Best new instructional resources on the internet

“Solar Eclipse” tells of humankind’s reaction to wonder

This site from the Exploratorium was updated and expanded in time for last month’s total solar eclipse and even included a live web cast from Europe and Turkey to broadcast the event. Though the eclipse has come and gone, the site remains a terrific source for information on one of the most awe-inspiring natural wonders that can happen. Here, students can take a closer look at the mechanics of solar eclipses and “see what makes the celestial clock tick.” They also can accompany the Exploratorium on a series of historical excursions documenting these unique events. Starting in the mid-nineteenth century, the colonial powers of Europe and the United States sent expeditions all over the globe to observe solar eclipses, and this site preserves accounts of some of those expeditions. Journal entries reveal the hardships of travel, the scientific methods used in the nineteenth century, and even the attitudes and prejudices of the day.

“The Holocaust” recounts a terrible chapter in our history

If you’ve ever been to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., you know what a moving—and harrowing—experience it is to confront the history of those atrocities up-close. Though they took place more than a half-century ago, the events are made real as you walk through the museum’s halls and see the physical evidence and actual artifacts from Nazi Germany. This site, created by the museum specifically for students, lacks some of the immediacy you get from a visit to the museum itself—but ultimately it’s no less powerful. Like the museum, the site is organized by theme: Nazi Rule, Jews in Germany, The Final Solution, Nazi Camps, and Rescue and Resistance. It uses text, historical photographs, maps, images of artifacts, and audio clips to provide students with an overview of the Holocaust. The site is the first step in a growing resource for middle and secondary school students and teachers aimed at bringing the museum’s content to the web for use in the classroom.

“ArtEdventures” mixes art appreciation with mystery

These interactive adventures from Sanford Corp., a maker of professional art supplies, are designed to teach kids about art as they search for clues to various mysteries. In “Leonardo’s Workshop,” students travel back in time to the Renaissance in search of clues to figure out why a da Vinci painting has disappeared. Along the way, they learn about perspective in Renaissance drawing. In “Color Theory vs. Dr. Gray and his Dechromatizers,” students learn about color theory as they try to stop the evil Dr. Gray from draining the color from fine works of art. In “Face to Face with Portraits from the Past,” students learn what portraits can tell us about the artists and their subjects as they identify five people from the past using only their portraits as a guide. A fourth ArtEdventure is promised later this year as well. Each activity is accompanied by a Teacher’s Resources page and a list of further hands-on activities.

“Genesis: Search for Origins” sheds light on a solar exploration

What is the sun made of? Are the Earth and planets made of the same stuff? NASA’s Genesis mission, scheduled to launch in January 2001, will send a spacecraft to collect pieces of the sun, called solar wind, that might contain the answers. The Genesis spacecraft will journey a million miles sunward, unfold its collectors, and “sunbathe” for two years before returning to Earth with its precious cargo. This site is a combination of public and educational outreach for the mission. A special section called Genesis in Education provides a host of opportunities for K-12 teachers to connect the intriguing real-world science of the mission with their classroom instruction. The Genesis science modules, which include topics like “Cosmic Chemistry: The Sun and Solar Wind,” “Heat: An Agent of Change,” and “Exploring Origins,” are aligned with the content, instruction, and assessment guidelines set forth by the National Research Council and could easily be inserted in place of traditional units within a typical high school science curriculum.

“50 Years from Trinity” documents the rise of the Nuclear Age

This four-year-old site from The Seattle Times was created to mark the 50th anniversary of history’s first atomic explosion: On July 16, 1945, the United States tested a bomb in New Mexico, ushering in the nuclear age with a bang. In a special 12-page section of the newspaper marking the anniversary of that first explosion, code-named Trinity, Seattle Times science reporter Bill Dietrich and photographer Alan Berner detailed the history, impact, and future of atomic weapons and nuclear power. The web site uses the text of that special report as a starting point for further study and provides supplementary material to take you deeper into the subject, as well as interactive activities for discussion and debate and links to other sites that specialize in atomic issues. Students and teachers will find this site particularly useful in examining the development of the nuclear age and the effect “the bomb” has had on the world.

