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NSF Funding for AAAS to Add Fun,
Science to After-School
In the coming months, children around the country are going to find out that their help is urgently needed in battling Deep Delete, a science-eating computer virus. Unless the children do a series of experiments and enter their findings into the Kinetic City Super Crew's on-line Web site, all of science will be lost to civilization on Vearth, the virtual Earth.
"As an Actual, your job is to arm yourself with accurate information about the infected systems by doing our Reality Reboots," the Kinetic City Super Crew's on-line computer sidekick tells the children. "The truth you generate will help control the virus while the Super Crew and I figure out a way to defeat it for good!"
The story line draws children in, and the activities teach them the principles of science, according to the results of a pilot project at two schools -- one in New York City and the other in Washington, DC. Based on those results, and thanks to a $1.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), AAAS's Kinetic City Super Crew program, which began seven years ago as a weekly radio show, is again going national -- this time with its new on-line program.
The principles that are taught by the program are based on the Benchmarks for Science Literacy, as developed by AAAS's Project 2061.
"We create missions for the children based on the 12 main chapters in 'Benchmarks,' and the Deep Delete virus comes in 12 'strains' and 60 'sub-strains' that represent the information in those chapters," says Bob Hirshon director of media programs for the AAAS Directorate for Education and Human Resources. "So when kids fight back against Deep Delete and learn all this information, they are learning the science standards."
Ideally, says Hirshon, the program will make its biggest inroads into communities
where children have few chances of being exposed to standards-based science
education and sophisticated teaching methods.
The target population is made up of children 8 to 11 who take part in after-school programs. The program is geared for clubs of about 30 children. Each club will be divided into "crews" of five or six children who will work together to solve the science problems. Although the Web site is an important component of the program, only one of the science activities requires working on a computer, says Hirshon.
"Once children complete the activities for a mission, they come back to the computer site and play a series of computer games to test their science knowledge," Hirshon says. "The better they do in the games, the more Kinetic City Power Points they earn."
"We're trying to set it up so that we can absorb any number of clubs," Hirshon says. He notes that corporate sponsorship may be the key to funding local Kinetic City Super Crew clubs.
"IBM in Washington is sponsoring two clubs," Hirshon says. "It's an easy way for a corporation to support science education on a regional basis. And we provide the content so they don't have to come up with it."
In return for the cost of setting up the club and obtaining a Kinetic City licensing agreement, clubs will receive training for adult leaders, as well as boxes of written information and materials the children will need to carry out the activities. Hirshon notes that eash licensed club will have its own web site on which the children can report what they have learned. And, every two weeks, the children will be able to enter into live-video chats with real scientists on the Kinetic City Web site.
For more information about the Kinetic City Super Crew Mission to Vearth, contact Bob Hirshon: 202-326-6432; firstname.lastname@example.org.
-- Coimbra Sirica