Best new instructional resources on the internet

“Explore Zone” makes science discoveries fun and accessible

If you’re looking for cool science news, Explore Zone should be your first stop each day. The site’s creators scour the world of science and zero in on the latest innovations, the coolest discoveries, and the hottest events, putting them together in a combination of words, images, and animations that are sure to appeal to kids and adults alike. A combination of news and reference center, Explore Zone focuses on earth, space, and weather science and features stories such as “New views show a violently stormy Uranus,” “Earth test creates oxygen out of thin Martian air,” and “Predicting terrestrial volcanoes–from space.” The site’s editor, Robert Roy Britt, was a journalist and graphic artist at New Jersey’s Asbury Park Press and The Star-Ledger and also created ION Science, one of the first web-based publications to mix journalistic science news with animated reference.

“Favorite Poem Project” helps students connect with literature

“Reading a poem silently instead of saying a poem is like the difference between staring at sheet music and actually humming or playing the music on an instrument,” according to U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky. Pinsky, a professor of English and creative writing at Boston University, long ago found that when he asks students to read aloud and talk about a poem, something remarkable happens–something in their faces and voices that demonstrates a profound personal connection to the poem. From this discovery, Pinsky created the Favorite Poem Project, which shares audio and video clips of people reading their favorite poems and invites readers to submit their own favorite poem, along with a brief explanation of why it is special to them. The site also suggests how teachers can incorporate the project into their lesson plans.

“At Sea” immerses students in marine science research

Imagine coming face-to-face with a yellow shark off the coast of Brazil, then watching as it is gently forced to expell its stomach contents for tests that could save the threatened species. Or peering over the shoulder of world-renowned marine scientists at the moment they discover a sea sponge containing a compound for a new medicine that could slow the development of cancer. At the Ft. Pierce, Florida-based Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute’s new web site, all this is possible–and no scuba gear or shark repellent is necessary. “At Sea” posts daily dispatches from its worldwide marine expeditions, including written reports and video clips that give students an up-close look at the institute’s cutting-edge research. The free web site, like the institute, is supported by government and private grants.

“The Constitution Community” uses digital documents to recreate history

A partnership between classroom teachers and education specialists from the National Archives and Records Administration, the Constitution Community offers web-based lessons and activities based on an online analysis of primary source documents. The documents, which all relate to constitutional issues, are among the most significant and unique in U.S. history and include the Treaty of Paris, the Louisiana Purchase, Rosa Parks’ arrest record, and Richard Nixon’s resignation letter. Examples of lessons include “Tally of the 1824 Electoral College Vote,” which uses a facsimile of the vote tally in which John Quincy Adams won but received fewer popular votes than the runner-up, Andrew Jackson, to spark a discussion of the complex system of election rules in the U.S. Constitution.

“CyberGuides” link teachers with web-based projects

The Schools of California Online Resources for Education (SCORE), a program sponsored by the California Technology Assistance Program, has developed four resource sites for teachers in the following subject areas: math, science, history, and language arts. The language arts site features CyberGuides, which are supplementary, standards-based, web-delivered lessons centered on core works of literature for K-12 students. Designed for classrooms with one online computer, each CyberGuide contains a student and teacher edition, standards, tasks and processes by which it may be completed, and teacher-selected web sites. California teachers have developed more than 160 CyberGuides in all, available to teachers anywhere at no cost. Examples include a lesson plan for All Quiet on the Western Front, in which students use information they gather from web sites on propaganda and World War I posters to design their own propaganda piece to persuade Paul and his classmates to join the army.

“Bugscope” magnifies learning in a whole new way

Using a microscope controlled over the internet, K-12 students around the country can get a close-up view of bugs through “Bugscope,” a project of the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Students and teachers use their web browsers to control a scanning electron microscope located at the Beckman Institute and run by high school students at Univeristy High School in Urbana, who prepare specimens and put them in the microscope’s viewing chamber. The high-magnification scope lets students examine the three-dimensional surface structures of the bugs in great detail. Faculty and graduate students at the university’s entomology department are available for online discussions as well. Bugscope is an outgrowth of Chickscope, another Beckman Institute project that lets students view and study magnetic resonance images of developing chick embryos (eSchool News, June/July 1998, p. 35).


Research and management resources for the K-12 decision maker

“Milken Educator Awards” shares the wisdom of past winners

Drawing on the experience and expertise of more than 1,300 outstanding educators, the Milken Family Foundation has launched a new web site for its National Educator Awards program. The National Educator Awards provide grants of $25,000 to exemplary K-12 teachers and administrators who are furthering excellence in education. In addition to providing information about the awards program itself and the program’s recipients, the new site offers a variety of resources to help foster the professional development of educators around the country. The resources all have been created, compiled, or contributed by past recipients of the Educator Awards. They include articles such as “Teaching with New Eyes” by John Snyder (a 1992 recipient from Nevada), which reflects on the power of technology to transform education, as well as discussions of current issues like multiple intelligences and distance learning, frequently asked questions about technology, and web tutorials.

“The Student Guide 1999-2000” helps students apply for aid


According to the nation’s largest source of college financial aid–the U.S. Department of Education (ED)–applying for federal aid is easier and faster this year than ever before, thanks to a streamlined application and improved electronic filing. Electronic filing of ED’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is quicker and less error-prone than paper filing because the software immediately identifies errors and allows for on-the-spot corrections, ED says. “The Student Guide 1999-2000,” which is available online, walks students through the application process and also gives advice on finding and securing federal grants, loans, and work-study assistance programs.

“eStudent Loan” lets students shop and compare loans

After students have consulted ED’s resources and applied for federal assistance, they should also check out this site. Sponsored by a team of finance specialists that includes Herm Davis, co-author of College Financial Aid for Dummies, eStudent Loan is a marketplace where students and parents can research and compare government and alternative loans. The site’s resources include financial aid advice, tips, and news; a scholarship search; and a LoanFinder service in which students are matched with up to eight lenders who best meet their needs from the site’s database. Savvy students can save money by using this site to compare the rates and terms of various loan programs.

“” posts school closings online

Sponsored by AccuWeather Inc., is a free public service for posting school closings and delays online. Registration is free, and posting a cancellation is as simple as entering a password and filling out a brief form online. Delays and cancellations are aggregated and stored in a database. To search for a cancellation, you enter your school’s zip code and are given a listing of all school closings and delays within a designated radius. brings school closings into the digital age and gives administrators another tool for spreading information about their schools.


Special internet events you won’t want to miss

“CramCentral” prepares students for the AP exams

April 1 – May 15

APEX Online Learning, a for-profit company that offers advanced placement classes over the internet for a fee, has launched a free service to help students prepare for the AP exams this spring. Called CramCentral, the site offers study tips and strategies; course outlines for the most popular AP subjects to guide students’ test preparation; and online quizzes and multimedia lectures to help students taking the U.S. Government or Calculus AP exam check their knowledge and refresh important concepts. In addition, AP teacher chat rooms and student lounges offer a place to meet online and share ideas with peers from around the country. Teachers and students can study together in their own chat rooms, or groups of students can arrange to meet online for brainstorming and review sessions. The site is available for free until the AP exams take place in the middle of the month.