Best new instructional resources on the internet

“Find Out Why” should appeal to inquiring minds

Produced by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in partnership with Time for Kids, “Find Out Why” is intended to help students discover the science behind news stories and events in their daily lives. As NSF director Rita Colwell explains, “Exploration and discovery lie at the heart of good science–and good education. Children are natural explorers, and these materials are designed to help nurture and channel their curiosity about the world around them” by asking–and encouraging students to seek answers to–questions such as “Why do rainbows happen?” and “Why does a baseball bat have a sweet spot where every home run slugger wants to hit the ball?” Each month’s questions include activities to help students discover the answers, as well as a “cool science book of the month” to invite further exploration of the topic.

Increase your knowledge with this “Fun Guide to Origami”

Created by four Vidor, Texas, fifth graders, this impressive site on the art of origami took top honors at this year’s ThinkQuest Junior web site building competition. The site gives the history of origami, including a superb hypertext markup (HTML) timeline; a discussion of origami’s uses and benefits, such as math problem-solving and therapy; origami terms, symbols, and tips; and step-by-step instructions for making a crane, jumping frog, butterfly, and more. The ThinkQuest Junior competition recognizes outstanding web designers in grades 4-6 with cash and awards totaling more than $250,000. After visiting the grand prize winner, be sure to check out the other winning ThinkQuest Junior sites as well.

This site lets students create “The Sound of Chaos”

Your students might already have studied fractals and the math that drives them–but do they know what fractals sound like? That’s the idea behind this site from the Discovery Channel Online. Here, students can learn how ground-breaking musicians are using the mathematical principals behind fractals to create haunting melodies of “fractal music,” using nothing more than a desktop computer and a mathematical equation called the Mandelbrot set. Students can listen to snippets of fractal music using the Real Audio plug-in, and they can even create their own fractal music using their web browser to control an online computer music program.

Try these ideas for using the web to collect and analyze math data

“Math WebQuests” was created by Wake Forest University’s Leah P. McCoy for a National Council of Teachers of Mathematics meeting in April. It contains an overview of

WebQuests–web-based projects that incorporate cooperative learning, data collection and analysis, and real-world problem solving–as well as sample WebQuests that can be used in math classes and a tutorial on how to create your own web projects. Sample math WebQuests include “Thrill Rides,” in which students in grades 6-12 use the internet to study roller coasters at 10 major U.S. amusement parks and recommend the three most thrilling rides; and “Best Weather,” in which students in grades 4-8 use data from weather sites to recommend the city with the best overall weather.

Take a virtual field trip to Bolivia–and learn about international relief efforts

This site takes students on a virtual field trip though the lofty mountains and steamy valleys of Bolivia as they follow the efforts of CARE, one of the world’s largest international relief organizations. Daily journal entries and photos from CARE guides introduce students to the physical topography and cultural history of the region. As students learn about the land and its people, they also learn how CARE’s development work in Bolivia is making a difference in many people’s lives–from helping farmers harvest coffee in the dense lowlands to helping women start their own businesses through CARE’s small loans program. Links to other web resources encourage students to explore the country further on their own.

“Get the Facts on Savings and Investing”: Knowledge you can take to the bank

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s Office of Investor Education and Assistance has created this site to promote financial literacy among students. An online quiz called “Test Your Money Smarts,” available in PDF or HTML format, is a fun way for students to learn the difference between stocks, bonds, and other investments, and an interactive “Savings Calculator” demonstrates the power of compounded earnings. For teachers, there’s a six-unit curriculum on the “Basics of Savings and Investing,” complete with learning activities and other resources–plus information on how teachers can get experts on investing to visit their classes and share their knowledge first-hand, and links to other sites with financial information for students.


