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Science Literacy Benchmarks
Provide a Basis for Science NetLinks
Produced by the AAAS, Science NetLinks is an Internet-based resource for kindergarten through twelfth-grade science educators. The websiteorganized to meet science literacy benchmarks developed by AAAS' long-term science education initiative, Project 2061provides free lesson plans and reviews Internet resources for teachers to use in their classrooms. Whether it is studying static electricity or a seminar on managing the Everglades ecosystem, each lesson is geared toward at least one learning goal.
"If you're a teacher, one of the great strengths of Science NetLinks is that it's easy to use. The lessons are aligned to Project 2061 science education standards, are grade appropriate, and are of high quality," said Clinton Turner Jr., AAAS project manager for Science NetLinks. "That alones saves teachers a lot of time. They don't have to write the lesson plans, and once they learn how to use the search engines, it's easy."
Started approximately five years ago by MCI, the website is now funded by the MarcoPolo Education Foundation. In July, the foundation moved beyond its origins with WorldCom Inc., creating a public charity for its initiatives and allowing for increased, diverse funding.
MarcoPolo provides instructional materials and training to elementary and secondary teachers and administrators, who then train other teachers in the program. The foundation's partners include not only AAAS but also the National Endowment for the Humanities, International Reading Association, National Council on Economic Education, National Geographic Society, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, National Council of Teachers of English, and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
With approximately 300 lessons online, new science updates issued every other week, and a catalogue of website resources for teachers, Turner noted that Science NetLinks has only grown in popularity over the past five years. The sitefeatured as one of the Eisenhower National Clearinghouse's "Digital Dozen" in Decembercurrently receives approximately 90,000 visits per month.
Susan Conrad, a K-12 Outreach Coordinator at Oglala Lakota College in Kyle, SD, works with schools across the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, and is one of many educators who discovered Science NetLinks, and recommends it to teachers she works closely with.
"I am trying to help teachers realize that the Internet has tremendous resources in the classroom for teachers and students," said Conrad. She added that it is difficult, however, to get teachers on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to use the technology because of the lack of funding for computers in the schools.
While the site went through an extensive redesign last year, Turner noted that they are always working on filling gaps. Part of their research looks at what's new in classrooms. If it's science fair time or NASA's launching of Exploration to Mars, Science NetLinks uses its "highlights" section to link educators to other programs, resources, and ongoing research to bring into the classroom. Another large component of the site are the "Science Updates," 90-second radio programs that present current science research, and allow students and teachers to ask questions on the hotline (1-800-WHY-ISIT).
Turner added that they use the feedback from teacher training and responses from the e-mail feedback portion of the website to help determine any changes or additions to the website.
14 January 2003