While using technology in the classroom may be one educational goal, teachers also strive to link classroom activities with “real-world” concerns. One very successful program that takes students outside the classroom and online to extend their learning has been developed by Larry Alexander, fifth-grade teacher at Tonasket Elementary in Tonasket, Wash.
Beginning in 1998 with a $16,000 grant from the Washington Education Association, Alexander’s students have planted and managed a one-acre apple orchard and used the internet to research a wide range of issues that farmers facebiology, mathematics, economics, and more. The project has its share of hands-on activities based in the activities of the many apple orchards that still exist in the area (an estimated 60 percent of Tonasket residents make their living in the apple industry). But Alexander also uses the internet to bring his students closer to orchard owners in the area and to research the history, science, and business of apples.
As the trees grow, so does the project itself. A grant from a software consortium this year will enable Alexander to bring much of his project online through regular updates and study curriculum. He plans units in orchard planning, business and marketing, cells, tree growth, soil, weather, organic orcharding, electricity and magnetism, environment, natural resources, pollution and other topics. Students in urban and suburban schools will be encouraged to participate.