Research and management resources for the K-12 decision


“Lightspan PageOne” provides an all-in-one teaching resource

Developed by the Lightspan Partnership in cooperation with Yahoo!, this site gives teachers their own starting point on the internet, where they can create a personalized and password-protected web site for students and their parents at no charge. With easy-to-use templates,

PageOne provides teachers with the tools to create their own “classroom clubs” that draw from the best online resources available and other information unique to their curriculum and daily activities. Features include “Lightspan Learning Search,” an annotated catalog of more than 15,000 curriculum-relevant sites, indexed by grade level and subject area, to help teachers quickly find sites that bolster the lessons they’re teaching; a “Class Resource Page,” where teachers can organize and display relevant links found in the Learning Search for students to access from a home or school computer; a “Class Album” to let teachers show off their students’ work online; and “References and Resources,” an online reference guide that can be customized with teachers’ favorite resources or used with the links provided, which include a dictionary, thesaurus, online encyclopedia, and other homework resources.

“ExplorAsource” matches learning needs with available resources

This free web service from MediaSeek Technologies promises to make the job of teachers, curriculum directors, and technology coordnators a whole lot easier.

ExplorAsource instantly identifies learning resources–including books, web sites, software, audio, and video tapes–that match the curriculum topics, grade levels, and state or national standards that you indicate. The site is linked to a database of resources from more than 120 well-known publishers of educational materials, including Classroom Connect, Jostens Learning, Knowledge Adventure, PBS Online, Scholastic, and The Learning Company. You simply type in a grade level, subject area, and topic, and the search engine returns a list of available resources, with links to the publishers so you can follow up to get purchasing information. You can also select a standards statement and see what educational resources address it, and you can further refine your search by media type or publisher.

An online guide to protecting students from harassment

The Litteton, Colo., tragedy and the Supreme Court ruling in Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education have combined to heighten awareness of the role schools must play in keeping their students safe from harassment. “Protecting Students from Harassment and Hate Crime: A Guide for Schools,” published by the Office of Civil Rights in conjunction with the National Association of Attorneys General, provides step-by-step, practical guidance to help schools respond to–and prevent–violence or harassment against students because of their race, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, disability, or any other difference. Advice includes how to develop a written anti-harassment policy for your district; how to identify and respond to incidents of harassment; and how to create a school climate that supports racial, cultural, and other forms of diversity.

Advice for using “Ask-an-Expert” services

The Virtual Reference Desk, a project of the ERIC Clearinghouse on Information and Technology and the National Library of Education, has launched a “Learning Center” designed to help K-12 students, parents, and educators use Ask-an-Expert (or AskA) services to find information and answers to questions about school subjects, research topics, career choices, and more. The site includes advice for using AskA services effectively, including tips for locating services and formulating questions; guidelines for teachers to help students use AskA services within the information problem-solving process; and an “AskA Locator” containing links to hundreds of AskA services. The services are grouped by 14 subjects, ranging from science and math to health and careers.

Measure your schools’ progress by the “Nation’s Report Card”

In April, the National Center for Education Statistics launched a new web site for its National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the nation’s only ongoing national and state-level assessment of student achievement. Each subject area assessed by NAEP now has its own section, where you can find assessment frameworks, guidelines, reports, and data, as well as current and upcoming assessment activities. A “Sample Questions Tool” shows the relationship between individual sample test questions, student responses, scoring guides, and performance data, while new “audience areas” are designed to help visitors quickly locate the exact data they’re looking for. A special area for state and local administrators, for example, offers customized information, such as funding opportunities for administrators and reports that show the kinds of school resources associated with higher levels of student performance.


Special internet events you won’t want to miss

Challenge students to develop a blueprint for tomorrow

Fall 1999 – Spring 2000

“The Mars Millennium Project” is a national interdisciplinary initiative that challenges students, teachers, and community groups to imagine and create the first community for 100 earthlings on Mars in the year 2030. Working in teams with educators, community leaders, and professionals from all fields, participating K-12 students across the country will be encouraged to think about what makes their own communities work–and what doesn’t–as they create a living environment from the ground up. Guiding the project are the U.S. Department of Education, the National Endownment for the Arts, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the J. Paul Getty Trust. For information on how to participate, call (310) 274-8787, extension 150, or visit the project’s web site.