“EPA Student Center” opens the environment to learning

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has put together this site as a guide to its resources for students—and the results are impressive. Students in middle and high school can explore a wide range of environmental issues, get help with their homework, and find out what they can do to protect the environment for future generations. They can find a wealth of information about topics such as air, conservation, ecosystems, human health, waste and recycling, and water. Each section contains extensive links to information, activities, and web resources. Clicking on the Ecosystems section, for example, calls up an endangered species slide show, an Acid Rain Sourcebook, a primer on global warming, a virtual tour of various biomes, a scientist’s log of research in the Great Lakes on the problems facing freshwater environments, experiments you can do to demonstrate the hazards of oil spills, and much, much more. The site even contains information about environmental careers, internships, and scholarships.


Research and management resources for the K-12 decision maker

“Recruiting New Teachers”

could help solve a sticky situation

As this month’s Publisher’s Letter makes clear (page 6), school leaders face increasing challenges to recruiting and retaining high-quality personnel. While the Technology Career Center at eSchool News Online can help you round out your technology staff, hiring teachers to fill the shortage that many districts face is another matter—and that’s where this site might help. Recruiting New Teachers Inc. (RNT) is a national non-profit organization based in Belmont, Massachusetts, and formed in 1986 to raise esteem for teaching, expand the pool of prospective teachers, and improve the nation’s teacher recruitment and development practices. RNT provides technical assistance to state agencies and local school districts to foster improved teacher recruitment. The agency currently is working on a recruitment and development toolkit for states and school districts, and its web site offers additional resources as well, such as “Learning the Ropes,” a national study on strategies you can take to curb teacher flight from the classroom.

“The Review Corner” rates children’s software programs

This site, compiled by parents, rates and reviews children’s software and other educational products and could be useful in deciding what to purchase for classroom use. Software reviews are comprehensive and cover skills taught, technical requirements, educational value, entertainment level, design appeal, replayability, and value. The software then is rated on a scale of one to ten. What sets this site apart from others is its wide range of titles and its abundance of screen shots, so you can see what the software looks like. The site also contains software news, interesting articles about kids and computers, a listing of online (and offline) software specials, and discussions of the key issues surrounding kids and computer use.

“Education World” gets a new look—and visitors get a streamlined experience

Long a home for educators on the internet, Education World has redesigned its site for faster download speeds and easier navigation. The free site is an online resource that helps simplify the education community’s ability to use the internet, from teachers and administrators to parents and students. Education World claims to have the internet’s largest education-specific search engine, with links to more than 115,000 sites. The search engine is all-age appropriate and searchable by subject or grade level. The site also offers lesson planning tools and activities, curriculum ideas, reviews of other educational web sites, world-wide education employment listings, forums, news, and other weekly original content and features.

Learn how to create “Project-Based Learning with Multimedia”

California’s San Mateo County Schools, in conjunction with Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network’s 21st Century Education Initiative, has created a project to help teachers transform conventional coursework into project-based, technology-rich curriculum. Through the project, called the Challenge 2000 Multimedia Project, teachers work together to design a curriculum that is project-based and requires students to produce a multimedia product as a measure of their learning. The project is funded by a Technology Innovation Challenge Grant from the U.S. Department of Education, and part of the grant requirement is to disseminate information about the project. This web site is the result, and it gives other teachers and administrators some insight into how to plan and prepare a project-based learning curriculum, how to assess student work, and more.

Tap into your staff’s point of view with “Teachers Discuss”

This new experimental U.S. Department of Education (ED) web site was created to support the goals of the annual National Teacher Forum, which aims to help ED better listen to teachers’ concerns and support teacher leadership. Teachers Discuss features statements by teachers on various educational issues, followed by a message board where you can post your own thoughts on each issue. Topics of discussion include class size, faculty meetings, ineffective teachers, mentoring new teachers, middle school education, national board certification, quality teaching, special education, trust and credibility, and what teachers need from school leaders in order to be successful. The Department’s hope is that the site will become a place where policymakers, parents, and stakeholders can gain a deeper understanding of what teachers think about key issues, and where teachers can get support and information from other teachers to push them to lead changes in their own schools and communities.