, and next year they'll be increasing to four kits per grade. The Alliance trained Becki to use the kits, and this is her third year teaching them.

Regarding both kits, Becki reports, "The preparation is usually very easy. It is so convenient to have everything together in the same place and also have almost everything provided. I really enjoy teaching from the kits and the students love it." Specifically, she says: "I really like the recording that is part of the activities. I feel that is a very important part to the science concepts."

Becki says that some of her students' favorite Air and Weather activities are those that use syringes to help them explore air as a gas mixture, finding out that it is matter, that it occupies space, and can be used to move things around. She adds, "They really get into some good conversations about what is happening."

When working with the New Plants kits, Becki says that her students love it, and that they get the biggest thrill from planting their seeds and looking after their plants as they grow, commenting, "It's amazing to see that the first place they go every morning is to check their seeds and plant growth."

Looking at the kits pragmatically, Becki says that she finds the teachers guides to be very helpful, and she shares, "I do read the information provided before I begin a lesson just so I am not teaching any inconsistencies." The student pages are also good to use as well, she says, and adds that it's nice to have them pre-prepared. Becki says that the main difficulty she encounters is not having enough time to do all of the activities included in the kits. She skips some activities so her students don't feel like they're being rushed through the science, giving them time to reflect on the activities that they do cover. However, she affirms: "I really feel the kits do a great job of helping me get the main science concepts across to the students. Some students get much more than I intend for them to attain and others don't get as much." So, even though the strength of educational impact varies, the overall learning experience is strong.

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Space (from issue 21, volume 2 of The Weekly)

Space Day
Looking for a resource that can help you explore the wonders of space? The Space Day website is a wonderful place to start your investigations. Space Day was started back in 1997 with the goal of advancing science, math, and technology education. The website offers a wealth of information to help learners achieve this goal. The Teacher's Space section is a great source of ideas for starting investigations. This section also provides a list of links that provide extensive background information. The Design Challenges section provides all the information and materials needed to explore a specific space related topic. It also provides opportunities for learners to collaborate with others investigating the same topic. Learners exploring these topics may choose to take part in the Space Day 2001 national event held at Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. Be sure to visit the "What is Space Day?" section to learn about the national event, and find out more about this wonderful program.

Here's the link: http://www.spaceday.com/index.html

Note: This website requires Adobe Acrobat Reader. (It's free!)

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Weather (from issue 5, volume 1 of The Weekly)

Recently Susie Brobston from the William Penn School District recommended a site that has very interesting weather-related pictures and she wrote the following:

"Here is an incredible photo collection from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Click on every part of the site. Remember, you can right click on any photo and then left click on "Set Wallpaper" to decorate your desktop (doesn't apply to WebTV). I hope you enjoy these as much as I do."
http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/

These would enhance an earth science classroom by providing exciting visuals. Teachers involved in using the STC Weather kit might allow students to pick out one photo from the weather photo album and ask the questions: "What can you tell me about your photo? What do you think is happening?" Weather kit users may also want to have the children identify basic weather patterns with the photos. Land & Water kit classrooms may want to examine catastrophic-event photos and ask "How do you think that this event may change the land surface?" Electricity kit users could examine photos of lightning and discuss the discharge of static electricity to earth and to other clouds. Life Science photos can be found in "Chesapeake Critters" and the fact that these are indigenous species is an important issue, since children can be very engaged in finding out about local habitats.

Susie also e-mailed these additional activities that she uses with other accessed sites and the NOAA visuals:

"Most recently, I've been printing news photos from Reuters and AP and using them to help my class understand cause and effect, necessary to comprehend in all subjects. I took pictures from the satellites of Hurricane Floyd and posted them under the heading CAUSE. Then I printed pictures of the flooded homes in South Carolina to put under EFFECT. Then, as I taught how chains of cause and effect tell a whole story, I moved the flooded houses under CAUSE and posted pictures of piles of discarded furniture, ruined houses, and dead farm animals under EFFECT. Then, we practiced predicting... (for example) If I move these pictures of damage to the CAUSE column, what could be the effect? Currently, I'm starting a unit on light in science. Great one for inquiry method and lots of stuff in the Internet to help. I am using a unit that I adapted from our text, (there does not seem to be much in the way of kit resources for this subject area)."

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Website Assessment

This site can help you with the difficult task of assessing websites. The Blue Web'n website evaluation rubric is a great place to begin your critical assessment of most any web resource. As you seek web resources to incorporate into your teaching, you will undoubtedly come across websites that at first look seem very valuable. But how useful are they really? The rubrics given on the Blue Web'n page provide a good basis for sorting useful websites from those with more glitter than substance. For more in-depth information, be sure to click on the links at the bottom of the page.

Here's the link: http://www.kn.pacbell.com/wired/bluewebn/rubric.cfm

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The Franklin Institute gratefully acknowledges the generous support of the National Science Foundation and Unisys Corporation.

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Franklin Institute National Science Foundation Unisys

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The Franklin Institute is the Demonstration Site for the Eisenhower Mid-Atlantic Consortium, providing science and math resources for teachers.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 9819641.
Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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